De-Googling: complete... ish?

A couple of years ago I started the process of disentangling my online life from Google. It took a while, and I still use a few Google services regularly… but I’ve managed to reach a level of minimal dependence that I’m fairly comfortable with.

It isn’t so much that I’m trying to attain the perfect purity of never again interacting with single a Google product. I am trying to avoid Google being the steward of the entirety of my digital existence, entrusted with all of my personal data, communications, photos, records, and being the critical nexus that all of my other accounts depend on.

Where things are at:

Service Usage Status Replacement
Fitbit None Replaced iPhone (built-in)
Google Analytics None Replaced umami (self-hosted)
Sign in w Google None Replaced login/password
g-suite e-mail None Replaced self-hosted
Google Search None Replaced duckduckgo
Chrome None Replaced Firefox, Edge*
gmail Rarely Replaced-ish Fastmail, self-hosted
Google Photos Rarely Replaced-ish Nothing…?
Google Docs Rarely Replaced-ish LibreOffice + Syncthing
Google Drive Rarely Replaced-ish Syncthing
Google Maps Often Anonymized Burner Account
YouTube Often Anonymized Burner Account
Google Translate Often Anonymous No Account


There are broadly 3 types of interaction I have with Google products…

  1. Those I use entirely by individual choice, which have comparable replacements.
  2. Those that other people use to share information with me, so unavoidable without being a bother.
  3. Those that have no comparable replacement.

Things I Can Just Stop Using

The easiest type of products to deal with, I just stopped using my Fitbit, Google Analytics, Google Sign-In, g-suite, Google Search, and Chrome. Other people using these products doesn’t involve me, so I can basically just free myself of them entirely.

I had originally moved my email to mxroute, but eventually spent the time setting up self-hosting. I wouldn’t recommend this as a general solution – self-hosting your own email is a lifestyle choice – but it has been working well, and I use a paid Fastmail account as a backup. I’ve tried Proton a little and it seems like a decent option as well.

duckduckgo has been my default search engine for a couple of years now and I no longer bother checking the results I might get from other engines in general use. Pretty much the only time I check other engines is when I’m looking into how they return results from my own pages, or things like that.


I’ve been using Firefox as my primary browser for a few years now, and it has been entirely unremarkable, exactly how I want my browsing experience to be. I almost never think about what browser I’m using, or whether I might need to use a different one, except…

Translation Is The Kicker

There’s one feature that it falls short for me personally, for a specific use case, and that’s in-line translation from Japanese. I live in Japan, but am far from fluent in the language. Modern translation services like Google Translate on my iPhone, or the in-line translation features of Chrome allow me to interact far more smoothly with Japanese stores, government services, etc.

Surely, you ask, Firefox has translation features or plugins you could use? And no, from what I have seen, it does not.

There are two specific problems, in-line and Japanese. I have seen, and use, plugins which can translate an entire page by sending the URL to a remote service like Google Translate, or by translating selected text doing the same… but neither of those can help me navigate the Japanese e-Tax service, for example. I need to be able to translate the entire text of the page, including buttons and dropdown menus I can’t select, and the translation needs to function in-line, because you need to be logged in to see the page, sending the URL to a remote server for translation can’t work.

Firefox has introduced their own local translation function but, alas, it does not support Japanese.

One somewhat hilarious solution is to hold my phone up to the PC screen, and use Google Translate live camera view, and I’ve done this on occasion, it gets the job done quick. Until Apple added the translation function on iPhone a few years ago, I occasionally did this on my phone as well, using an old iPhone to live-translate the screen of my current one.

Compromise: Sometimes Edge

As it turns out, Microsoft Edge – which is basically Chrome but with Google bits taken out and Microsoft bits added in – also does a good job of in-line translation for Japanese. So that’s what I use when it’s really necessary. I have Edge installed specifically for interacting with Japanese websites, logged into a Microsoft account used only for that purpose, and use Firefox for everything else.

Google Photos

I’ve removed all of my photos from my account (which wasn’t easy btw, there is no bulk delete function), and don’t upload anything automatically or manually to it anymore.

However, several family members and friends use Google Photos, and use it to share photos with me, or ask me to share photos with them through it. I’m not about to refuse well-intentioned interaction from people who don’t share my rebellious nature so I’ll still use Google Photos in these cases.

As a replacement I’m now using… well, nothing. I just don’t have online photo albums right now. For backup purposes, my photos are included with my regular backups (local and cloud). If I want to share a photo with someone/everyone, I post it on my Mastodon account, or my blog, or I email it to them.

I’m still looking on and off for a web photo gallery that has the look and functionality that I want, but it’s not going well, and I might even end up trying to write my own.

Google Docs/Drive

For my own purposes, I do local editing now, either in text files or LibreOffice documents, and sync them between computers with Syncthing.

But, similar to Photos, other people use Docs/Drive to share files with me, generally work related, so I use it for that. And I still might reluctantly do the same if I need to collaborate on a document with somebody. I created a “work” Google account, with a self-hosted email address, which I use only for accessing Docs/Drive.

I took a look at ownCloud/Nextcloud, and the impression that I got was that they were difficult to reliably self-host, and the interface felt fragile to me… like my documents were likely to become lost or corrupted if I sneezed while typing.


Ok, I haven’t completely gotten rid of my old gmail account, but there are basically only two things that I still use it for:

  1. My parents email me at this address, and it’s just easier this way.
  2. There are a number of websites I have accounts registered to this address that range from risky, to inconvenient, to impossible to change the email address on. As in, I have to visit a physical building on another continent; or I have reason to believe placing a request to change my email address will require me to re-do an identity validation process, and so-on.

Wherever possible, I’ve switched email interactions to either my Fastmail account, or a self-hosted email address.

Most importantly to me, this account no longer serves as a single nexus linking together my entire digital existence, from my WoW characters to my health records.


Translate is a tool I rely on quite often, in particular the live camera translation is a huge help when navigating Japanese shops, restaurants, services, etc. And the best part, you can use it without logging in! I use Firefox containers to isolate the Google Translate website on PC, and the iPhone app also just works without an account. Easy!

YouTube, Maps

I can choose where (or if) to post my own videos online, once in a blue moon. But I don’t have much control over where other people publish theirs. So with YouTube, if that’s where the video I want to watch is, well that’s where I need to watch it.

Similarly, I am primarily a read-only consumer of Maps, and Maps is very good for walking and transit directions in my area. I could probably get by with Apple or Bing Maps in a pinch, but I’m less comfortable using them.

Compromise: Burner Accounts

For these individual services that I want to use, I have separate burner accounts for each one, which are anonymous and used only for that one service.

Both of these services could largely be used without logging in as well, though there are inconvenient snags, like age rated videos, or not being able to pin travel routes or mark favourite locations. So for ease of use, and since they are not otherwise linked to any other part of my life, I’m ok with burner accounts.

I do understand that I’m basically “anonymous” at the discretion of Google’s engineering team here. Google knows that those accounts are being used on the same device, I can tell because it shows them to me in a list to switch between them. But I’m not also not trying to hide my activity from Google, per se, and I am assuming that Google is likely only combining data between accounts in certain ways, and both of these accounts are from my perspective “low impact”. If I ever become a fugitive, I’ll have to remember to sign out.

In Conclusion…

I’ve reached a point where I’m more comfortable with the amount of dependence on Google that I still have.

Out of the services that I still use, if those accounts were compromised or unceremoniously terminated, the impact would range from negligible for things like YouTube and Maps, to moderately annoying in the case of my lingering personal and work accounts.

I would lose almost nothing of value, and the main problem would be getting a handful of people who had shared things with me to re-connect on a new address, or going through the hassle of finally updating my contact info with a very small number of services.