Unplug From Google

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.


There are more than a 100 Google products out there. Most of them are free, or has a dumbed down free version of their commercial product. This is an exact opposite business model of how Microsoft (their biggest competition) works. As a matter of fact you will have a hard time finding any other software at Google’s size that provides as many free services as Google does (maybe Yahoo, but they are not really Google scale).

There is of course a lot of benefit of free Google products for the consumers; both directly and indirectly. It has kept competition from charging exuberant amount for their product and service, specially when there is little or no competition out there. You can’t really compete with free without providing something superior, which in the process pushed commercial competition in to improving their products (read Internet Explorer).

Its convenient for Google to provide free services because that’s how they got started. You can’t really have a successful general search engine that charges money to search. This model worked for them and they used it in almost all of their products all across their products. Rinse and repeat.

TINSTAFL: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Google is first and foremost an advertising company and they are very big and very good at what they do. The best advertising companies are the ones that finds the most efficient way to show the right advertisement to the right people. If a 20 year old guy gets ads displayed for a nursing home then its not a good investment for the advertiser. Unless that 20 year old was actively searching for nursing home in his favorite search engine (Google Search) and went to a website that review nursing home and that website has analytics (Google Analytics) that logs his behavior and then goes on to a social sharing website (Google+) to share and discus his finding. He probably also uses free DNS service (Google Public DNS) that gives better response time than his ISP. He sends email (Gmail) about his online search to his sister, who also uses the same free email provider. He remembers to tag that place in his Smart phone’s (Android) map service (Google Maps) so that he gets a reminder (Google Now) to check it out next time he is close to that area.

Then he is the PERFECT person to display ads (Google Adsense/Adwords/admob/doubleclick) to for a nursing home.

What does all these scenario have in common?

All these web services are owned by the same company. Also they are all Free. All these free services are working for one single goal, that is to display right ads to the right person. You, my friend, is the product and the advertisers is Google’s true paying customers. The whole Google jigsaw puzzle has one purpose to full-fill, that is to get as much information as they can get about you so that they can provide it to their real customer (advertisers) to show you the most relevant ads. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to sensationalize anything. Google is not the only company doing it. But they are one of the biggest and they also has this reputation of being a “good guy” company. There is nothing wrong with making money. There is nothing wrong with selling your information to the advertisers. But there is something troubling (at least to me) in pretending and disguising yourself under the banner of “Do No Evil” bullshit. There is certainly a limit of how much information I am comfortable sharing with Google, or any corporation for that matter.

Is it possible to completely unplug from the Google world?


In most cases yes. But in a lot of cases Google is the dominant player. I am not advocating you to stop using Google altogether. There are worse corporation out there that you should be more concerned about. What I am asking is to not put all your eggs in one basket or give too much power to Google. The more you diversify your options the less power you give to Google (or any one company) and the less information they have about you. Only so called “free” Google Services that are widely used has the potential to track your behavior and sell to advertisers.

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  • yv_ba

    I am thinking the same since some times now. I would be great to enrich your article with alternatives to Google services. Free or non-free. For instance, which alternative to Gmail? For how much and do they provide great spam filters (as Gmail does)?

  • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

    Yes, lets all jump on the Google hate bandwagon. Is Apple hating out of fashion now ?

  • Roland Mai

    I’m sticking with it. They’re a good company, and have good ethics. It is run by smart people, not a bunch of retards with MBAs who know nothing of technology, but only think about who to screw their customers over.

    • Anon

      You said customers…

      • roland_mai

        Point taken. However, I do pay for certain services (such as Google voice) so yes I consider myself a customer. However, I also use adblock, and they don’t ban me from the site because if it. It’s a complicated relationship. I do remember the picture of the pigs in a stall wondering how the farmer made money, I don’t see myself in that regard.
        I don’t see why Google is being targetted. We use our “social capital” in many places, such as linkedin facebook twitter, flickr, reddit, slashdot, yahoo, skype etc. etc. We are all customers of these “free” services. We buy the service with our online personality. As long as they do not use the information to do evil, such as give it to a government, such as China, to spy and persecute people. Google has a very good track record on being transparent.
        I wonder if you read what microsoft has to do in China to keep skype up. They make people download another app so the government can spy on people. How wrong is that?

        I’m not saying google is a saint, but I like their ethics better than the others.

        • Tony66

          Do you reconsider your comment now after PRISM?

  • Nathan Powell

    Sometimes I have a hard time mustering outrage for issues like targeted advertising.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703025034 Jim Hershkowitz

    You can’t have your cake and it it too, the saying goes. These Google services are free. You enjoy the cake.

  • drhowarddrfine

    As you said, Google is not the only company doing it. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find any company that’s NOT doing it and they’ve been doing so long before the web was invented. So this article is worthless.

  • http://twitter.com/VinnyVinnix Vincent Cifelli

    Good article,

    Lately, I’ve been wanting to ‘jump ship’ with Google and see what my alternative options are to being productive.

    Has anyone found good alternatives to Google? More specific gmail?

    • http://lucb1e.com/ Lucb1e

      Hotmail? Self-hosted?

      • http://twitter.com/VinnyVinnix Vincent Cifelli

        I have self hosted, but I’m looking for an intergration service that I can do it all…Zoho might be worthwhile

    • Bardoe

      zoho is great, its also got lots of space, docs, chat and lots of other bells and whistles. ~ And a personal account is free

  • Heinlein


  • http://twitter.com/davidpayne11 david payne

    So how much were you paid to write this, dude?

  • normand

    You forgot to mention that the guy was using (Google Chrome) running in (Google Chrome OS) on his (Google Cr48).

  • http://twitter.com/ing33k Vamsi Krishna

    so what steps are you taking to Unplug from Google. ?

  • Js

    Sorry, but this article didn’t put anything new to the table. Kinda dissapointing, came here hoping for more new stuff.

    On another note, you make it sound as though Google is selling your data to other companies, where as the really only sell the ad space using your data. That’s a huge difference. At least in my book.

    And lastly, if I have to see ad’s anyway, then at least I want them to be personalized.

  • Pete

    You may have included it as a disclaimer, but the fact that you use analytics and have an income from Google Ads rather makes you look a little silly.

    Its no secret what Google’s business model is, but they provide the solution to many ‘pains’ in my life in order to sell those ad clicks (which as a side note, I have never clicked on) and they do not ask me for any money in return. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and if you are not willing for your data to be used for advertising then you can easily pay for a provider who has a more traditional business model.

    In the meantime i’ll be enjoying best in class email, mapping/navigation etc, which is available on all my devices, with no impact on my monthly pay packet. When/if it changes, or there is any actual evidence to suggest Google is _evil_ I will use something else!

    • http://yves-ba.com/ Yves Baumes

      There is nothing as a “Free lunch”, that’s true.

      But then I am wondering: is the global advertising budget of all firms in the world flat? Or does it inflate because now they must target a new medium: the internet (through Google ads program)?

      In other words, my question is: Does the advertising on the internet have an impact on the goods and products prices we buy?

      Anyway, benefits and cons are always a question of point of view. :-) Even though the price would actually be worse, one can argue that there is a better information/potential-customer matching since Google displays custom ads. All that generates revenues through taxes and favorite employment. As a software engineer I am excited by everything happening in the Silicon Valley. And a good grasp of startups base their business model on advertising and are successful. :-)

  • http://github.com/lyda Kevin Lyda

    You don’t charge readers to use this site. You view your readers as products?

  • totnuckers

    Go ahead unplug yourself I am staying. Company now competes with their own ecosystem. The only question is which company would you trust. Google? Apple? Amazon? Microsoft?

    I would rather trust Google, Apple and Amazon but never Microsoft.
    right now my ecosystem is in Google and Apple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kobi.bender Kobi Bender

    Interesting post. There is always one tech comp. which is looked down upon every decade or so right? I have gmail and I also use Apple & a PC. Windows 8 does kinda stink (saw a comment) & should I be forced to use IE just because I chose to buy a laptop vs a desktop? What if I wanted to use another browser?

    I live in the USA and I believe in Democracy. Companies have the right to be big & successful & that’s part of what freedom is all about. There often comes a point, which has been seen in the past with companies like M.Soft & Sirius/XM radio (just to name a few you may know) where they monopolized an entire industry & then what happened, the Government stepped in and took measures to bring them down a notch or two…so to speak & others then had a fair shot at competition. In some ways this sounds positive but in other ways it is not.

    I have mixed feelings about this, but when you talk about the Internet it’s on a Global scale and that changes things. I don’t “enjoy” having to make changes constantly to my sites to abide by the new “rules” without a moments notice, but this is a complicated situation. Should one company be “allowed” to basically tell the entire world how they should run their websites and if they don’t comply not no one will ever see their sites?

    The impact this has is Global, not just here in the USA & it has driven way to many people & companies out of business and for this I am sad. Google has about 50% of the SEM. They must have done a whole lot of things right wouldn’t you say? Does this give them authority to govern the rest of the world online?

    The Internet is fairly new in comparison to other things and situations such as this haven’t really been dealt with on such a large scale. The “laws” of the online world are different & in my opinion I kinda just wish the Internet was more of the way is was when it was new & fun & exciting & all you wanted to do was go on AOL because that was one of the first ways you could get online back then (until you got an ISP)

    Hey, I remember when I went to buy something, anything at almost any store and when checking out I was given an AOL CD literally just about everywhere! They’re still around but things have changed, as does everything with time.

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