By building an open ecosystem, Google locked me in forever

Google Pixel 5 on a table with Google logo and two Lego figures in front of it

Google Pixel 5 on a table with Google logo and two Lego figures in front of it

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

So pervasive is Google’s presence in my life today that I sometimes feel like I’ve lost sight of what first drew me to its ecosystem. It was 2007; I had a Hotmail account and a Toshiba laptop with Windows XP, I used Firefox as my browser of choice and I was quite addicted to Nokia’s smartphones, but I was also considering getting an Apple MacBook. At the time, Google was nothing more than a search engine to me, and the idea of ​​having a second email account sounded absurd. But a couple of my online friends kept pestering me to sign up for a Gmail account, baiting me out with a whopping 2.8GB of free storage and threading conversations! As a technology enthusiast, I could only give in to this hip and rebellious suggestion.

This slowly but surely began a long journey for Google to spread its tentacles into my online presence and also into my real life. I look at my technical footprint today and see that more than 70% of it is locked in Google’s fortress. my precious memories google photos My important files? Google Drive. All my searching and browsing? Google Chrome. My phone? A Google Pixel 7 Pro. My entire work presence? Google Workspace.

It’s hard to think of a specific moment when things exploded like snowballs; The invasion was gradual and consensual. But looking back, I can’t help but feel the disconnect between what got me to Google in the first place and where I ended up today.

The election of Google in 2007 was a declaration of independence from the duopoly of Microsoft and Apple.

In 2007, a Gmail account felt like a self-sufficient choice. Choosing that was akin to declaring sovereignty over the Microsoft-Apple duopoly. Google was the “third” option, the bipartisan choice. It was more open and flexible, and with each new service the company released, it nurtured that image of openness and freedom. Here’s Google Chrome – it’s available for both Mac and Windows! And here’s Google Drive, Docs and Sheets – they’re accessible from any browser! Oh, how about Google Photos – you can use it on Android, iOS or the web! You get the gist.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Google Apps

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

Suddenly I have a Google Smart Speaker at my house. Google Maps knows every step I’ve taken in the last ten years and there’s photographic evidence of it and all the people I know in photos. Chrome knows my passwords, credit cards, and all of my browsing history, Google got my 10-year heart rate data and sleep patterns from Fitbit, and I still kind of trust it with the phone numbers of everyone I know. How dark dystopian is that?

In hindsight, I take most of the blame. But aren’t most of us victims of our late ’00s and early ’10s online naivety? We didn’t look too far ahead or pay too much attention to privacy or security issues. Simplicity, interoperability, and overall coolness were the biggest concerns.

I was so afraid of being locked into certain hardware and software that I didn’t see the danger of locking myself into a single Google account.

With Google adopting a more open stance, I adopted most of their services without thinking twice – and it was that easy! I was so afraid of being locked into certain hardware and platforms that I didn’t see the danger of locking myself into a single Google account. And when I realized that, the damage was done. Now I can’t imagine the mess I would be in if I lost access to this crucial part of my online identity.

Google Pixel 5 on a table with full Google logo and two lego figures

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

In a much shorter flashback, I now realize that I’ve been on a partial Google emancipation journey for the past few years. As I grew tired of my dependency on a single account and login, I began taking lateral steps to remedy the situation.

I recently realized that I’ve been on a slow journey of Google emancipation for the past few years.

My most important data came first, so all of my photos, videos, and personal documents are now on a Synology NAS drive. I’ve set up automatic backups from my computer and phone on it so I don’t have to think about it. And of course, I still use Google Photos for its amazing grouping and smart features, but I know Synology Photos will still be there when I need it. Likewise, I still enjoy Drive’s live collaboration features in Docs and Sheets, but I no longer trust it with all my files.

Every once in a while I back up some other easy-to-export data like contacts, calendars, and bookmarks. And I’ve chosen other independent services for my music streaming (Spotify), task management (Todoist), password management (1Password), and trip planning (Wanderlog). Aside from my Nest Audio, Mini, and Hub, all of my smart home gear is cross-platform and, in some cases, compatible with iOS, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. I don’t want to uninstall my thermostat if I ever decide to switch smart home platforms. Oh, and I balanced my Pixelbook with iMac and an iPad because using one platform is too boring.

Now I feel more free to choose cross-platform services that aren’t tied to my Google account.

Also, I recognize that there are many advantages to having a concentrated set of personal data in one place. Adding calendar events from Gmail is extremely convenient, and navigating to a meeting from the calendar location is even cleaner. Plus, as an avid traveler, seeing my Google Maps history and photos side-by-side is like stepping into a time machine and warping away to that specific moment and place.

But it does everything need to be tied together? Of course not. In doing so, I’m slowly finding my personal balance between cross-platform freedom, handing over my entire digital presence to Google, and using independent software.

#building #open #ecosystem #Google #locked

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