Fleeing From Google Apps

Table of Contents

Note: I wrote most of this article long before the PRISM project was exposed by Edward Snowden. My intent was to protect my personal information from third parties. If your intent is to enhance your privacy and "opt-out" of PRISM, then the information below offers a small amount of protection. Your best strategy in this case is to encrypt your email using PGP or GPG.

I made a resolution recently to stop using online services that are designed to harvest my personal information so that it can be sold to advertisers. I think the following XKCD comic sums up my feelings about these types of companies pretty well:

Of course, if I'm really going to do this, I also need to stop using Google. I've been a big fan of Google's email, calendar, and contacts services for a while now for the following reasons:

I soon learned that recreating the "Google experience" wth a different service provider would require a bit of time, research, and money. Here's how I made everything work for me.

Which Email/Calendar/Contacts Host Did I Choose?

I ended up choosing Pobox as my new host for the following reasons:

  • My information is private and never used to send my targeted advertising
  • They've been around for a long time and have a great reputation
  • They have great service
  • They are fairly inexpensive
  • They have a choice of great webmail clients.
  • They can also host you calendar and contacts using CalDAV and CardDAV servers.

The last bit is pretty important. Now that I can store my calendar, contacts, and email in one place, I can move 99% of my personal information out of Google.

What did I learn?

You Need To Use Fat Clients

The web clients provided by Pobox are very good, but they're not nearly as good as what you get from Google.

For example, I really like to be able to set up multiple reminders for a calendar event. You simply can't do this using any of the web clients that Pobox provides. Also, I like to encrypt my email using GPG, and the only safe way to do that is with a fat client.

So what do I use now? On Android, I'm using K-9 Mail for email, CalDAV-Sync for calendar syncing, and CardDAV-Sync for contact syncing. Of course, you can use whatever you want, but these are great general purpose tools that should work with a lot of providers.

On my laptop I'm a Linux user, so I use mutt for email and Evolution as a Contacts and Calendar client. And finally, I use ssmtp as my MTA. To perform full-text searches of my mail, I use mairix.

Of course, you should spend time finding what works best for you. There are tons of choices for just about every conceivable preference.

Lots Of Programs Can Send Email, But Very Few Can Also Manage

Calendars And Contacts

On Linux, you're best bet is Evolution. Apparently, Mail.app works well on a Mac and Outlook works well on Windows. If you're looking for other options, you're really limited. The only other option that I found that would work is Thunderbird with the Lightning plugin.

Marten Gajda's Android Apps Are Fantastic

Marten Gajda had created a ton of apps that allow your phone to talk to non-Google CardDAV and CaLDAV servers. I'm currently using the CalDAV-Sync, CardDAV-Sync and Contact Editor apps, and I highly recommend them. They are the glue that allows me to use my phone just like I did before I ditched Google.

It's Really Hard To Quit :-S

Unfortunately, even after making all of these changes I still have to rely on Google a little bit. For example, I need a Gmail account to use my Android phone and purchase apps from the app store. Also, a lot of Google apps use Google for authentication.

The good news is that this is getting better. More app stores are opening and the 3rd-market firmware is getting better. So if you absolutely must sever all ties with Google, the future looks bright.

Conclusion

The switch from Google to Pobox was a bit of work, but definitely worth it for me.

Last Updated 2013-07-17 08:00.