So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]
By on August 31st, 2011

Chrome

Google is a late entrant into the web browser game but Chrome has iterated very quickly and it is now arguably the fastestbrowser in the market. It also forms the basis for Google’s ChromeOS, a browser-based operating environment for netbook-style computers which they call Chromebooks. Chrome led the way for minimalistic UI and have been trendsetters in the industry in various ways, like hiding the address bar, proposing the removal of wwwin URL’s, etc.

However, Chrome is the only browser which has not implemented (or even supported) a do not trackinitiative. Firefox, Internet Explorer 9 and even Safari are either already supporting or have announced they will support the functionality to give users a choice of limiting what information websites can track while browsing. Given that most of Google’s revenues come from advertising, it is not surprising that they are hesitant in supporting such an initiative. If you have a problem with this lack of privacy controls, especially with the browser becoming the operating system in a lot of ways, it is time to look for an alternative.

With Windows 7 having an HTML5-enabled, standards-compliant browser in Internet Explorer 9 and Mac OS X having a similarly HTML5-enabled browser, I see no reason to go outside these two browsers. If you do want an alternative on Windows, Safari is available on Windows as well. However on a Mac, your best bet for an alternative to Safari would be Firefox.

Firefox’s biggest pitch of late has been the fact that they are not tied to any company which may have an ulterior motive Microsoft and Apple with their OSes and Google with the advertising/tracking. I have been frustrated with the startup performance and the bloated nature of Firefox in the past, and so I have given up. On my Windows PC’s, I have IE9 as the default browser, and I use Safari as my backup/alternative in case it is needed.

Maps/Directions

Google Maps is another amazing product from Google which went from nothing to awesome in an extremely short period of time. They have continued to improve upon the product and have dominated the market not only by the standalone product but also via their API which is now all over the web as well as in GPS devices and such.

However, Bing Maps has been adding features rapidly and for most common tasks it does as well as Google Maps and in some cases, like Streetside View, better than Google Maps. Bing also has an interesting concept of including map appsalong with their maps to help in tasks like Parking Finder, showing OpenStreetMap, find cheap gas, etc. Yahoo! Maps is still around and it does serve the basic needs of seeing a map and getting directions. Mapquest, to my surprise, is still around. So there are plenty of choices unless we switch to mobile where OSes have their default maps set from the factory.

If you switch to Bing Maps, like I have, you should not miss much, if anything at all.

Chat

Google Chat is available via GMail and it works just like any other web-based IM app should. It has competition from Yahoo! with its Yahoo! Messenger in Yahoo! Mail and Windows Live Messenger inside Hotmail. While Google Chat is interoperable with AIM, Yahoo! Messenger works with Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger works with Yahoo! Messenger as well as Facebook chat. While a lot of IM client choice is driven by where most of your friends are, I think going with Windows Live Messenger is a safe choice since it not only connects you natively to Yahoo! but also to Facebook chat, even using the web messenger version. Most of your friends, if not all, should be on one of those three services and you will have a single service to use.

Of course there are multi-protocol apps like Trillian and Meebo which allow you to connect to multiple services within one client. I used to use Trillian desktop client for many years before switching to Meebo since it was web-based and required no client or any workarounds for firewall issues. Recently, I have started using Trillian’s excellent web-based client since they made it available for free. There is not much to choose between Meebo and Trillian, except maybe that Trillian is a Flash application whereas Meebo works with HTML without any plugin.

You may lose some of the desktop client-specific features but I think going with a web-based, all-purpose service like Meebo and Trillian will simplify your IM life.

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Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.

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