Google has a lot of great services. Being an online marketing dude, I have to use Google AdWords every day of my work life. Google’s search results are among the best around. Their free analytics and webmaster tools are great, and millions of us enjoy their free Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Reader, Picasa, Blogspot, YouTube, Earth, etc., etc., etc. Their list of free services goes on and on. Up until recently I was guilty of using many of their services, but I’ve found some awesome alternatives that I think are worth your time looking into.
Zoho vs. Google Gmail, Docs & Calendar
Zoho is an awesome SaaS provider based in the Bay area that offers a ton of free services. Their user interface far exceeds that of Google’s, keeping all of the applications you use in the same tab, on the same screen, in an easily configurable navigation menu. You can even add external online applications and sites to use within it’s interface as well.
Zoho Mail currently offers unlimited email storage with the ability to add unlimited POP3 accounts for your other email accounts to filter into it’s mail client. Zoho was first to offer Offline Gears support for their email, even before Gmail. You can organize your mail using labels and/or folders. There are no ads hogging your screen real estate like other free email service providers.
Zoho Docs offers all of the same applications that Google Docs offers, however, they are much easier to learn to use than Google Docs. Their user interface is a lot more similar to Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. The sharing feature is comparable to Google’s and the tabbed document views are way slicker than having multiple browser windows/tabs open for Google Docs.
Zoho Calendar is very similar to Google Calendar, minus one key feature… sharing calendars. Although it is in Zoho’s “roadmap” to have that feature available in the coming months (I believe I read April), I had to find an alternative that allowed my wife and I to share a calendar. That’s where Famundo comes in.
Famundo vs. Google Calendar & Tasks
Feeling discouraged that Zoho Calendar didn’t yet have sharing capabilities, I continued my search for another free online calendar that could be shared with my wife and other family members. I stumbled across a family oriented site called Famundo.com that offers a list of free services targetted at families. They offer calendars, address books, blogs, lists, to-dos/tasks, photo sharing, file sharing, messaging, etc. Their free service is ad supported, so that can be annoying at times, but their premium service is fairly inexpensive at about $30 per year. We’ve found the calendar, address book, lists and to-dos features to be very valuable to our family. Check it out. We add Famundo as a tab within Zoho, so they work seamlessly together.
Flock vs. Firefox, Google Reader & Bloglines
Through my searching for and testing out different online RSS feed readers, I found the best alternative service to Google Reader to be found in a browser called Flock. Flock is a Mozilla project that is built on Firefox, but has many features that tailor it to Social Media sites. It integrates blogging, social networking, social bookmarking and photo sharing sites right into the browser interface and has a sweet RSS feed reader. You can Facebook, Twitter, Digg or blog anything that you find online in just a couple of clicks. If you must use an online service, Bloglines was the closest service to Google Reader that I could find. Flock also works with most, if not all, of your favorite Firefox extensions.
So why go to all the trouble of ditching Google?
My motivation was, at first, politically and religiously motivated because of Google’s public stance on homosexual marriage and their legal support in overturning the passage of Proposition 8 in California. My personal beliefs and religious views are being threatened in the name of equality. Proponents of homosexual marriage are trampling on the rights of the religious in the name of tolerance and equality. It’s not right. Throwing away the will and conscience of the majority of the people is wrong. Targetting the LDS Church for supporting a moral issue is wrong. How is that “supporting equality”?
Same-sex marriage is not a “fundamental right” – it is a redefinition of the concept of marriage that is at odds with the understanding of marriage held by every major religious tradition and most historical cultures. It has nothing to do with hiring or search or equality: being denied the right to call their same-sex union a “marriage” will not make Google’s employees significantly less efficient; Google’s stance on this issue seriously compromises the neutrality that I would expect a company committed to internet search would be concerned to maintain; and, as a secular company, Google has no special expertise to offer on the important moral and cultural question of whether or not allowing same-sex unions to be called “marriages” is a question of “equality” or merely a matter of personal preference.
Please, Google, concentrate on what you do best: providing quick, unbiased search results in an internet-friendly fashion. And if you are really committed to equality and to not being evil (both good things!), please allow for the possibility that there might be some truth in the religious traditions and philosophical beliefs that have lead so many to object to such a radical redefinition of marriage.
[To Google] “…by challenging the will of the people you are not fighting for basic rights, you are fighting for bigger government that controls its citizens. You are fighting for a government that can exert its will on the people no matter what. That is not the freedom that is the hallmark of the United States of America.”
But my motivation has also been strengthened by just not wanting to rely so heavily on one company for my every day routine and having so much of my personal data stored on their servers. I no longer trust Google to not “do evil”. Their definition and my definition of evil are not the same. I suspect that there are many other things that they think is right that I would disagree with.