By building an open ecosystem, Google locked me in forever

Google Pixel 5 on a table showing the Google logo with two lego figures in front

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google’s presence in my life is so important today that I sometimes feel like I’ve lost sight of what brought me to its ecosystem. It was in 2007; I had a Hotmail account and a Toshiba laptop running Windows XP, used Firefox as my browser of choice, and was pretty addicted to smartphones from Nokia, but was also considering buying an Apple MacBook. Google was nothing more than a search engine to me then, and the idea of ​​having a second email account seemed absurd to me. But a few of my online friends kept pestering me to sign up for a Gmail account, luring me in with a whopping 2.8GB of free storage and threaded conversations! As a technophile, I could only give in to this trendy and rebellious proposal.

It started a long Google journey slowly but surely, spreading its tentacles into my online presence and into my real life too. I look at my tech footprint today and see that over 70% of it is locked away in Google’s fortress. My precious memories? Google Photos. My important files? Google Drive. All my research and browsing? Google Chrome. My phone? A Google Pixel 7 Pro. All my presence at work? Google Workspace.

It’s hard to imagine a particular moment when things snowballed; 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.

In 2007, choosing Google was a declaration of independence from the Microsoft and Apple duopoly.

In 2007, a Gmail account looked like an autarkic choice. Choosing this was tantamount to declaring the sovereignty of the Microsoft and Apple duopoly. Google was the “third” option, the bipartisan choice. He was more open and flexible, and with every service the company offered, he fed that image of openness and freedom. Meet Google Chrome – it’s available for 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 essentials.

google apps for samsung galaxy s23 ultra

Ryan Haines/Android Authority

Suddenly there is a Google smart speaker in my house. Google Maps knows every step I’ve taken over the past decade, and there’s photographic proof of that and everyone I know in Photos. Chrome knows my passwords, credit cards, and all my browsing history, Google acquired my heart rate data and sleep patterns over 10 years from Fitbit, and I still trust it with the phone number of every person I know. How darkly dystopian is it?

In retrospect, I will take most of the blame. But aren’t most of us victims of our online naivety in the late 2000s and early 10s? We haven’t looked too far ahead or too much attention to privacy or security issues. Simplicity, interoperability and general freshness were the main concerns.

I was so afraid of being locked into specific hardware and software that I didn’t see the danger of being locked into just one Google account.

So, because Google has taken a more open stance, I found myself adopting most of its services without thinking twice – and it was so easy! I was so afraid of being locked into specific hardware and platforms that I didn’t see the danger of being locked into just one Google account. And when I found out, the damage was done. Now, I can’t imagine the mess I’d be in if I lost access to this crucial part of my online identity.

Google Pixel 5 on a table with the Google logo complete with two lego figures

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

In a much shorter retrospective, it’s clear to me now that I’ve been on a journey of partial emancipation from Google over the past two years. As I grew tired of my reliance on one account and one login, I started taking secondary steps to address it.

I recently realized that I have been on a slow journey of emancipation from Google over the past few years.

My most important data came first, so all my personal photos, videos, and documents are now on a Synology NAS drive. I set up automatic backups of my computer and phone 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 always be there when I need it. Likewise, I still appreciate Drive’s live collaboration features in Docs and Sheets, but I no longer trust it with all my files.

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

Now I feel freer to choose cross-platform services that aren’t tied to my Google Account.

Additionally, I recognize that there are many benefits to having a concentrated amount 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 easier. Also, as an avid traveler, seeing my Google Maps history and photos side by side is like stepping into a time machine and warping to that particular time and place.

But do All should be tied together? Of course not. Over time, I’m slowly finding my personal balance between cross-platform freedom, moving my entire digital presence to Google, and using independent software.

#building #open #ecosystem #Google #locked

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