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Think you can’t live without Google?

Well, think again, here’s a big list of Google alternatives. 🙂

First, the summary in a picture. More detailed text follows below.
Google alternatives
(Feel free to share the picture, but please do link back whenever possible)

It’s been done before and again, still I thought I’d share my own approach to this problem: replacing a massive daily usage of Google services (the search engine, Gmail, Google Maps, Adsense, reCAPTCHA, Google Calendar, etc) with at least a not so massive usage, or maybe even no usage at all.
I’d been loosely trying to do so for a while, but never really did much about it, apart from switching to Scroogle. The recent suspension robbery by Google of my Adsense account (I guess I can say it now that I’m pretty totally sure I’m never getting those 35 bucks back), without even being given the reason why, and the (temporary) (mis)tagging of as an unsafe site really gave me a fantastic boost. I’ll post more details about both those events later in a dedicated post.
For each service, I’ll focus on just one (or sometimes 2) possible replacement: the one I chose in the end. For some more alternatives, see the Lifehacker post I linked to a few lines ago: although they didn’t cover as many Google services as I did, they sometimes explored different or additional alternatives.

Alternative to Google Search

So, let’s start with the toughest one: Google Search. Its biggest strength IMO is that new content gets included almost instantly. Whenever I post something here, a few minutes later I can already find it in Google, while it can take days in other search engines. As a webmaster it’s pleasant to be indexed so quickly, but actually as a visitor I’m not sure this is really that necessary.
If you really want to stick to Google results, you can switch to Scroogle, which sends the search to Google then transmits you the results. So, not 100% Google-free but better than nothing… except that Google is at the moment often blocking Scroogle.

If you don’t mind at least giving a try at changing your habits, you’ll want to try Duckduckgo. It’s very much privacy-focused and I find it great for programming-related searches thanks to its !bang syntax. Like, try !php fopen. With this bang syntax you can also run searches in other search engines (but it will take you to them). Like, !google yahoo, or !yahoo google ;). I’ve also noticed that Duckduckgo often gives results which are different from those I get from Google, but just as relevant! All this to say: do try it, even if only as a complementary engine to begin with. You’ll get used to it and might end up switching to it completely. I’m at that stage now: Duckduckgo is my default search engine at work, not yet at home (still on Scroogle) but probably coming soon…

Last but not least, if you want to support an environmental cause, you might want to instaed use Ecosia. This search engine is powered by both Bing and Yahoo, and gives a very large share of its revenue to WWF. More details on

Alternative to Gmail

My main problem with Gmail (apart from the fact that it’s run by Big Brother) was that I kind of filled 6 of the (currently) 7 free GiB storage space. So, I looked for unlimited storage and dug up my very old Yahoo! account. That’s it, Yahoo! Mail. Unlimited storage, much less annoying antivirus scanner (it’s there alright, but not nearly as slow), more obedient spam filter (I’m currently experimenting with a bad SMTP server, Gmail never seems to learn that it’s not spam, while Yahoo! Mail does), noticeably faster site. It has 3 main weaknesses IMO: the lack of labels, the lack of conversation view, and the lack of e-mail forwarding (this last one is a paid option). If you can’t live without those 3 functions, maybe try Zoho Mail. They provide labels, conversations and forwarding (and POP and IMAP access), with 5 GiB of storage… and with filters (contrary to what’s said in the Lifehacker post, the filters seem advanced enough to me, but they are hard to find: they’re in “Settings”, not in “Control Panel”). That really looks like a Google Mail not by Google, and with just a bit less space. If you own a domain name, you can use Zoho Mail with it, too, and forward it to other mailboxes, and configure a catchall. But you can also do that in Postfix ;).
I think I’ll make later a larger post with a more detailed comparison of Yahoo Mail and Gmail, however I did provide an overview of the main differences here. If you still think you really really don’t want to ever even try something else than Gmail, maybe you could have a look at how you’re getting profiled

Alternative to Google Calendar

Not a second of hesitation this time: Zoho Calendar. It looks just like GCalendar. The old version of Gcalendar, ie, if you hate the new design, that’s a good way to stick to the old one. It also has iCAL import and export via URL, so you can import your GCalendar in real time, and export to your GCalendar just as well. Perfect for making a progressive switch.
NB: iCalendar export is a bit slow to get activated. It does work, but maybe you’ll have to wait a few hours before your link actually starts working.

Alternative to Google Tasks

If you previously chose Zoho Mail, you’ll notice that both Zoho Calendar and Tasks are integrated into it. If you didn’t, however, it seems that Zoho task isn’t integrated into just the calendar. So I picked Zoho Planner. A neat feature is that you can add tasks by sending them via e-mail.

Alternative to Google Reader and iGoogle

That would be Netvibes. iGoogle would be more the “widget view” while Google Reader would be more the “reader view”. Nothing much more to say, really. Netvibes is a great RSS aggregator IMO, I don’t really use the “widget view” but it seems pretty much a clone of iGoogle: it even has a Google search field (but nothing forces you to use it ;)).

Alternative to Google Maps

I haven’t really found any complete alternative yet, but that’s because I’m in France: in USA, Bing Maps does have street view while it doesn’t have it in France. However I don’t use street view that much, so even without it Bing is okay.
If you feel like going for an open, “libre”, collaborative map service, OpenStreeMap is great too. I made a post about it at the beginning of the year. Its strengths: user-collaborated data, which can include some very detailed pedestrian paths and other useful up-to-date info (Google Maps tends to keep outdated business data; I once went to a Subway mentioned on GMaps in Nancy only to fidn out it had been replaced by some kebab…), various visualizations. Its weaknesses: no street view, no satellite view (I think), not very beautiful. Currently I’m alternating between GMaps, Bing Maps and Openstreetmap.

Alternative to Adsense

That’s what started this post to being with ;). I must admit, I just found this top 10 list of alternatives (here’s another one) and tried the first one, Adbrite, as you can see on the right (somewhat higher on the page). According to this “Top 10”, AdBrites keeps only a 25% commission, which is quite lower than Adsense (they keep 32% for standard Adsense and 49% for Adsense Search – source). I’m earning about twice less with AdBrite than I used to with Adsense, however the click rate is like 10 times higher so at least I’m happy not to participate in a program which rips off advertisers with 1 buck-a-click prices because they pretend to be better targeted (if the click-through rate was that much lower, it must mean the targeting was poor, to say the least). Note that ads will take about a day to start showing up.

If you decide to rather try other ad networks from the top 10 list, do note that some of them include Google stuff such as Google Analytics (I don’t remember which ones, sorry, that’s partial memories from earlier tries). So much for the Google-free strategy… All this to say: keep an eye on what you include, maybe use stuff like Ghostery or NoScript to easily see where all scripts come from.

Update (2016-02-16) : this post globally needs an update, but for the ad network you can use those listings to find many other alternatives :
Website ad networks list on Thalamus
Mobile ad (for smartphone applications) networks list on Thalamus
My personal favorite at the moment is anonymous-ads, because they serve non-targeted ads that respect privacy, and they pay out in Bitcoin with a ridiculously low payout threshold (the bitcoin equivalent of a few cents).

Alternative to Google Docs

If you’re looking for fancy document editing, you’ll want Office Web Apps, which is integrated into Skydrive (so, 25 GiB of storage which is a lot more than Google Docs). If you don’t like the MSOffice ribbon interface, lifehacker suggested Zoho Doc. Personally I just use Evernote, but that only allow for basic text document editing.

Special section: alternative to Google Docs for polls & surveys

Personally, I find there’s nothing more pathetic than a survey collected through Google Docs. And I never reply to such surveys unless I really really have to (like, such a survey used as a registration form – even more pathetic but then not really leaving you any choice if you have to attend). Anyway, here are some options: LimeSurvey, which is open source and that you need to run yourself (if it’s not an option, they provide a hosted, LimeService, which is free for 25 answers per month then has paid plans for more). And FreeOnlineSurveys, which I didn’t test but looks okay, hosted and free.

Alternative to Picasa

Lifehacker suggested Flickr or SmugMug. I don’t really like either: the free version of Flickr is limited to 200 low-res photos (they do keep all originals in case you want to upgrade later – I can’t really decide whether I should consider that as a nice gesture or as hostage taking), and SmugMug has no free version. Personally I just store my pictures in Skydrive, but I don’t think it has gallery features.

Alternative to reCAPTCHA

More than alternatives, they are also improvements. reCAPTCHA is sometimes a real pain to read. Well, those alternative don’t ask you to read garbled text, they ask you to solve trivial puzzles. I’m talking about KeyCAPTCHA and AdsCAPTCHA. I don’t really know which one is the best, it’s a matter of taste I suppose. Note that both offer (as an option) to monetize your CAPTCHAs with advertising, however only the later seems to really have advertising going (the former started its advertising program later, maybe they just don’t have advertisers targeted to my area yet). An annoyance of AdsCAPTCHA, though, is that the CAPTCHAs all have a Facebook Like button. For this reason, and also because I found it easy to implement in PHP (they provide a simple to use class) I personally prefer KeyCAPTCHA. But i recon AdsCAPTCHA might be somewhat better-looking.

If you don’t want a third-party hosted solution, or if you prefer a more traditional CAPTCHA, Securimage is another option.

Alternative to Google Analytics

Piwik I guess. I don’t really like how they censor their blog, hence the nofollow in this link, but still that’s a good alternative with just as many functions (actually, a bit more of the functions I find useful and a bit less of the functions I find useless, so all good :)). On the plus side, it’s open source and you get to keep your own data, because you run the software yourself on your own server/hosting. The drawback is precisely that: currently they don’t offer hosted solutions. So, if running your own stat software isn’t an option, StatCounter is another good alternative. Maybe slightly more basic, but definitely worth a try. Note that if you’re not sure about switching, you can start by placing 2 different stat services before removing one of them.

Alternative to Youtube

Last but not least. This one is from Google too (that used to be easy to forget, now with the forced Google integration it’s a bit more obvious), and from some recent stats (NB: in French) people do waste spend a lot of time on it. My alternative of choice is Dailymotion. I actually never used Youtube much, and every time I upload a video I do so only on Dailymotion. Not that I upload that much, though. According the the previously mentioned documents, here’s a comparison of Youtube and Dailymotion stats for November 2011 in France:
– rank: 1
– # unique monthly visitors (from France): 24 637 000
– # monthly watched videos: 1 347 678 000
– monthly time spent (in hours): 45 192 000
– rank: 2
– # unique monthly visitors (from France): 11 664 000
– # monthly watched videos: 181 811 000 (about 8 times fewer than Youtube)
– monthly time spent (in hours): 5 150 000 (about 9 times fewer than Youtube)
So, you know what to do to protect your privacy and restore the balance at the same time…

Well, I think I covered pretty much everything. At least all the services I use(d), and a few others I didn’t even use. If you have other suggestions, or are trying to find alternatives for some other Google service I didn’t list, don’t hesitate to leave a comment 🙂

Posted in digital rights and DRMs, Google, Internet, privacy.

7 Responses

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  1. Yarry says

    Well there are thousands of alternatives to different parts of Google. The problem though would be Google’s simplicity and user-friendliness, massively increased by the big amount of tools and features provided by Google for free to a large audience. (instantly growing)

    That’s how I see this whole thing, and I do not think it’s the other way around. They pretty much copy and/or practise Apple’s behaviour, centerizing everything, making everything nice and shiny and (most importantly) making its services dependant. So far the only browser, for example, which supports HTML5 entirely is Chrome and that companies switched from IE6 to Chrome due to security reasons e.g. (okay, that example might be a bit far-fetched but I hope you can catch my drift)

    They have the money, they have the required brains and the more power they get through Google Search, Google Street View, Youtube, Google+, Google Chrome they will remain at the #1 spot. (why Youtube? well, a majority of internet users tend to use it more than any other service, making it an irreplaceable service; plus it’s getting constantly updated and filled with content, no other service could keep up that speed)

    You cannot avoid it completely, after all the majority of smartphones use Android (seems like some people got trapped right there 🙂 ) and reCaptcha is so far the standard in anti-SPAM technology and a majority of websites use reCaptcha because of its reliability

    other services like GMail, Docs, Calendar and Tasks are quite easily replacable, but after all you have to consider the mainstream users and these would rather pick a well known service and stick to it instead of looking for those little sweet non-Google services and tools.

  2. patheticcockroach says

    Indeed, clearly the problem is that many people don’t care about their privacy at all (they’re even ready to sell their whole online life for $25 in gift cards) and find it reassuring to have some huge company behind the services they use, even though a big too but still smaller company would be just as safe.

    We can only hope that at some point some governments or privacy lobbies will push hard enough to at least split this monopoly. I don’t think any other company has ever been allowed to have such a large market share on so many markets in so many countries. Maybe Microsoft, but they’ve been sued pretty hard at least, and clearly they don’t really rule on that many market segments.
    In France the government is subsidizing a 4th telecom company because they think 3 isn’t enough… clearly they should give the same look at search engines… For instance ReCAPTCHA was totally successful before being bought by Google, this acquisition should simply not have been allowed.

  3. Desuetude Updowner says

    ” I personally prefer KeyCAPTCHA”
    And visitors prefer leaving the sites forcing on them unavoidable advertising at once

    If not to mention that by using KeyCAPTCHA one supports spammers and spam as it is created by professional spammers that do not even hide it in their posts on internet

  4. patheticcockroach says

    Is there something inherently wrong in solving a piece of cake puzzle (even if it contains an ad picture) instead of trying to figure out wtf is written in totally hardcore to perceive screwed up letters? As a visitor, all I want is to avoid spending ages on a bloody captcha. And I solve keyCAPTCHAs much faster and with a much higher success rate than reCAPTCHAs.

    Also as I pointed out ads are optional in those (ironically, even in AdsCAPTCHA). Really, I didn’t pick those alternatives because of their ability to add ads, but because they just seem convenient. Even more convenient than ReCAPTCHA. And Big Brother-free, of course. But feel free to suggest other stuff, as I said my list is very incomplete, I just focused on 1-2 alternatives each time for the sake of simplicity (and of fitting all logos into the infographics ;)).

    I’m a bit puzzled by your Lie to Me puzzle, though… is this a real one? It seems a bit hardcore compared to the puzzles I get (keyCAPTCHA only 2-4 pieces to move around = quick ; AdsCAPTCHA only a picture to rotate = even quicker).

  5. patheticcockroach says

    Added phpcaptcha / Securimage, which is the same kind of alternative as Piwik: self-hosted and open-source.

  6. seo google map says

    I used to read you blog faithfully, I can’t believe I ever stopped! Now I remember what got me absorbed before all else.
    [edit: removed link to]

  7. patheticcockroach says

    Spamming a link to Google-related services? Seriously? I’d rather link to Viagra…

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