The backlash against Google’s Tyranny is growing, and even after two months, there is still a lot of anger and frustration at Google’s actions over “no_follow” and the recent downgrades of blogs. In fact, the recent actions, actions that Google has taken against many websites for problems that are more to do with their own inabilities as a Search Engine to manage their results, have led many bloggers to see Google’s oft quoted mantra “Do No Evil” in a whole new light.
As many of you know, the crew at Google felt it appropriate to snip away at InvestorBlogger’s PR rank until it went from 4 to 0, all the while ignoring blatant violations of the same TOS by well-known websites who were quietly called by Google and advised of the situation. Such hubris is evidenced by Google’s eagerness to snatch vast tracts of the world of media from Internet, Video, Books, Radio, Newspapers and much much more.
There is an increasing backlash among bloggers regarding Google’s behavior towards webmasters , as it is no longer telling bloggers how to blog, but also what to blog…
With Google’s increasing ownership and development of new websites (Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, etc.), it is getting more and more difficult to extricate yourself from their grasp. But I’m here to tell you: it can be done. And it’s not that difficult.
Step One: Take Stock of the Services You Use.
Find out what services you readily and regularly use. For this, you may need to observe and record a daily log of what you regularly use. Or you can find out which Google sites are saved in your favorites. Once I took stock of my usage, I was surprised at the number, range, and depth of the services I use:
- Gmail – I use this on a daily basis and have several different accounts with them. Fortunately, mail can easily be accessed and downloaded via POP mail or via IMAP. With large amounts of data, though, you may need to use an account with a larger mailbox than many services have.
- Google News – Again this is something that I use often, and along with Google Image Search and Google Search, I find that I use these almost several times a day. There are alternatives to each of the services.
- Google Docs – This nascent service is gradually gaining in complexity and at this time there are few equivalent offerings available. So simply cut the usage as much as you can, so you are not particularly dependent on the service.
- Picasa and the web albums – Picasa, like most of the products in Google Docs, is the result of an acquisition by Google. The software is generally quite easy to use, well-integrated with their Web Albums, but can be used independently.
- Reader – for RSS feeds, this service offers you the ability to log and subscribe to feeds for blogs, and other websites with RSS feeds. It is generally quite powerful, but it is far from unique.
- YouTube – recently took the crown from Google Video as their primary video offering. There are a number of issues that using YouTube has that I’ve found make it difficult to use YouTube for hosting my own video: lack of control for placement of videos on other websites (you can block websites, but you can’t choose); uploading issues that frequently happen; and video unavailability (perhaps due to apparent TOS problems) in which videos are removed without notice.
For those of you who seek to create websites and blogs and monetize, the trio of sites including Adsense, Analytics and Webmaster Tools are websites that you may choose to eliminate.
- Adsense: I’ve already blogged quite a lot about the problems of Adsense (including dropping clickthrus, click fraud, banned accounts, etc.), but the biggest issue seem to center on the primary issues: to get revenue from visitors, they have to CLICK AWAY from your site; Adsense Ads generally are really ugly; you’re displaying ads for websites for FREE if users don’t click; and, worst of all, the amount of clicks that get discounted for a variety of reasons is turning into an avalaunche (I can’t tell you how many it is because I’m still using Adsense, but it’s far more than you’d think).
- Analytics: I have enjoyed Analytics for a couple of years, because of the depth of information that is available, and the conservative nature of the counting system that is used. I tend to favor using a conservative method consistently so that I can measure ‘real’ growth, rather than some of the less accurate metrics available using Alexa, SiteStats, etc.
- Webmaster Tools: I’m still puzzling exactly what this set of tools is for, as it seems a way for Google to make their Search Engine at least appear transparent. Unfortunately, the stats and tools are quite limited. About the only thing I valued it for was the sitemap function. Other than that, I just don’t get it. It returns a lot of false positives, incorrect links, and other problems that are non-existent.
Step Two: Prioritize the Services You Need/Dump Those You Don’t.
Once you have compiled your list, you’ll be able to see what you can do by prioritizing what services you can leave immediately, what you can slowly wind down, and what services you are still relying on. Separating the services into these three categories is a good way to triage your use of Google.
For example, I found out that YouTube videos for my business can be just as effectively hosted on my own website as on YouTube. I don’t particularly want tons of people to see these videos as they were intended for a very targeted audience only. Hence, I’m now downloading the videos, saving them, converting them to FLVs and then replacing them in my website. Since I only have a dozen or so, this task can be accomplished quickly.
Other services like Google News can be replaced immediately without any problem for me. But some services will just have to wait, while I figure out how to extricate myself from dependence on them. Gmail is a good example of that. While I don’t particularly like the new versions of Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail, and the spam filters on my own websites email system aren’t particularly good, it looks like Gmail is here to stay for a while!
So this list of resources resulted in my own decisions
- Immediately: Google News, Search and Image Search; Webmaster Tools;
- Gradually: Adsense; Analytics; Picasa and WebAlbums, YouTube; and
- With Difficulty: Gmail and Docs.
Step Three: Finding Quality Equivalents to Google Services .
Once you have created your action list and prioritized what is needed or not, it’s time to get your hands dirty. But remember, like all drug addicts, you will need to withdraw slowly from your dependence on Google. Few of us could go cold Turkey. If you can, then you’re lucky.
Many of the services have exact or inexact equivalents that can suffice: Gmail can be replaced by Yahoo! Mail; Picasa by Flickr; Google Search by Ask.com or Yahoo! Search; Adsense by Yahoo! Publishers, or any of a variety of alternatives; YouTube by Revver or MySpace Video ; etc..
Once success story is that I’ve already switched away from Google Reader to BlogLines by exporting my OPML file in Reader, then reimporting the result to BlogLines. It worked quickly and effetively, though the different environment takes some getting used to. This for me was a timely switch because in fact there was an uproar about Google sharing your public or shared stories with others in Google Talk.
I’m already about to remove my videos, pictures, Adsense in the next few weeks or months. But it’s going to take time to extricate myself from the Google Web. I know I can do it. But in some places, I may just choose to find another way to get back at Google instead: I have installed an AdBlocker, and while I don’t particularly use it at the moment, I can see for those services where ads are shown (such as Gmail), I could happily turn it on, simply to deny Google the opportunity to make any money from me. After all, since they’ve taken hundreds of dollars out of my pocket and others like me, I can do the same thing, too.
At the moment, I can’t think of any other tools that I really use Google for. But since this is an exercise in freeing oneself slowly from Google’s grip, it’s wise to look through the list and find the services that you really need the least or that have strong equivalents.
It’s also wise to be more cautious in the future, lest by our collective actions we create another Frankenstein monster, cobbled together by the stitching of the web, and left to run amok until we collectively realize and treat the madness that allowed it to be created in the first place.
Do you know of any good equivalents to Google Services I have NOT mentioned so far? Please comment them. Let me know what you think about the situation!
Disclaimer: There are no links in this post to any Google Services. But this blog still utilizes several services, including Adsense, Webmaster Tools, Analytics… I’m working to get rid of them in stage 2.