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Moving Away From Google – One Year Later

A year ago, I wrote about my switch away from Google for search and email. The switch has largely been successful. I don’t miss using Google at all, as the services I chose — Fastmail and DuckDuckGo — meet my basic needs.

Email

I don’t manage much email, so my requirements are few. I have several addresses that all forward to my fastmail.com inbox. I blame any trouble I’ve had with Fastmail on the Postbox desktop email client, and it’s inability to delete correctly email messages from the server. In the year since I first switched, I’ve only experienced one Fastmail outage, and it lasted less than an hour.

Calendar

My calendar needs are pretty simple. A calendar is a tool I use to manage my time (or keep track of how other people want to manage my time), and that tool has to sync seamlessly across desktop and mobile devices. I occasionally receive invitations in email, but most of my data entry is manual and takes place on the desktop or my iOS devices.

Fastmail’s calendar meets my basic needs. The web interface is clear and easy to use and isn’t weighed down by a lot of extra features, like subscribing to third party calendars, working offline, or sharing calendars with other people. Fastmail’s calendar is missing one very simple but necessary feature — it isn’t searchable from their web interface, which seems like a tremendous oversight. Of course, Fastmail isn’t a search company like Google, but even a simple plain text search would be useful.

When I need to search my calendar, I use Fantastical 2 on my desktop and iOS devices. Fantastical 2 syncs perfectly with Fastmail’s calendar, although the sync can be a bit slow. I’m considering switching to Apple’s iCloud calendar for a little while to see if it will sync faster between devices.

Search

My feelings about DuckDuckGo as a search engine:

When I first switched to DuckDuckGo I used Google as a fall-back search engine out of habit; also because DuckDuckGo still felt different enough to seem unfamiliar. These days I only use Google when I need to search by date range, a feature DuckDuckGo still hasn’t implemented, although many users have requested the feature.

I appreciate DuckDuckGo’s ongoing development and their active and helpful, open source community. I contribute by converting cheat sheet answers to JSON, but there are many other ways to help the company build a better search engine. DuckDuckHack is the official open source community for DuckDuckGo. There is a role for everyone, whether you’re a developer or if you just want to suggest an enhancement for DuckDuckGo’s Instant Answers.

DuckDuckGo is a robust, well-designed search engine that serves up relevant results and feature enhancements all while protecting user privacy. I’d like to see more libraries switch the default search engine to DuckDuckGo on public workstations as a way to further safeguard patron’s privacy.

Conclusion

In all, the switch away from Google has been painless. I haven’t been inconvenienced in any great way, and I’ve been able to find many web services that work just as well for my needs. I haven’t been able to cut the cord completely because I still work with a team that uses Google Hangouts, Google Drive and Google Groups for communication and collaboration. For the most part, I have completely replaced Google for most of my personal and professional needs 1.


  1. I realize this theme uses Google Fonts for typography. Typekit is an excellent alternative, but it isn’t free.