dalliard.net

G.I.N.Y.F

You know a company has become embedded into popular psyche when its name turns into a verb. In fact, there's probably millions of internet users out there who don't know how to search the web without using Google. Is that a bad thing? Has Google become synonymous with search and made the internet more accessible? 

Maybe - but it's also close to monopolising search too.

For those of you who remember the Internet back in the very late 1990s and early 2000s, you'll recall they were dark times. Back then, Microsoft had a stranglehold with Internet Explorer, which had as good as won the browser war. That wasn't to say there weren't other browsers out there - I was in the Mozilla/Netscape camp. However, when a company turns into a virtual monopoly it's unchallenged - giving it licence to do what the hell it likes. A common complaint was that Web-Developers turned into Internet Explorer Developers, as Microsoft razzed in the face of industry standards. With some very rare exceptions, monopolies are just bad - and Google is pretty close to achieving this status.

When I first started using the internet in the early nineties, search-engines were a very different thing. Yahoo! was the search-engine of choice, but there so many others, Altavista, Lycos, Hotbot, Magellan, AOL, Ask Geeves, Infoseek - the list goes on. Unfortunately, Yahoo! lost it's way and the site went from Google-esque minimalism to a horrendous car-crash of links. 

Remember?

Remember this? Unfortunately, Yahoo! is now the search engine that's forgotten it's a search engine.

Google, however, continues to expand - the recent setup of Alphabet only goes to confirm this. The Google stranglehold goes further. Got an Android phone? Is it possible to have one without a Google account? Not really.

And then there's the data-tracking. Don't even get me started on the data-tracking....

About a month ago, I came to the long-overdue realisation that Google didn't need my support any more, which encouraged me to jump the Google ship and find alternatives. Whilst I could go into the ins-and-outs of which search engine should be your choice, I'm simply going to say that I've gone for DuckDuckGo. As a Mac and iOS user, support for the search-engine is pretty much built into the system with minimal configuration (apart from changing your default), the quality of its results aren't bad and the big plus is that my search activity isn't tracked. I'm no tinfoil-hat wearer, but I do have a problem with an organisation constantly recording and monitoring my every browsing habit. Whilst I routinely block all Google cookies in my browser, the only one that DuckDuckGo wants to store is country-specific information, should you want localised results. However, the tentacles of Google go further. I've used Opera for the last years few years instead of Chrome. I use alternatives to YouTube (or browse anonymously if I have to use it). I've not used Google+ for years and finally, I don't have a GMail account.

I've pretty much weaned my computer off anything to Google.



So whilst this all sounds pretty extreme to you, it's about more than avoiding a company that seems to have pretty much taken over the internet. If you're happy with your activity being tracked, that just one company should get the revenue should you ever click on an advertisement and that the same company should be able to profit by selling analytics about your web behaviour, then that's fine. However, when companies get so large that they're a virtual monopoly, it gives them sufficient clout to use that data in an irresponsible manner. I'm not saying that Google are evil, however the potential is there - and doesn't it feel better to use the little shop around the corner instead of that behemoth-like Tesco Extra that's closed down all those independent retailers in your local town?

Of course, having a Tesco Extra nearby has its uses, but that doesn't mean that every time you go shopping you need your Clubcard. In other words, shop around - well, unless it's Bing - I always feel like I'm rummaging in the pants and socks department of M&S when I'm there - and the less said about gussets, the better.
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