brycewray.com

Backtracking to Big G

A noble experiment ends

I admit it: I get too much utility from the myriad of Google services to pass them up, my privacy be damned.

published:  August 25, 2019
 

“Your honor, we submit the following in evidence for today’s proceedings.

“Initially, the defendant made the following assertions:”

“. . . and . . .”

“. . . followed a few weeks later by . . .”

“Unfortunately, your honor, this seemingly noble and well-intentioned course of action was derailed yesterday, as shown here . . .”

“. . . and here . . .”

“. . . and here . . .”

“—and, as the defendant surmised in this most recent exhibit before the court, he did indeed end up stopping the usage of the tracking-free alternative, thus compounding his crime by no longer supporting it at the same time he was returning the Evil G Empire’s tracking code to its former access to his site and its visitors.

“In cases like this, we would normally advise our client to claim insanity and/or throw himself at the mercy of the court, but neither course seems wise in this case—particularly since there long has been plenty of doubt about our client’s sanity and we are reasonably certain the court shares our distaste for our client’s actions.

“The attorney for the defense now requests to be relieved from this case, due to that distaste and its inevitable effect on the client’s right to a fair trial despite his dastardly deed.”

[Sigh.]

Yes, I backtracked.

Before the Internet guillotine falls on my balding gray head, I will offer a few words that aren’t really an excuse but simply an explanation.

Money talks (duh)

First, yes, I made a coldly financial decision where Netlify Analytics is concerned.

NA is New Shiny, completely tracking-code-free, and sure to improve as time goes on; but it costs nine bucks a month. If you start getting any serious traffic, it goes up from there.

If I were monetizing this site, which I’m not (yet), nine bucks a month would be an easy decision. I’ve said before here that subscriptions do not faze me if I can see a good reason for them. But NA no longer met the smell test for my little place on the Web, especially since NA remains extremely limited in what it offers. I have no doubt it will get better, but Google Analytics blows it away and probably will continue to do so for a long time to come. Being a multi-jillion-dollar behemoth can make such things possible.

The other consideration that NA doesn’t meet is the obvious one—it’s available only if you keep using Netlify as your site’s host. While I have no immediate plans to change that, I prefer the flexibility of being able to make such a move if I so choose. GA can follow me wherever, whenever.

. . . Whatever.

The search for—search

Then there was the whole “getting-away-from-Google-search” attempt.

I tried DuckDuckGo for a while and found its Bing-powered search lacking, particularly for the tech-oriented stuff for which I typically go looking. Like Bing itself, it’s a little slow and a little late compared to Google search.

So my next alternative was Startpage, formerly called Ixquick, a Netherlands-based site which pays Google for its results so you can get Google search without Google tracking. It therefore sounded like the answer, until even it turned out in my use cases not to be as effective; YMMV. (There have been reports over the years about its being dangerous because of incidents involving malware that somehow could result from using it, but those don’t seem to be still occurring.)

As I was still employing regular Google search in the Day Job, using my Google ID from work (where we make heavy use of various Google services), I could compare the results and their quality with what I’d gotten from DuckDuckGo and Startpage. Simply put, I found nothing could beat Google in this regard, especially when I really need the best and most current answers to my questions.

Reality bites

Just in case I haven’t riled the privacy advocates sufficiently, let me go ahead and really anger them—and/or make them pity me—by saying I am not one of those folks who form blood-like drops of sweat on their foreheads worrying about Google’s tracking, or the (admitted) truth of “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product,” or any of the other related issues that one’s use of Big G services tends to raise. It’s like worrying about my hairline. That sucker went too far beyond a happy border long ago. I can’t go back in time before the mid-2000s and suddenly not be Google-tracked within an inch of my life. Over. Done.

Of course, maybe the aforementioned folks are right. Perhaps I am like those people eating voraciously while on their way to becoming food in the classic Twilight Zone episode, ”To Serve Man.” If so, the “anything-but-Google” crowd will have the last laugh. They won’t be the first people who were able to tell me, “Idiot, I told you so,” nor will they be the last.

In the meantime, I will muddle on with Google services1 and hope they don’t hurt me too badly.

So, your honor, there we are. I anticipate no mercy from the court, as my learned former counsel so correctly put it, but them’s the facts as I knows ‘em.

And, yes, your honor, I will try not to be too nervous about the sound of that blade I hear somebody sharpening off in the distance.


  1. Except for Gmail, for which I still have no remaining use.

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