These are the Google services I use and some possible replacements:
- Search - Google's flagship service and also the easiest to replace. I use it out of habit, but there are plenty of other search engines out there. It seems so long since I relied on Yahoo! or Alta Vista. Google have added lots of enhancements to their search over the years that make it even more useful. I don't know how well the others have kept up
- Gmail - I have Gmail set up to pick up emails from my own domain and to send as if it comes from there. This is convenient for picking up email at work or on my phone. I don't generally give anyone my Gmail address. I could use the Squirrelmail web interface on the server, but I have to log in each time and it's fairly limited. I used Mail2Web in the past, but not checked it out lately
- Reader - This is my main way of keeping up with news from dozens of sites. I first got into RSS via Newsisfree and then Bloglines, but moved to Reader once they overcame the initial performance issues. I could revert to the previous sites or run a local application. I like having my feeds on the web so I can keep up wherever I am
- Google talk - I don't use Gtalk much for chat, due to few contacts and not at all for voice calls, but the client is convenient for telling me when I have incoming email. I've used other Jabber/XMPP servers in the past and could revert to them and use other software, e.g. Psi on Windows, for IM. I use Kopete on Linux
- Calendar - Google's calendar is very neat. It's easy to set up repeating events and you can set up extra calendars to share with others. It also syncs nicely with my phone. I was using the Kontact calendar before, but synchronising that with anything else was tricky. I've not looked at other web calendars lately
- iGoogle - I use this as my home page to pull together the various Google services I use, along with some other news sources and gadgets for weather, comics and other stuff. Before this I used a Yahoo home page, but that was more limited. I could probably create my own version on my web server if necessary, but my HTML skills are not brilliant
- Wave - I've not got beyond playing with this. It's not essential yet. It's functions could be replaced by a combination of other tools such as email, IM and wiki, but nothing combines them like Wave
- Maps - Google Maps were a revelation after using less dynamic sites like Streetmap. It's so quick to navigate and handy for plotting a route. I'd like to use OpenStreetmap more, but it lacks detail in many areas. Some towns are very well mapped, but that is generally due to a keen mapper living there. I've added to my area and will continue to do so when I find time
- Youtube - This is hard to replace. There are other video sites, but this is the one most people use. It's full of useless crap, but has lots of gems. I've made much use of it to see musical performances and for guitar tutorials. Hard to avoid when so many sites embed videos from there. I've never posted a video there myself. Any I have are generally aimed at friends and family, so get posted on Multiply
- Profile - My Google Profile pulls together links to my many on-line personae. Much of its data was derived from FOAF and XFN data on my site, so they could replace it, but not as a way for people to find my via Google. It drives the recent social search feature that lets me search for content from people I know
- Picasa - This photo site is convenient for its tight integration with the software of the same name. I'm starting to use it a bit for pictures I want to link to from elsewhere, but those could be hosted here. Family pictures which I want to restrict access to go on Multiply as it has the best privacy controls I've found
- Documents - I have a couple of documents on here for logging things like car fuel economy just so I can update from wherever I am. These could fairly easily be replaced by other web services or I could just store them on my phone
- Sync - Just after I got my Windows Mobile phone Google added support for ActiveSync. This was very convenient for synchronising contacts and calendar. I hate having to enter such data manually into multiple devices. I'd prefer a Linux-based phone, but Google are taking over that niche too with Android
- Orkut - I toyed briefly with this social network, but you have to go where the crowd is. I managed to get a lot of people using Multiply and still like it, but Facebook has become the default for many. My issues with Facebook could take up a whole other post. For now I use it to keep up with what friends are doing. I'd prefer to use Friendfeed (owned by Facebook) or an open alternative
- Chrome - I've installed it on one PC, but not used it much. I'm pretty happy with Firefox and its add-ons
There are a few areas of my on-line life that are not dominated by Google. Microblogging is covered by identi.ca and Twitter, links by Delicious, but I might be tempted if Google offered alternatives with the same coverage if they integrated with their other services.
One of the reason I use so many Google services is the integration between them. It's still limited, but has great potential. It tends to work less well with services they have bought up rather than developing internally.
So could I give up Google, if only for a limited time? I think I could, but I would probably miss it. I'd love to see all the services I want offered as open source/protocol options. This would free us from having to use a single provider and even allow us to host them ourselves. I could host my own microblog (status.net), photos (Gallery), IM (Jabber) and others, but there would be little integration and there's a fairly high maintenance overhead.
This post was partially composed in a Gmail draft in my lunch hour so I could finish it at home.