(I’ve written an updated version of this post, available here.)
On the heels of my recent iGoogle alternatives post, I took a look over what other Google services I’ve come to rely upon, and thought I’d write a followup post. Yes, writing this made me realize how reliant I am upon “da Google” (to quote the crocs in the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine”). This post lists my suggested alternatives to Google’s services, where possible.
Google seems to dominate this area, but one alternative might be Amazon.com’s Associate program.
There’re some alternatives to Google Analytics for website statistics tracking. One option (that I haven’t tested, but read about) for self-hosted WordPress users is WordPress.com Stats, which comes as part of the Jetpack plugin package. Once installed, self-hosted WordPress users get the same general site statistics WordPress.com users can access.
Another option is Piwik, an open-source statistics package with similar functionality to Google Analytics. However, unlike Analytics (or WordPress.com Stats), Piwik must be installed on one’s site. Installation difficulty may vary; my webhost offers Piwik installation through software installation options in cPanel. Another issue (last I used Piwik) is that one can’t export Piwik data to use in another analytics program. (It does, however, let one import Google Analytics data.) I used to use Piwik until earlier this year, when (with Anthony’s Notes’ webhost move) I also moved to Google Analytics (after discovering Piwik’s lack of data exporting the hard way…).
Various alternatives exist to Google’s blog hosting service. WordPress (either self-hosted or through WordPress.com) is a popular alternative, offering plenty of features (some better than what Blogger offers). Another possible alternative is Tumblr, assuming one wants a lightweight blog with fewer features than Blogger or WordPress.
As longtime readers may recall, my blog started out on Blogspot, before Blogspot’s parent company was sold to Google. I moved to the WordPress-based current solution a few years ago.
Android’s become one of the most popular smartphone platforms, and makes particular use (by default) of various Google services, including its calendar, search, and contacts features. The most popular alternative for most will be the iPhone, though there’ll be a few who’ll want Blackberry or the even fewer who’ll want Windows Phone. Even within Android, one has the option to change the default search engine (Bing or Yahoo are the usual alternatives).
FeedBurner, an RSS feed creation/tracking tool, is another service Google bought some years ago, and offers some rudimentary tracking statistics. If having tracking statistics available isn’t a concern, the best alternative is to just offer the default RSS feeds for one’s blog.
Gmail’s one of Google’s most popular services, with everyone and their mother having a Gmail address by this point. Still, other free email options exist. The alternative I’d choose would be Yahoo, which still offers free email addresses, even if lacking the flashiness of Gmail. For some, Hotmail may also be an alternative (though I’d choose Yahoo well before choosing Hotmail).
Google Reader folds RSS feeds into one easy-to-use interface, and has the advantage of being accessible from anywhere, just like a Gmail account.
Alternatives include a myriad of third-party stand-alone newsfeed readers, including Liferea on Linux.
Social networks are one area where Google’s yet to dominate (if ever). As such, Google’s role here is reversed, with Google+ as the alternative to the dominant social network, Facebook. Other popular social networks include Twitter and LinkedIn (for professional usage).
YouTube is one site that’s largely unmatched elsewhere online. While there’s other sites like Dailymotion, they don’t even begin to match the range of choices in material or prominence YouTube offers.
MapQuest is the most prominent alternative to Google Maps… at least as long as one doesn’t need mass transit directions outside the biggest American cities. MapQuest only offers transit information for Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. If one needs mass transit directions and times, Google Maps still has a lock on such. Some cities offer to-the-minute schedule information through their transit systems’ websites, but mine (Milwaukee County Transit System) merely redirects to Google Maps.
Google itself (as a search engine)
And finally, Google’s original purpose in life as a search engine. While Yahoo and Bing are options, the best alternative I’ve seen for non-image web searching is DuckDuckGo, which I’ve written about before. For images, Google Image still seems to be the best choice available, though Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) offers searching through Flickr’s Creative Commons images.