There are quite a few in Cyberville who manage to lead a Google-free existence.

The website One day without Google warns: “Google is your big brother. Google knows what we are looking for. Where we are from. What we are interested in. What we're blogging about. What we are reading. What we advertise. What we click on. What our hobbies are. We use all these Google services that seem to be tailored to our needs and that require us to put up personal and technical information.” Google knows everything related to what you need, can develop the exact application or service to fulfil your most ardent needs. While Google works on creating new needs, it also develops new ways to address them.

The risk, the website says, is our children will forget how to handwrite (word processors rule!), will forget the multiplication table (Google it!), will forget anything related to literature, history (there's wiki), natural sciences. Truth for us is what's on the first page of SERPS (search-engine-results-pages). So, have a different view, it says. Start one day without Google.

I started a survey: “Is it possible to live without Google?” The student from across the door answered: “Can you live without a cellphone?” Most replies went pretty much on those lines. Like it or not, Google is synonymous with Internet, said a colleague. “Think Search-engine, Gmail, YouTube, Google-Video, Google-Reader, Picassa, Blogger, Orkut, Google-Maps, Google-Docs, Google-Analytics, Google AdSense, Google Chrome, and Google Now which sends Android phone-users traffic updates, weather warnings and restaurant recommendations. I use its directory and now its Internet browser. E-life starts and ends with G-doodle!”

Exploring alternatives

But Internet is possible without Google. Difficult, but possible. For every Google service, there is an alternative one waiting to be discovered. Five years ago, James Thomas, a web developer, overwhelmed by Google, blocked google.com both at work and home. He routed the google.com host name to 127.0.0.1 in his “hosts” file. He installed AdBlock software and filtered out every Google-owned domain name he knew of. It worked. “Without AdSense and Google Analytics javascripts executing (and downloading) on some pages, the entire Internet experience is a lot… faster,” he said.

Thomas embraced Ask.com. He wasn't happy with its search results, though he found their mapping service pretty good. Yahoo!'s results and Internet services met with his approval, and though Yahoo! is everywhere, he didn't think his information went into their database. He read news at Rootly, liked how their headlines updated without “refresh”. He didn't miss Gmail because he had pop accounts for his websites.

Of course, you can manage online search without G, said Karthik Kumar, tech expert. Yahoo and Bing are large search engines. Wolfram.com searches on scientific topics, nexis.com (subscription-based) searches legal and business databases. Also, large sites like Facebook and New York Times have their own S-Es though they only search their own sites. However, “Google is a dominant player and over two-thirds of all searches on the Internet in English are on Google,” he agreed. “In Chinese, baidu.com is the dominant player and there are numerous Japanese language S-Es.”

Without Google

Kate Dailey, BBC, narrates how three computer pros tried to kiss Google goodbye. The first one, Tom Henderson, (MD-Extreme Labs), irked by Google's privacy agreements, decided to find a way to go online bypassing the Google web. He ventured into the far reaches of the virtual world, and wrote his discoveries in a manifesto he named How I Divorced Google. Henderson got someone to cross-post his music videos on Vimeo, asked MapQuest for directions and used Duck Duck Go, a search-engine designed to protect privacy. According to Dailey, he manages a Google-free existence.

Technologist Benjamin Ellis tried to give up Google after he watched a friend take a picture with a Google-branded phone. He thought: This would probably end up on a Google-powered photo site, indexed by Google search-bots, published on Google-powered blogs with Google-powered ads, viewed in Google-built web browsers, maybe on a Google-built operating system. He tried other S-Es, but only for a month. “Mission impossible,” he said.

Again worries about privacy made Joe Wilcox, editor, BetaNews.com, go off Google for a week in 2011. Result? He became a total Google geek, says Dailey. He fell for how it constantly improves services and its break-neck innovation. He consoled himself that there was no proof they were abusing privacy. Wasn't it better to deal with a large, visible company like Google than less-known entities? You be the judge.

SOME TIPS

* You can use blockers to prevent Google from tracking your browsing.

* Henderson's 7-step programme to shake off Google: Take inventory, delete cookies, redirect host files, install tracking blocker, maintain mobile phone, find replacements, maintain and reflect.

* No animosity for Google, says One-day-without-Google.

* The site wants you to find real, physical ways to live – like attending a concert.