• Leaving the Googleverse

last modified April 9 by strypey

I used GMail as my main email for a number of years, mainly because of the bottomless storage, but also because it was (at the time I started) the only gratis email service I knew of that allowed me to both send and receive email using the Disintermedia domain name in the address. Plus, Google supported lots of open source communities with the Summer of Code, and was the only major tech company to actively support open standards like XMPP for realtime chat. Then a few things happened that made me feel less comfortable with Google.

There was the decision not to support XMPP in Google Hangouts, the newer version of Google Chat. So much for platform choice, client choice, service choice. Then there was the abandonment of Wave, Reader, and a number of other free code software projects they had been supporting. The final straw was the G+ social network, and their decision to integrate it with the login credentials of GMail and HangOuts, as well as YouTube and all the other sites they've "acquired" over the years, effectively forcing anybody using any Google-owned product to have a G+ account. I came to the conclusion that after all this, continuing to use Google products after swearing off FarceBook (see Fyre Exyt ) was hypocritical, and I decided to exit the Googleverse too. When Google started to pursue the same "real name" policy as FarceBook (although Google reversed this and apologised in 2014), and eliminated the separation between ad-driven tracking and user accounts, this simply strengthened my resolve.

As FarceBook and the (Go)Ogle come to resemble each other more and more, it probably makes sense to merge this into the work I did on Fyre Exyt. Once I have successfully removed all my wanted data from Google service to reliable replacements, and deleted my Google account, that will be the final step in this work.


It's a sign of how far the (Go)Ogle have drifted from their roots that I've only just thought to add a section for search! At present I use DuckDuckGo, mainly because it's not run (directly anyway) by any of The Stacks (Amazon, Apple, Farcebook,(Go)Ogle,  MicroShaft), or the similar companies like Yahoo with dodgy records of collaboratiog with oppressive governments. But the more I learn about them, the more they seem to have a cozy relationship with a number of The Stacks. I'm mainly using it now out of habit, and because I really like their !bang search feature that allows me to search a specific site like !jamendo or !fsfd (Free Software Directory).

  • DuckDuckGo - a commercial search engine that claims not to track users
  • StartPage - another search engine platform that claims not to track users
  • Searx - a free code packages that powers independent seach sites like Searx.me. If many Searx instances could federate and share databases, and they implemented !bang search, I would definitely make this my goto search engine.


Sending and Receiving Email

I have gone back to using RiseUp.net for "work" email, and set up a new address on OpenMailBox for personal email. One consequence of setting up a separate email address for personal use is that I notice that people don't really use email for general chatter anymore. I guess because most people do this in FarceBook or other "social network" walled gardens. I originally learned about RiseUp from a guy I met at a festival who had a RiseUp address, and I trusted them because I recognized the handles of a number of the geeks from my Indymedia days. I found OpenMailBox from the list the Free Software Foundation maintains of email providers that use only free code software on their servers, which also mentions RiseUp. Like a lot of people now, I'm looking into hosting my own email using my Disintermedia domain. There's a lot of security people claiming this is too hard for non-specialists to do properly, but there are various free code projects like MailPile trying to make it easier.

Email lists for discussion groups

Although I discourage groups from using GoogleGroups for similar to why I discourage them from using YahooGroups, I am still subscribed to the odd mailing list that uses GG. If I need to set up an email list, I have used lists.RiseUp.net, or CoActivate.org (each CoA project can support multiple mailing lists). I am also on some lists on OnlineGroups.net. OG only provide gratis use for community groups they approve, but their GroupServer software is free code under the ZPL.

Email lists for newsletters

I find a disturbing number of people using MailChimp for community projects instead of a site that runs on libre software, because it offers a bunch of extra analytics info they fine appealing. Dave Lane (Catalyst, NZOSS, OERF) recommends Mautic as a libre replacement.


Google Hangouts provides one-to-one and group chat, using text, voice, and video. It also allows voice/video chats to be recorded, for upload to YouTube. I've been assembling info about voice/ video chat on the core us page. I have successfully used Mumble for voice conferences with a team working of a professional web development project. It's a bit confusing at first to anyone who hasn't used IRC, but it worked for us.

Synchronized File Storage

I briefly tested CozyCloud in 2016, but it was still in beta and I wouldn't rely on it yet for mission critical files. At present I'm using an ownCloud instance provided by OpenMailBox, using the same login I use for my email there. It works well enough with the small number of mainly text files I'm synchronizing through it, but given my choice I would probably follow the former lead developer to NextCloud. I've had some good recommendations for SyncThing, and GIT-annex, but I haven't yet worked out how to install it on my GNU/Linux systems.

Server/ client







Collaborative Documents

See the list of collaborative authoring platforms I've been assembling for the GITocracy project.





Video Hosting

MediaGoblin (example GoblinRefuge)

Plumi (example EngageMedia)

Automated Human Language Translation

Funny that I have now have to specify "human", because there are machine learning tools being built to translate between computer languages too. I also specify automated to make it clear I'm not talking about free code tools that help humans translating between human languages. Translating human language - text and more recently spoken - involves a bunch of different moving parts, for which different open source projects are working on a range of free code components. Existing usable demos that are at least partial replacements for Google Translate include:

Social Network

This is a tricky category, because different "social network" platforms tends to do quit different combinations of things. Compared FarceBook with Twitter with Google+ with LinkedIn. Most sites grouped as "social network" or more commonly these days "social media" (this used to refer more to music and video distribution sites like YouTube or FlickR), are usually a brand name referring to a mongrel hybrid of different things, including many of the types of software listed above;

  1. Content hosting and delivery platform; notes ("microblogs" when used as a broadcast medium), blogs, audio/video, event listings
  2. Communications platform; notes ("status messages" when used to direct short messages to specific users), email ("direct messages"), realtime chat (text/ voice/ video), events invitations
  3. Collaboration tools; shared documents, shared drawing etc
  4. Access to the network of users who have set up a grain in the data silo, appealing to both ordinary people and for the same reason marketers, both commercial and political
  5. A set of software for providing the above.

Free code apps that are usually pitched as "social network" replacements include:

  • Diaspora (example JoinDiaspora.com)
  • Friendica
  • GNU Social (example Quitter.se)
  • Hubzilla
  • Mastodon


Replacements for any Google collaboration tools that haven't already been covered above in the sections on collaborative documents, calendar etc. Free code "social" apps that are more aimed at teams than networks, and usually pitched more as collaboration tools. Some of these are members of the Collaborative Technology Alliance.

  • Ethereum -
  • Gratipay -
  • Kune -
  • MetaMaps.cc -
  • Loomio -