In Upgrade episode 38, Jason Snell and Myke Hurley had a great discussion about their use of Google products as Apple fans, and asked listeners to tell them why they do or don’t use Google products.
Their main argument was that both companies have flaws and sometimes do bad things, but Google’s services were the best, so any ethical differences were a worthwhile tradeoff to them.
We agree on the broad strokes, but the reason I choose to minimize Google’s access to me is that my balance of utility versus ethical comfort is different. Both companies do have flaws, but they’re different flaws, and I tolerate them differently:
- Apple is always arrogant, controlling, and inflexible, and sometimes stingy.
- Google is always creepy, entitled, and overreaching, and sometimes oblivious.
How you feel about these companies depends on how much utility you get out of their respective products and how much you care about their flaws.
Simply put, Apple’s benefits are usually worth their flaws to me, and Google’s usually aren’t.
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There’s a widespread assumption that heavy use of Google products is unavoidable and that they’re always the “best”. That hasn’t been my experience.
I’m still very happy with DuckDuckGo for search, and Apple Maps has been no worse than Google Maps for me recently. My standard IMAP email host, FastMail, works great, and the spam filtering is nearly perfect since I’ve put MailRoute in front of it — I’ve heard it’s better than Gmail’s.1
I suspect the ease of switching away from Google depends primarily on whether you use Gmail. I never have — it solves problems I don’t have, and I greatly prefer native IMAP email apps — so Google has never had deep integration with my data or a significant presence on my iPhone.
I didn’t set out to aggressively quit Google-everything, but once I changed my browsers’ default search engine to DuckDuckGo, that has mostly happened. The most surprising part was how easy it was for Google to mostly fall out of my life, how quickly it happened, and how little I missed it.
I don’t actively avoid Google today — I don’t hate them. I still participate in a shared Google Doc and calendar for ATP, and I still occasionally go to search and Maps for a second opinion. But Google has become far less relevant to me, I don’t depend on it for anything, and I feel better about that.