We put up with Google because the apps are awesome. But there are downsides to living in the panopticon. If you’d prefer not to have a corporation and all its buddies breathing down your neck, consider these privacy-focused Google alternatives, chosen especially for Mac users.
Notes on Our Google Alternatives
While free services were preferred in our analysis, paid services are the reality of the privacy-first space. Companies can’t make money off your data, so advertisers don’t pay the bills. It’s up to you to pay. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
When Apple’s apps represented good Google alternatives, we’ve recommended them. Apple has a credible claim to its advertised title as a privacy-focused company: we wouldn’t recommend their services otherwise.
Google Search Alternative: StartPage and DuckDuckGo
StartPage provides Google results but without all the tracking. It functions like a proxy, securely passing your search terms to Google without revealing identifying information, then passing the results back to you. DuckDuckGo has also improved dramatically in recent years and is now completely viable as a full-time search engine.
YouTube Alternative: Vimeo
Vimeo is an excellent video-hosting platform. It has the tools that creatives and viewers both want. But that doesn’t change the reality of YouTube’s network effect, for which there are no Google alternatives.
If you want to watch YouTube videos without getting tracked, you have some alternatives. You can watch videos through DuckDuckGo’s video search, which provides anonymous viewing for YouTube videos. You can also download video files directly from YouTube URLs without visiting the site.
Google Maps Alternative: Apple Maps
The best full-package replacement for Google Maps is, like it or not, Apple Maps. While it got considerable flack at launch, the service has evolved to offer private and reliable map viewing and navigation that often matches that of Google Maps. Apple Maps online (accessible through DuckDuckGo’s map search) has a refined visual presentation and strong search tools.
Apple Maps is not as highly polished as Google Maps. But most other navigation and mapping apps share your location data to advertisers, so the pickings are unfortunately slim. While it can’t help you find nearby coffee shops, OpenStreetMaps is an open-source alternative for serious mappers built on dependable crowd-sourced mapping data.
Gmail Alternative: ProtonMail or Mailfence
ProtonMail is a respected private email service located in Switzerland. They offer a free but limited tier of their encrypted, private email service, with inexpensive paid tiers that expand its capability. Mailfence has a similar setup but also bundles calendar, messaging, and document sharing, though you lose ProtonMail’s attractive interface and robust support.
Google Docs Alternative: CryptPad
Marketed as “the zero-knowledge cloud,” CryptPad is a security-focused cloud storage platform. Whereas Google makes data collection their business, CryptPad makes encrypting your data their business. While the platform is not as mature or familiar as Google Docs, privacy-focused users will find a platform that takes their needs and concerns seriously. Pages can work in the cloud at iCloud.com, but collaborative editing and easy sharing isn’t quite ready for prime time yet.
Google Drive Alternative: Mega
Google Calendar Alternative: KeepAndShare
Apple users have it best of all: if you’re plugged into the Apple system, iCloud’s free calendar is private, reliable, and syncs with nearly any calendar app, though it’s not as flexible when it comes to inviting and sharing events and calendars.
There’s also options for others. KeepAndShare is the most fully-featured free and private calendar service available. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid B+ and improving constantly. Mailfence is less polished, but they bundle a private calendar with encrypted email support, text chat, sharing groups, and Google Drive-style document storage with some in-browser editing options.
Google Chrome Alternative: Brave or Vivaldi
If you love your Chrome extensions, a Chromium-based browser like Vivaldi or Brave is your best bet. Brave’s privacy-focused experience is the better browser for most people, while Vivaldi is the unsurpassed browser for power users — that is, people who fiddle with knobs. Firefox provides a respectable third option for open-source fans and Linux users.
Google Authenticator Alternative: Authy or 1Password
There are multiple apps that can generate one-time passwords like Google Authenticator. Because it’s an open standard, one-time passwords can be generated by any app that wants to do so. 1Password is our personal favorite: it doubles as an excellent password manager and secure lockbox, with unparalleled support and a track record of excellent stewardship. For free 2FA, Authy is an open-source two-factor authentication app that supports all open 2FA login standards.
Google Photos Alternative: iCloud Photos or Piwigo
If you want an easy way to share photos with family members, iCloud Photo Sharing is top notch. It doesn’t have the best editing or management tools, but it’s the only platform that’s even close to Google Photos when it comes to functionality and ease of use.
Piwigo is an open-source image gallery for the Web. The cloud version of Piwigo is not free, but with the storage space occupied by images, that’s no surprise. Uncertain users can evaluate the service with a 30-day trial, with no credit card number required. Cloud users get a piwigo.com subdomain where anyone can see their publicly-accessible images.
Google Translate Alternative: DeepL Translator
Like Google Translate, DeepL provides side-by-side translation of text, a web interface accessible from everywhere, and automatic language detection. It provides the same tools for refining translations: click on words to see alternative translations and dictionary definition. Just like Google Translate, DeepL’s translation quality varies between surprisingly readable and laughably ungrammatical. It turns out language is hard!
Google gets away with spying on us because they offer some truly best-in-class free services, crushing competitors beneath the boot heel of their massive market share. Smaller, privacy-focused companies don’t have the resources to compete on even footing, so few apps on this list will fully measure up to Google’s offering in every aspect. But if privacy is important to you, you can accept the minor frustrations of these Google alternatives for the sake of a more secure digital life.
Image credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation
You might also like the following posts:
What Makes Private Email Servers Worth Paying For?
Use uBlock Origin on macOS: Install and Set-Up
7 Steps to Bolster Your MacBook’s Security