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My life without Google
Check out Part II of this article — the summary.
How much did I use Google? Apparently a lot more often than even I could speculate. For the last two weeks, I've had google.com blocked at both work and home. The amount of data they're gathering on me is frightening. Not because of Google, but because I'm positive the government will legislate their way into Google's database sooner or later and start labeling people as suspicious. Political paranoia aside, let us look at the fact here; Life on the internet without using Google is hard.
The first thing to do was to block Google, but how? They're on almost every website out there, and they provide the best search on the internet. Well, I determined 2 ways. The first move was to route the google.com hostname to 127.0.0.1 in my computer's "hosts" file. I won't get into technical details since most of the readers here are familiar enough with technology. The second move was to install AdBlock software and filter out every Google-owned domain name I knew of. Together, these two should do the trick at preventing me from accidentally coming across Google on the web. It worked.
I'm not going to lie, life without Google has been hell online. I initially wanted to give Ask.com a chance as my primary search engine. I like their interface and I like where they're going. The problem I encountered is that the search results just aren't good enough. They're pretty bad, actually. I'm lucky if I can find what I'm looking for 50% of the time. Despite what their advanced search page says, if you search for something in quotations, it doesn't mean that it will search for that exact phrase. For a company that relies on search, I wasn't impressed for too long. Their mapping service, however, is pretty good.
My second choice was Yahoo!. I've actually started to enjoy Yahoo!, as their search results are relevant and they have a wide array of internet services to deal with. I do find myself, however, cringing at the same thought that made me leave Google. Yahoo! is everywhere. I mean everywhere. They haven't yet given me reason to believe they're associating every action I make in some master database, though. This is good news, as I really have come to enjoy Yahoo!'s tools.
I used to enjoy Google News, so I've had to find an alternative for them as well. Web 2.0 to the rescue! Rootly has been a great alternative to Google News, and in some cases even better. I like the fact that their headlines update without refreshing the page. My only two wishes for Rootly are as follows; I wish their RSS links went straight to the news story instead of through Rootly. I wish their site's design were prettier. It's functional, but it won't be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon. Ultimately, the site accomplishes it's goal for me. Rootly has replaced Google News.
GMail is a service I used occasionally, but not often enough to miss it. I have pop accounts for my own websites, and I've not found a use for GMail, so I haven't had to replace it.
So, the question on everybody's mind. Will I be unblocking Google? Has my blockade been fruitless? Although I miss the fantastic search results, I would have to say "No, and no". I've found that I can get by, and even be more productive, without Google. "Don't Be Evil" is a great motto to have. However, I consider gathering every move I make on the internet to be evil and a violation of my privacy. I don't want this to turn into a political discussion about Google's data gathering, as there is a time and place for that.
My question to others who have blocked Google is this; What services have you found out there on the internet to replace Google services that you became accustomed to?
James Thomas is a web developer living in Orlando. During the day he can be found building websites for the mouse, and spends most of his evenings working on various projects in a feeble attempt to change the internet.