So as a long-form experiment regarding online life, I decided to cut myself off of online services and products that aren’t Google-owned or operated for a month. I was hoping to see just how far their reach was online and whether they could potentially gain a monopoly on the online marketplace. They clearly are the most popular search engine, but what about other services?
I had to find out. So I signed up or activated nearly every Google service under the sun, minimized all the others and started my journey. By the end, I hoped to answer the following questions. Here are my resulting thoughts:
Did I Miss Out on Essential Services?
My initial fears going into this project were mostly related to the services I thought essential. I used Amazon a lot. Would I be missing out in terms of being able to get products I needed? I used other tools for scheduling and planning my day-to-day activities. Would Google Calendar be able to suit all of my needs? Would my video calls be impossible?
After 30 days, I felt partially inconvenienced, but there were no major issues in my life. On occasion, I was left out of certain events or told about certain information later than others. Many of my issues weren’t necessarily related to the inferiority of Google services and products, but the unpopularity of those services. Google Docs and Google Drive were mostly sufficient for my career needs. It was possible to take care of most of my shopping needs through searching with Google, even if it wasn’t as convenient.
I also imagine others having a completely different result depending on their lifestyle and profession. Google doesn’t have total dominance yet, and it shows. Google might not be enough if special needs are taken into consideration.
Could I Communicate?
It was a tad more difficult to reach people I don’t talk with too often, but after mentioning on social media platforms that I would be taking a month-long respite, people were quite understanding. Anyone who was concerned about contacting me got either my Gmail address or my phone number. Even Google admits that its social media platforms aren’t doing all that well in comparison with the industry leaders, so while I got more involved with Google Plus, it wasn’t all that useful. A social network requires people to network on it.
While it was nice at the end of the month to scroll back and see what happened, I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much. Maybe I missed out on a sale that wasn’t communicated to me through a Google product or service, but I considered the opportunity costs of my time. Using only Google limited my communications to an extent, but they weren’t cut off. Instead, in my experience, they were filtered down to what truly mattered.
What About Entertainment?
So I didn’t have Netflix or Hulu for a month. It wasn’t too big a deal. YouTube is owned and controlled by Google, so nearly all of my video needs were met. While it is reliant upon content creators and licensing, there wasn’t too much of a concern when I needed something to do online. I even signed up for YouTube Red and got a pass for Google Music as part of the deal. While the services might not have been my first choice when it comes to streaming services, they proved sufficient enough. YouTube Red’s original content, however, was positively terrible.
I learned by the end that there is always something to watch on a platform given enough searching, minimizing the importance of a particular service. I still don’t have my Netflix account back, and more often do I actively search for content that fits my needs, not what I’m told I’d like. I feel simultaneously more trusting of Google and dismissive of its results.
How Did You Deal with Smartphone Use?
Fortunately, I already had a phone running Android when I started the project, so in those terms, it was relatively easy to use my smartphone for browsing and online services just like my computer. Other than neglecting a few social networks and services I rarely used anyway, such as the freeware that came on my phone, I didn’t really pay much attention to the differences.
As far as keeping touch with friends and family to clarify plans or send quick messages, I found that the standard of texting and calling remained true. Google dominates the internet, but the internet doesn’t completely dominate our lives just yet. Its reach hasn’t become one with the air around us.
How Did I Feel by the End?
To be perfectly honest, I felt concerned with the ability of Google to do just about everything. One wonders about the ability of the market to control such a beast. While Google does some things (searching and email) better than others (Google Plus), there remains the fact that it has the infrastructure to dominate should another tech giant go under. Combine that with the visions the company has for the future and what could come out of their experiments, we can feel excited toward new technology yet cautious about how it’ll get used.
On a smaller scale, I felt mildly inconvenienced, yet fine. The truth remains that while we do need the internet to work and communicate, a lot of other needs are manufactured and our time would be better spent reading books and growing gardens than checking new messages. Checking my Gmail served a purpose, but what was the purpose of checking Payton Manning’s Twitter every day? By the nature of the experiment, I was connected just a little less with technology, and it had a positive effect on my mind and spirit.
Do you have any thoughts on Google’s growing presence online? Are you afraid that they might become too powerful and form a monopoly on online life? Do you think there are any legitimate alternatives? Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think, and then get your friends in on the conversation.