Quitting the five tech giants: Could you say goodbye to Google?

Google touches all aspects of our lives, from the videos we watch to the information we seek. Could you live without Google? In our five day series, this is hump day, the day we look at Google.

Welcome to Day 3 of our series about quitting the Big Five. We started the week looking at giving up on Amazon. Yesterday, we examined whether it would be practical to quit Facebook. Today is probably the biggest challenge: can we give up Google?

I'm basing my series on a project running on Gizmodo. Reporter Kashmir Hill attempted to go cold turkey from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, one each week.

The full series:

I'm not as brave as Ms. Hill. I'm not stopping any services. Instead, each day this week, I'll look at one of the Big Five and let you know how far I think I could go in quitting (or how locked in I am).

Saying goodbye to Google

Ms. Hill said that quitting Google screwed up everything. I'll be even more blunt. No, there's no way I could quit Google.

First, I live out of Gmail. Gmail is the single most important communications tool I have. It's an absolutely essential part of how I make my living. I have all my email in it going back to even before there was Gmail, because I ported over my stuff from Outlook (which contained the stuff from Eudora before that). I need it hundreds of times every day.

I used to use Outlook for my email. Sure, it would be possible to migrate all my mail to Outlook, but why? I moved off of Outlook and have been happy with that decision for years.

Then, there's Hangouts. Hangouts is apparently going away soon, but for now, it's the chat application of choice for my editors and publishers. When we chat, we use Hangouts. Until they move us to something like Slack, I need to be on Hangouts. Not negotiable.

As for Google Calendar, it's my project manager and time-based record. I keep everything in there from when and how I'm supposed to work on projects to my workout log, not to mention all those pesky meetings and appointments. Google Calendar quite literally schedules my life.

I have a five-seat G Suite Business account. My domain routes through G Suite to deliver my mail. We use Docs and Sheets to collaborate regularly with clients. I have 15 terabytes of data stored in the Google cloud.

I'm no longer routing my main phone number through Google Voice, but I still rely on Google Voice to record, transcribe (such as it is) messages, and deliver messages to my inbox.

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And then there's YouTube. I frickn' love YouTube. Whenever I get a chance, I watch one of hundreds of DIY channels, and learn stuff constantly. I'm learning how to set up the laser cutter via YouTube, and I learned most of what got me started on 3D printing with YouTube. When I cut the cord from cable TV, I substituted YouTube for many of the how-to shows I used to watch.

But, for me, YouTube is even more than edutainment. I use YouTube as one of my outreach methods. I regularly publish videos that accompany these articles on YouTube. It's a huge effort to make those videos, and YouTubers that do so with regularity have my utmost respect. For me, YouTube as publishing and outreach mechanism has become invaluable. It would be foolish to give it up.

Oh, yeah. And Chrome. I use Chrome. A lot. I could swap it for Safari, but while I've found that Chrome tends to be a little slow, I rely on Chrome extensions -- many of which are not on Safari.

Finally, there's Google search. Obviously, there are alternatives, but let's be real here. How many of us use Duck Duck Go compared to Google? Sure, it's more private, but it's not Google search. I rely on Googling stuff almost as much as I rely on email. It could be substituted, but, again, why?

Could I quit Google?

So, could I quit Google? No. Not at all. No way. We're pretty much irrevocably entrenched.

What about Google Maps? Honestly, we haven't relied all that much on Google Maps. We drove all the way across the country by following the confident and encouraging instructions of Snoop Dogg. My wife has long had a Tom Tom GPS with the Snoop Dogg voice installed. So, with one or two rare exceptions in the middle of Illinois when we needed to bypass a highway closure, we didn't use Google Maps.

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My car has a CarPlay unit, so I use CarSiri with Apple Maps (and no, they don't suck nearly as much as I would have expected). As such, we do use Google Maps on our computers, but actually already have substitute solutions. So, at least that part of Google is not mission critical for us.

What about you? Can you say goodbye to Google? Are you rocking an Android phone? I'm not, so that's one place where Google doesn't have me. What about Google Maps? Are you using Gmail, G Suite, or Google Calendar to the point of deep entrenchment? Is Google Assistant your personal helper? Let us know in the comments below.


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