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Going Google Free

On June 25, 2004 I received the following email:

To: Aaron Toponce
From: Gmail Team
Subject: Gmail is different. Here's what you need to know.
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

First off, welcome. And thanksfor agreeing to help us test Gmail. By now you probably know the key ways in which Gmail differs from traditional webmail services. Searching instead of filing. A free gigabyte of storage. Messages displayed in context as conversations.

So what else is new?

Gmail has many other special features that will become apparent as you use your account. You’ll find answers to most of your questions in our searchable help section, which includes a Getting Started guide. You'll find information there on such topics as:

  • How to use address auto-complete
  • Setting up filters for incoming mail
  • Using advanced search options

You may also have noticed some text ads or related links to the right of this message. They're placed there in the same way that ads are placed alongside Google search results and, through our AdSense program, on content pages across the web. The matching of ads to content in your Gmail messages is performed entirely by computers; never by people. Because the ads and links are matched to information that is of interest to you, we hope you'll find them relevant and useful.

You're one of the very first people to use Gmail. Your input will help determine how it evolves, so we encourage you to send your feedback, suggestions and questions to us. But mostly, we hope you'll enjoy experimenting with Google's approach to email.

Speedy Delivery,

The Gmail Team

p.s. You can sign in to your account any time by visiting http://gmail.google.com

On June 25, 2014, I'll be closing my Google account for good. It seems fitting to end it on that date, exactly 10 years after first receiving it. I've already migrated all my documents, my contacts and my calendars to my personal Owncloud instance. When Google shut down Reader, I moved to TTRSS. Last week, I replaced the ROM on my phone with Cyanogenmod, and have not installed or enabled any Google accounts or applications, other than using K-9 for my email. I've already migrated my chat to my own personal XMPP server. The only thing that remains is email.

I will miss the community at Google+. I've made a great many friends there, and have had some amazing discussions. Sadly, it's time to say goodbye. You can find me on Twitter @AaronToponce, and I've usually cross-posted my articles from Plus on Twitter also. We can still have the amazing discussions there. Or, you can find me on IRC under the nick 'eightyeight' on the Freenode, OFTC and XMission IRC networks.

There are many reasons why I'm leaving the Google-verse. They include:

  • Cooperation with NSA spying.
  • Amassing vast amounts of data collection from hundreds of products.
  • Support for proprietary software.
  • A large monopolistic monoculture.

I appreciate that they will allow me to export my data, and delete it off of their servers. Their Takeout service isn't entirely evil. And their Google Summer of Code is to be commended. I appreciate that they have built Android, and submit back to the Linux kernel, and I love that they financially support Free Sofware conferences. However, despite all the good they have done, their toes are touching the "Do No Evil" line, and it's creepy.

I am going to self-host my data. I want as much control over my data as humanly possible. Using Google's services, means losing some of that control, and I just can't tolerate it any longer. This means work and some growing pains, but I'm ready for the trials.

Goodbye Google.

{ 11 } Comments

  1. gnudoc | May 26, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I greatly admire you for doing this. I'd like to follow suit at some point but am not ready yet.

    One question, though - do you feel more comfortable staying with Twitter, or just less able to leave?

    Best of luck.

  2. Aaron Toponce | May 27, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    I don't mind staying with Twitter. They are a microblogging service only, and do not offer a hundred services that invade the privacy of everything in your life. Not every service is evil.

  3. Christopher H Cope | May 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I've gone mostly google free... I've lowered my footprint to virtually nothing and only keep the account around for those occasions where I need a google account.

  4. Levi | May 28, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Frankly, this sort of behavior on your part strikes me as silly, and your use of the word "evil" trivializes truly evil things in the world. I mean, use Google stuff or not, nobody but you really cares. But don't pretend this is some grand gesture.

  5. Doug | May 28, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Would you be willing to elaborate on the self hosting email part? I did that for years, but no matter what I did, how clean my IP address of my mail server was (never on any blacklists, etc), every time I emailed someone at gmail or yahoo etc, my mail went to their spam folder.

    Recently, with the rise in services like sendgrid, where they let you send mail out through their servers which they monitor the reputation of, I've thought about going back to self hosting. But I'd be interested in hearing if you plan on tackling the reputation thing yourself, or using an outbound delivery service, etc.

  6. Aaron Toponce | May 28, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    @Levi "grand gesture"? I don't care what you think. If you want to get in bed with Google, by all means, go ahead. Who am I to get in your way? I'm describing why I'm leaving, not why you should. This isn't a soap box.

    @Doug In all reality, I'm not looking forward to hosting my own mail server. I hate keeping all the gray lists, spam definitions, etc. up-to-date. It's a royal PITA. I ran one years ago, however, and I didn't have any issues with mail going to spam folders. Were you hosting your mail at your house, behind a Comcast connection, by chance? This box will be hosted in an ISP datacenter, so I'm not too concerned about my IP getting black listed.

  7. Sank | May 29, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Aaron,

    Will you please suggest the hosting provider and whole complete setup of VPS/home ? I am planning to go google free.

    Best,
    Sank

  8. Aaron Toponce | May 29, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I recommend using OwnCloud for your personal setup. Requires running your own server, of course. If this isn't feasible, XMission offers cloud hosting services, as well as email hosting and shell access. See http://xmission.com for more info.

  9. Frank | June 11, 2014 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on going google free. Being without their oversight has been a constant driver for me to provide good replacement services.
    How is the mail server going? I have found this guide very useful: http://www.xenlens.com/debian-wheezy-mail-server-postfix-dovecot-sasl-mysql-postfixadmin-roundcube-spamassassin-clamav-greylist-nginx-php5/

    Just let me know if you want a free email address @greenant.net, it's the least I can do to thank you for the excellent ZFS articles!

  10. Will | July 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    How will you transition your PGP keys away from your gmail address?

  11. Brett | October 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Google is a Cultural Marxist entity that tracks everything and collects data for ???. I am taking steps to move out of their clutches.

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