A while back on The Fediverse (using the Mastodon Client / Server software) I posted about a thought experiment wherein I wondered out-loud what it would take to completely remove Google from my life. I was reminded of this with a recent story about how Google is cutting back on laptops, staplers, tape, and services to cut costs. This reminds of similar cost-cutting measures I witnessed at various companies when they were struggling. A few of those:

  • Turning off the lights in places where nobody was present (and the subsequent arguments over whether turning lights on and off wasted more electricity. Fun for every pedant in your company).
  • Printing less (which turns everyone in your company into a printing narc).
  • Evaluating subscriptions, software, and the like to see which ones can be canceled (and canceling the expensive ones without a suitable replacement).

You get the idea. These are not the actions of a healthy company; these are the flailing measures of someone who is drowning, trying to find any available thing to clutch onto (nevermind if it drowns you both).

So that brings up what I would need to do in order to de-Google myself. Here's the list:

  • Android
  • Backup email
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Keep
  • Maps
  • Pebble
  • Phone
  • Signal Android app
  • Squeezebox apps
  • Star Realms app
  • Sync with
  • Sync w/ JoDee
  • Translate
  • Voice
  • Zaccaria Pinball app

Now, most of these are pretty simple to replace, or have already been replaced. If I had a Linux-based phone that mimicked my laptop most of these would be solved. And I already have a replacement for contacts using Monica and Protonmail for mail and calendar. There's only a few that would really sting:

  • Pebble: It would suck to not be connected, but I think I could manage. Also I wonder if someone could make a replacement infrastructure the same way that Rebble made a replacement for the server. I'm hopeful on this one.
  • Star Realms: Maybe there could be a Linux app, but if not then I'll live. I still have the physical cards.
  • Squeezebox apps: Again, if there was a credible Linux phone this wouldn't be an issue.

That leaves the 80lb gorilla. Google Voice.

It's no secret that I absolutely hate using the phone. Google Voice makes this tolerable. It offers the following killer features:

  • Calling from a web browser. Absolutely my favorite feature, and the thing that is a deal-breaker for so many alternatives. Using a brick to talk to people is just absurd.
  • Integration with Android. As much as I don't care for Android the fact that it has a decent app makes things easier on the ol' brain.
  • SMS from the web browser / emailing SMS to my email account: See also: I hate phone keyboards and reading SMS on a tiny screen is not my idea of fun.
  • Voicemail transcription: Better than listening to voice mail.

Now, there are alternatives, but they all seem to vary in complexity, features, and user interface. I took a peek at, Twilio, and Line2 but I'm not sure of the longevity of each of these services, and in particular seems like one would need to have a PhD in XMPP to make work properly. And Twilio is best for developers who want to do a phone service, not someone that wants to use a phone service.

It saddens me to think that Google managed to come up with the perfect product and we're in danger of losing it because someone thinks they have too many staplers. But this would be the first time that Google killed an amazing product. Too bad it might be Google itself getting killed.

(I'll also note that I'm pretty sure I'm an unfrozen caveman, as I use the word "phone" to mean "apply 10 digits in sequence to try to cajole someone to engage in voice communication", as opposed to using those said digits to engage another human in textual communication. But apparently the difference is lost on some.)