Google with everything

Wednesday 2nd Nov 2011

For a while now I’ve been thinking I must ‘do something’ about my reliance on Google stuff. I use Gmail, Google Apps, Google Search, Google Analytics, Google Reader and so on. Writing it down like that, it seems ridiculous and frankly insane to trust one company (and one set of sign in details) with so much of my online life. And now there’s a Gmail app.

Weirdly it’s this that might push me over the edge and into real Google alternatives, and it comes down to how I’ve ended up splitting my computing and online life. I use my iPad a lot. In many ways it’s my main machine (if such a thing makes any sense these days) – I use it for everything I do when I’m not working. It gives me a psychological separation of the computers in my life – I like the different experiences on the different platforms and, to sound a bit pretentious for a moment, use them to moderate my thinking and actions. If there’s something that’s not convenient (or possible) on the iPad then I have to ask myself whether it’s something I should be trying to do at that point, or whether I should just set a reminder to myself for when I’m next ‘at work’ at the laptop. I think it’s a fairly good system. It works for me.

The biggest difference in my ‘usual stuff’ of things to do has been with email. I use the native Apple Mail app on iOS, and the Gmail web interface on the laptop. There’s a difference in tone and function between the two things – it’s not that either is better or worse for work or social email, it’s just that I maintain that separation. I’m not dogmatic about it, I have to be practical, and I use the Gmail web interface on the iPad interface from time to time, but it’s not a polished experience, it doesn’t feel quite right, and so it reminds me of my self-imposed separation, so I don’t do too much ‘in the wrong place’.

And so, back to the point. With a Gmail app on my iOS device (how could I not try it?) then maybe it’d get too easy. And that makes me think how much of the rest of my life is on Google’s servers. And maybe I shouldn’t do that. I think I need something based somewhere else, preferably in a country with decent data protection laws. I don’t want to be a systems admin, but I’d like some control over things, maybe a managed server somewhere with email and calendaring on it. I know I won’t want to swap it for another megacorp’s thing (like Yahoo, Hotmail or iCloud) but I dunno, what are your alternatives to Google’s hegemony? Answers on a tweet, gratefully received.