Friday, May 3, 2013

How to stop using Google - for search, email, video, maps and more

Want to show Google that you don't approve of its tax-avoidance tactics? From its humble beginnings as a project at Stanford University, the company has grown into one which has become almost unavoidable online – and in some cases offline, as it also owns the loss-making Motorola Mobility mobile phone maker.

So how do you go about avoiding Google? If you want to take a stand over tax, Google will only notice if it doesn't get your attention. Here are some usable alternatives.

Search

This is the big one, of course. Most people in Europe who are online use Google every day at some point; it has more than 90% of the search market (notably because it offers multilingual support). The adverts that appear around Google searches and on other pages generate about 95% of Google's entire revenues. So if you avoid those, then you are – in your own small way – striking a blow against tax avoidance. 

What are the alternatives? Once you start trying them, my experience is that search is actually more of a commodity than you might think.

DuckDuckGo.com offers (in my experience) search results that are just as good as Google's, and often less full of spam. I've personally used it as my principal search engine for more than a year, initially as an experiment and then simply because it was effective. It's ethical - it's too small a company yet to have gone for any tax avoidance methods that I'm aware of - and doesn't try to track you online. 

Microsoft's Bing is reckoned by some to be almost as good as Google, though it frequently doesn't do as well in blind tests. Note that Microsoft, like Google, seems to use clever accounting to minimise its tax bill, so if you're avoiding Google for that reason, you might want to ponder that one.

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