There’s a very well written quiz on the New York Times. It’s called: “The Big Five tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. Could you ditch them?”—and here’s my public response and some thoughts on it.
This note is inspired by Jeena’s post on this topic, in which he shares his personal result list.
My order of dropping tech giants
First of all, note that this isn’t an order of relevance but of my personal importance of dropping a company—with main reasons being if I trust the company or not.
Note about the impossibility of this
I shortly want to mention a quite important thing: It’s barely possible these days to drop Alphabet, Microsoft or Amazon entirely. All three offer big data centers where other companies host their services. This would mean that if I’d drop one of these companies, I’d loose access to all the companies who host their services there as well.
For Amazon AWS, despite no one knows exactly, there are numbers that they are directing around 70% of all Internet traffic. Adding Microsoft and Google’s Clouds, I might loose access to the majority of the Internet (I’d estimate more than 95%?) if I’d drop these 5 giants.
It’s nearly impossible to figure out which companies are hosted there, so we’re only talking about the direct usage of their main services here, I guess.
Results in Detail
I used Facebook for a long time (>5 years) but over the past two years didn’t enjoy it anymore. It lacked relevance and kept me into their weird news-spreading bubble that in the end affected my happiness. The main reason in the end was staying in theoretical contact with other persons but in half a year I received and sent about 2 messages via it. That’s why I dropped Facebook a month ago. I didn’t regret.
A similar experience happened with Instagram, part of Facebook Inc.. While they have incredibly great content there, looking at all the people’s amazing pictures made me sad that my own life wasn’t that great. And I heard similar things from people who viewed my Instagram profile. That’s when I realized that Instagram, despite the great content, achieved to control people’s happiness. I deleted the app a month ago. My profile is still there but I’m not sure I’ll use it again.
For Whatsapp, it’s a bit trickier. I still have a couple of friends that I only reach through this service. Most of my personal communication runs through Signal or other channels but a bit of group communication is running through Whatsapp. It’s the last product of Facebook I use occasionally and I’d be happy to give it up once my last friends are available on Signal as well.
Well, what to say here? I have a personal account at Google. I dislike every single of Alphabet’s businesses, as apparently it exists to get data from people and use it to sell advertising or their own products. Latest example: Google’s “Home” device listens to you all day and they just now test if running context-sensitive ads would work out. Great to have a $150 product in your room that spies on you and plays ads.
TL;DR: I use Google occasionally for some work related stuff. Clients send me a shared document etc. I don’t use it for anything else and I use a private, separate browser when I log into an Alphabet service. For search I happily use DuckDuckGo, for maps I use Apple Maps or OpenStreetMap, for email I use Uberspace, I don’t use Hangouts except for one client, no Google+, no photos.
One thing left: YouTube. Of course I sometimes watch a YouTube video. But it’s also not very often and most of the time, I could probably live with not having watched it. There are other channels to watch videos and I dislike random watching a lot these days, as it’s time consuming, addictive and not useful at all.
As said, it’s not possible to not use one of Amazon’s product indirectly these days. But for the direct usage, I’ve decided to not support Amazon’s business whenever possible. Over the last year, I ordered two parcels via Amazon. Actually, after buying some hardware there via Amazon from some Resellers there, I realized that Amazon doesn’t care if the resellers send an invoice or not—it’s even not possible to contact some of these resellers via the platform. A reason that made me decide to never again buy something from Amazon resellers.
Except for four products, I found every other product in my life of Amazon in another shop. There are alternatives, and I happily support local and independent stores nowadays instead of feeding my money to a giant that makes advantage of other people.
Did I mention I’d never ever buy an Amazon Echo? They now even want to watch your life via a constantly running webcam. Screw you, I love my privacy and some time without any technical device nearby.
I don’t care too much about Microsoft personally. I don’t use any of their service. It happens so that I still have Skype installed as a recent client used it for communication. Microsoft is the giant that I don’t use and couldn’t care less personally. That said, I’m happy that they build a great browser nowadays and seem to care about people at least a bit more than the colleagues from the other giants listed above.
This one is interesting. I use Apple and its software a lot. I have a MacBook Air, and an iPhone. I use macOS, iOS, iCloud (for Calendar, and some app sync), and Music. Still today, I’ve not seen any hardware that was equally high quality and design to Apple. There are devices looking similar, but the quality doesn’t come close usually. Their Operating Systems are the ones that are best and easiest to use.
I don’t trust iCloud much more than the other’s clouds except that I trust Apple more in regard to privacy. Why? Simply read the Privacy Policies of each of the five tech giants. Yes, I’m that crazy that I read them.
I don’t see much reason why I should drop Apple, except for its role as being a monopoly and for its massive vendor lock-in. I acknowledge that Apple would be extremely hard for me to drop, especially due to iOS. I could probably live with Linux and I’d find Computer hardware that is okayish, but for my phone I really dislike Android and there’s not much alternative to iOS then.
Yes, that’s what I thought initially after reading the NYT article. It’s still unbelievable how locked-in we are today and how hard it is to drop one of the five big players. What a sad state of the independent, free Internet.
I’m going to change my behaviour even further and will try to drop some of these companies further and reduce my reliance on Apple. What about you? Can’t hurt, right?