Rethinking Google Dependence: Time to Go Google Free?

google readerTriggered by the "Spring Cleaning" of Google Reader, a web-based service for viewing RSS feeds, attitudes about Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) seem to have changed overnight. The company had been an increasingly trusted player among both consumers and businesses for its services, including its popular GMail email service as well as an online productivity suite that competes against Microsoft Office (NASDAQ:MSFT)-- Google Docs or Google Apps, depending on how you consumed it. Many of these services are free or seriously discounted when compared to Microsoft 's Office suite and email.  And during a recession, free is popular. But apparently, sometimes you get what you pay for. For Google Reader fans like me, I'll get nothing after July 1.

Plenty of Google Reader fans around the web (many who are bloggers and journalists like me) have been writing about their reaction to Google's retirement of Reader. It may not be such a big deal to lots of other people, but Google Reader let me quickly scan headlines from more than a hundred different sources several times during the day -- from Reuters to New York Times Technology feed. From CRN to ComputerWorld. It was my own personally curated list of news stories, blogs, anything that had an RSS feed was a candidate. I even had my Google Alerts turned into RSS feeds so I could easily and quickly view them from Google Reader.

Et Tu, Google?

So you can see how this would be useful to bloggers and journalists, and distressing that it could just suddenly end, as Google announced on March 14.  (And I wish they would have given me the chance to pay for it rather than pulling the plug.)

The  stories and posts that have been written following Google's announcement range from lists of alternatives (I haven't found one that I like yet), to lists of the next services Google may cut (Feedburner? Google Voice? Google Talk? Google Alerts? This writer says that Google Alerts has been broken for months already, leading some to speculate it could be next to get "Cleaned".). One my favorite posts from today (they are still being written two weeks later) was this one titled When Google Lost Its Cool whose author writes: "...the benefit of the doubt is gone.We’re way beyond mocking 'don’t be evil.' Now our default position toward Google increasingly resembles how we treated Microsoft in the ’90s. Google is indispensable, certainly, but not necessarily to be trusted."

That's a lot different from an attitude of just a few years ago when many looked at Google as a potential liberator -- one that could set us free from the stranglehold of Microsoft technology. Now who has got us trapped?

Going Google Free

With this in mind I've been thinking about how many Google services and technologies I rely on besides Google Reader. I use Gmail, Google Docs, Google Voice, Google Alerts, the Google Search Engine, the Google Scholars search engine, Google News, Google Finance, Google Now, Google Play, Android, Chrome and there's probably more that I can't think of off the top of my head. I'm reminded of this blog post I read a few years ago about how one blogger moved (almost) all his services off of Google in just a day, mostly so he wouldn't be so dependent on just one company. I didnt' see the point of it back in 2010, but it makes a lot more sense to me today.

Many of my searches on Google over the past few weeks have been about some kind of alternative to a Google service I'm using. Google Voice is the one that I'm most worried about at the moment.

Google Take Out

Meanwhile, Google has graciously offered me the opportunity to export my list of RSS feeds with Google Take Out. They are sort of telling me that my stay at their free hotel is over. They are letting me pack my bag before I get going. And then they are sending me off.  So far I've uploaded my feeds to FeedBin ($2 per month) and The Old Reader. I had more than 33,000 people ahead of me in the queue to upload their RSS feed files at The Old Reader.
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