My family, like most, depends on a lot of online services. And again like most, a lot of those services come from Big Tech giants in general and (in our case) Google in particular. And like many people, we are becoming less comfortable with that. So I’m going to try to be systematic about addressing the problem. This post summarizes our dependencies and then I’ll post blog pieces about updates as I work my way through the list. (The first is already posted, see below.)

I’m calling this the “De-Google” project because they’re our chief supplier of this stuff and it’s more euphonious than “De-BigTechInGeneral”.

Office Google Workspace ?
Data sharing Dropbox ?
Video meetings Google Meet Jitsi, ?
Maps Google Maps Magic Earth, Here, something OSM-based
Browser Apple Safari Firefox, ?
Search Google Bing-based options
Chat Signal
Photo editing Adobe Lightroom & Nik Capture One, Darktable, ?
In-car interface Google Android Auto Automaker software
Play my music Plex, USB
Discover music Google YouTube Music Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, ?
TV Prime, Roku, Apple, Netflix, TSN, Sportsnet ?

The “Supplier” color suggests my feelings about what I’m using, with blue standing for neutral.

Criteria · To replace the things that I’m unhappy with, I’m looking for some combination of:

  1. Open source

  2. Not ad-supported

  3. Not VC-funded

  4. Not Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Amazon

Office · We’ve been using Gmail for a really long time and are used to it, and the integration between mail and calendar and maps basically Just Works. The price is OK but it keeps going up, and so do our data storage requirements, what with all the cameras in the family. Finally, Google has stewardship of our lives and are probably monetizing every keystroke. We’re getting a bit creeped out over that.

I think that calendars and email are kind of joined at the hip, so we’d want a provider that does both.

As for online docs, I will not be sorry to shake the dust of Google Drive and Docs from my heels, I find them clumsy and am always having trouble finding something that I know is in there.

Data sharing · Dropbox is OK, assuming you ignore all the other stuff it’s trying to sell you. Maybe one of these years I should look at that other stuff and see if it’s a candidate to replace one or two other services?

Video meetings · I dislike lots of things about Zoom and find Microsoft Teams a pool of pain, but have been pretty happy with Google Meet. Nobody has to download or log into anything and it seems to more or less Just Work. But I’d look at alternatives.

Maps · As I wrote in 2017, Google maps aggregate directions, reviews, descriptions, phone numbers, and office hours. They are potentially a nuclear-powered monopoly engine. I use Maps more and more; if I want to contact or interact with something whose location I know, it’s way quicker to pull up Maps and click on their listing than it is to use Google search and fight through all the ads and spam.

The calendar integration is fabulous. If you have Android Auto and you’re going to a meeting, pull up the calendar app and tap on the meeting and it drops you right into directions.

The quality of the OpenStreetMap data is very good, but obviously they don’t have the Directions functions. Who does? Obviously, Here does, and I was enthused about it in 2019; but Android Auto’s music powers drew me back to Google Maps. Aside from that, Magic Earth is trying, and their business model seems acceptable, but the product was pretty rough-edged last time I tried it.

Browser · Safari is my daily driver. These days Chrome is starting to creep me out a bit; just doesn’t feel like it’s on my side. Also, it’s no longer faster than the competition. I’d like to shift over to Firefox one day when I have the energy

Then there are the Arcs and Braves and Vivaldis of this world, but I just haven’t yet invested the time to figure out if one of these will do, and I do not detect a wave of consensus out there.

By the way, DuckDuckGo has a browser, a shell over Safari on the Mac and Edge on Windows. Lauren uses it a lot. Probably worth a closer look.

Search · The decline of Google Search is increasingly in everyone’s face. Once again, it refuses to find things on this blog that I know are there.

Others in the family have already migrated to DuckDuckGo, and I now feel like an old-school lagger for still not having migrated off Google. I wish there were someone else taking a serious run at indexing the Web other than Bing — from yet another tech giant — but here we are.

Lauren tells me to have a closer look at Ecosia, which seems very wholesome.

Chat · At the moment you will have to pry Signal out of my cold, dead, hands. You should be using it too. ’Nuff said.

Photo editing · I pay my monthly tribute to Adobe, about whom my feelings aren’t as negative as they are about the mega Tech Giants. I’d like not to pay so much, and I’d like something that runs a little faster than Lightroom, and I’d like to support open source. But… I really like Lightroom, and sometimes one absolutely needs Photoshop, so I’m unlikely to prioritize this particular escape attempt.

In-car interface · Choices are limited. I see little point in migrating between Android Auto and CarPlay, which leaves the software the auto maker installed. Which, in my five-year-old Jaguar is… well, not bad actually. I think I could live with the built-in maps and directions from Here, even with the British Received Pronunciation’s butchery of North American place names.

But, I don’t know, we might stay with Android Auto. Check out this screenshot from my car.

Android Auto showing non-Google applications.

(Pardon the blurs and distortions.)

This is Android Auto displaying, as it normally does when I’m driving, maps and music. By default, Google Maps and YouTube Music. But not here; on the right is Plex, playing my own music stored on a Mac Mini at home.

On the left, it’s even more interesting: This is neither Google maps nor a competitor; it’s Gaia GPS, the app I normally use to mark trail while bushwhacking through Pacific Northwest rain forests. Somehow I fat-fingered it into place either in the car or on my phone.

The lesson here is that (for the moment at least) Android Auto seems to be genuinely neutral. It knows the general concepts of “apps that play music” and “apps that are maps” and is happy to display whichever ones you want, not just Google’s. (As a former Android geek who knows about Intents and Filters, I can see how this works. Clever.)

So far, Android Auto doesn’t show ads, but I suppose it’s monetizing me by harvesting traffic information to enrich its maps and I guess that’s a bargain I can live with. I use that data myself when I want to go somewhere and there are multiple routes and I can see which one is backed up by sewer work or whatever.

Discover music · I’ve been paying for YouTube Music since before it existed, and I’m genuinely impressed with the way its algorithm fishes up new artists that it turns out I really like. But just now Google laid off a bunch of YouTube Music “contractors” (de facto, employees) who tried to organize a union, so screw ’em.

I haven’t investigated any of the alternatives in depth yet.

Play my music · In the decades where Compact Disks were the way to acquire music, I acquired a lot. And ripped it. And pushed it up into Google’s musical cloud. And (until recently) could shuffle my musical life on YouTube Music. But they removed that feature from Android Auto, so screw ’em.

But I now have two good ways to do this. Check this out in Play My Music.

TV · The same gripe as everyone else: The streaming services have re-invented Cable TV, which I only got around to dumping a couple of years ago. The right solution is obvious: Pay-per-view at a reasonably low price, then the services could compete on producing great shows that people will pay to see, rather than sucking you into yet another subscription.

I suspect this column will stay red for quite a while. It’s amazing how much business leaders hate simple business models where there’s a clean clear one-time price for a product and customers have a clean clear choice who they buy their products from.

The path forward · I don’t know if I’ll ever turn the center column all-green. And I don’t need to; progress is progress. Anyhow, doing this sort of investigation is kind of fun.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matthew (Mar 10 2024, at 14:07)

Kagi is worth having a look at for search.


From: Anonymous Person (Mar 10 2024, at 14:33)


I personally try to ue Ecosia as much as possible as they plant a tree every 50 searches you make and dont even have an account system, though searches can be synced using your email address.


From: Joseph (Mar 10 2024, at 14:41)

For "office suite," try LibreOffice and/or LibreOffice online.


From: Rob (Mar 10 2024, at 14:52)

As for streaming, as long there is no actual free market with pay per view at a reasonable rate, only indentured servitude, well there's always the historical response to such systems: Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, mateys! Lets you be selective, and the extra finagling required makes your viewing intentional rather than reflexive.

Mind you, its not that I would EVER break the law or steal anything myself. Just a totally innocent thought experiment yunnerstan, as I bound the intertube main.

(Arrr, me hearties!)


From: Geoff Arnold (Mar 10 2024, at 15:33)

For email, I've been a longtime customer of Fastmail. I manage email accounts for half a dozen family members, and I've never considered changing. Their calendar service is OK, but I'm stuck with Google Calendar because my health provider's apps are incapable of generating compliant ICS files. 😒 I'm starting to use their "masked email" service, which works very nicely, and works with 1Password to let you use a unique email address for each web service.

For Chat, I'm using Discord with friends and Signal for untrusted parties.

And in a category that you don't mention, I can't imagine life without Feedly. RSS still works really well.


From: Nelson (Mar 10 2024, at 15:34)

Organic Maps is very good for mobile OSM based maps. However it's really only good for displaying maps. Placename search and route generation is much harder, I don't know of good open alternatives to Google / Bing / Apple.


From: Amy (Mar 10 2024, at 15:52)

I replaced Dropbox with an instance of Nextcloud running on a hosted server. Nextcloud also has other apps that might replace other things on your list, like calendars, contact lists, and task lists.


From: David Carlton (Mar 10 2024, at 19:50)

I’ve been using Kagi as my search engine for several months now, I think it’s good. And it meets your criteria 2-4, it’s bootstrapped instead of VC-funded, and they make money off of monthly fees instead of ads.

They also make a browser, but I haven’t tried it. (And it’s Apple-ecosystem-only, so it might not work for all of your needs.)


From: Murray (Mar 10 2024, at 20:05)

I can second Fastmail. The email client is solid. Calendar not as good as Google but good enough. I miss the integration between my calendar and maps but not so much that I would go back.

Interested in why you would include Dropbox in a De-Google project? Is there some connection I am unaware of?


From: Gavin B. (Mar 11 2024, at 01:58)

* On the desktop Thunderbird makes using Gmail and Google Calendar ad-free once your set up.

* On Android Thunderbird will do email anytime soon (in the interim there's K-9 Mail)

* On Android the F-Droid store provides a basic set of apps (from Tibor Kaputa), gratis and ad-free:

Simple Calendar

Simple SMS

Simple Voice Recorder


From: Tom Atkins (Mar 11 2024, at 02:27)

Check out Zoho Workplace for mail, calendar and office: They deserve wider recognition outside of India. Excellent software - not open source, but less 'big tech'.

Whereby for video meetings with nothing to install:

DuckDuckGo is surprisingly good for search these days, it's replaced Google for me:


From: Haiku (Mar 11 2024, at 05:48)

For maps I use OSMAnd+, which is libre/open source and available on F-droid. It is bases on open street maps and has many feature that are not available in google maps, like elevation based routes. Unfortunately, there are no reviews feature.


From: Michael Miller (Mar 11 2024, at 06:19)

Have you ever used this website? It is more privacy-focused than simply “no big tech”, but it’s generally the same idea.


From: Jarek (Mar 11 2024, at 06:27)


- Google Android with Murena phon

- Google Drive with Nextcloud

- Google Analytics with Wide Angle Analytics

- Google Docs with OnlyOffice or Collabora Online (nicely integrates with Nextcloud)

- GMail with Startmail or Mailfence or Mailo or at least FastMail


From: Joe (Mar 11 2024, at 06:37)

Going through the same exercise here. I used to be a fastmail user, but ever since the Australian gov't passed their draconian access-everyone's-data law, I am uncomfortable.

A number of coworkers have been enjoying Basecamp's Hey, so that's my current front runner.


From: c1ue (Mar 11 2024, at 08:52)

Re Office

Look at Corel. They have aggregated most of the companies destroyed by Microsoft's OFfice.

Re: cloud storage

There is no cloud storage that is not associated with a large tech company. But you can set up a hard drive that is connected to the internet - look at some of the Western Digital offerings for examples but home grown is equally trivial. Security, less so but anyone using cloud storage is ignoring security by construction.


From: Elliotte Rusty Harold (Mar 11 2024, at 09:23)

On the TV side, the best alternative given your requirements and high level of technical savvy is likely a combination of:

1. Over the air HDTV

2. An open source DVR system

3. DVDs

4. Bittorrent over VPN for anything you have to see that isn't on VPN

I haven't bothered setting this up myself yet. The UX of most of this stack is atrocious and not worth my time, but it's feasible for someone with time and skills.

In general the failure to recognize UX problems is the Achilles heel of any open source, non-big tech stack, not just the TV parts. There's a real Dunning-Krueger effect in play. Almost if not quite everyone working on this software (Firefox is a notable exception) is so bad at UX, that they don't know how much they don't know, and they actively resist feedback from people who do know. This is why desktop Linux never went anywhere until Google threw out everything that had come before and built an entire user interface from scratch, twice.

In the closed source world, market forces and consumer acceptance can push companies if not individuals to learn these skills and pay attention to UX. Microsoft, for instance, has gotten much better over the decades. Unfortunately those signals are lacking in the open source world.


From: Scott Hill (Mar 11 2024, at 11:28)

I've been doing a similar de-Googling for a bit, and can also recommend Kagi for search. I've also been using Plex recently, with an OTA tuner for free TV (you can read a bit about it on my post here:

I'll also put in a recommendation for the Arc browser, with the caveat that I bounced off of it initially, but after sticking with it for a few weeks, it now hurts to go back to other browsers. They're iterating rapidly, and doing really good work. However, they're VC-funded, and without a clear business plan, so we'll see how the future goes for it.


From: Zachariah (Mar 11 2024, at 13:27)

Here's what I currently use as Google alternatives:

Mail: ProtonMail (includes a free handy email alias service for random signups and ProtonPass for managing passwords & email aliases)

Calendar: Proton Calendar

Cloud storage and data sharing: Proton Drive

Browser: Vivaldi

Search: Ecosia

Chat: Signal

Find music: Bandcamp (miss out on a lot of music, but I find enough to keep me entertained)

TV:, YouTube (I end up reading a lot more books these days)


From: Colin (Mar 11 2024, at 18:16)

Are you a fairly-skilled sysadmin? I set up Radicale on a server and now I have my own private contacts and calendar server.

Postfix and Dovecot provide email service, along with the gaggle of supporting apps (like dkimpy-milter and SpamAssassin).

Plex is the gold standard for personal media. Have you tried Plexamp? This phone app works great on Apple CarPlay, and I assume it’s great on Android Auto, too.


From: Dewald (Mar 12 2024, at 02:06)

For Office document storage/data sharing you might want to consider using something like a Synology with their associated apps to replace Google Drive and probably even Dropbox. In that case you are free to use any productivity software (Perhaps LibreOffice as already mentioned above?). The devil might lie in the details, but I'm sure it can be made to work with the benefit of total control over your data. I back up my Synology to Backblaze B2.

For mail and calendar you might want to consider if you can separate the occasionally contentious ramblings of DHH from the product. I have tried Fastmail for my business accounts, but faced some issues where messages ended up in spam – a switch to Office365 fixed that immediately., mentioned several times here already, has been on my list of search options to consider. It is paid, receives praise, and feels like something I'd like to support. Maybe worth a look for you as well?

Lastly, I second a switch to DuckDuckGo having done that years ago and have never failed to find what I was looking for.


From: Nick (Mar 12 2024, at 04:08)

Another vote for Kagi.

I’ve been finding stuff way easier, they have their own index which is then supplimented by lots of specialist sources that works really well for me ( )

It’s paid which means it needs a login, which means they _could_ aggregate all your searches. I don’t love this. I’ve also accepted that this seems to be part of the territory and at least they have some incentive not to, which feels like a step ahead of the other players


From: Lars (Mar 12 2024, at 05:21)

I recommend the Proton products (mail, calendar, drive).


From: Neal (Mar 12 2024, at 10:25)

I switched to Affinity Photo and Designer because of their "one time" cost instead of a monthly cost. I haven't looked back.


From: Robin Puga (Mar 13 2024, at 13:48)

Hey Tim, love the post.

I joined Cosocial last year. I love to support the co-op social media model. Also, Boris and I go waaaay back.

Just a quick note, related to your De-Google project, our worker co-op has been hosting NextCloud instances for clients for the last few years and offer it as an alternative to Dropbox and Office - - though we kinda detest using "cloud" we did for marketing purposes.

Just mentioning it in case you never heard of us ... and of course that old marketing thing.


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Mar 14 2024, at 17:50)

"health provider's apps are incapable of generating compliant ICS files" (Geoff, above)

I continue to not understand what is so difficult - the RFCs are out there, a simple event is not huge amount of data to create, and there are examples to be found everywhere. I do note, however, that there aren't a lot of web publishing tools that can take date/time information being posted to a page, create an .ics file from it, and make the info on the page into a link. My usual complaint: tour information for bands I'd like to see; they have complete tour information organized on a page but none of it is actionable (for example, click to add it to my calendar)


From: Andrew Reilly (Mar 14 2024, at 21:14)

I've mentioned Kagi before, and so have a bunch of other responses here, but I want to point out a very cool (IMO) thing that they added this week: they've added Stephan Wolfram to the board, and Wolfram|Alpha to the search. The upshot of that is that you can now do symbolic differentiation in the search bar, should you need to, but (more likely useful) you have all of Alpha's facts database and fact-derivation logic on hand, and that drives google-like quick-answer panels.

On the other subjects:

* Nextcloud for self-hosted storage, calendar and contacts. There's supposed to be a chat/video thing too, but I haven't tried it.

* Office: Office, to my great surprise. It works everywhere these days and is less painful than other things that I've tried. I don't really do paged documents much, other than read them.

* Browser: Firefox all the way (mobile too). It now supports password auto-fill (and sharing) in apps as well as web-pages, so it's also my password manager.

* Photo editing: I'm trying to like Darktable. It seems to work, and I think it's raw demosaic-er for Fujifilm is better than Adobe's. It's not especially pretty or easy to use though: still on the learning curve.

* In-car interface: analog dials and gear stick. I don't even turn the radio on.

* Play my music: I've been looking for an alternative to Squeeze Server/clients for years...

* Discover: Bandcamp and youtube

* TV: Telstra Roku with a bunch of subscriptions and with gritted teeth.


From: Doug (Mar 21 2024, at 10:22)

Consider for securing your data. Free and then you can use any cloud provider w/o fear of them seeing your stuff.


From: Dan (Mar 28 2024, at 10:30)

Password Manager?


author · Dad
colophon · rights

March 09, 2024
· The World (149 fragments)
· · Life Online (274 fragments)
· · · De-Google (1 more)

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