On degoogling my life
In July of 2023 I left Twitter and switched to Mastodon. There were many reasons to do so, the main being Twitter decaying into this hellhole of modern internet, with falling quality of discussion and service, the crypto bros and growth ninjas . Twitter was never perfect, but after being sold to Elon, everything started falling apart. On the technical side there were the posting limits, the broken notifications, the neverending advertisement. On the ethical side, I’ve hears stories of people reporting obvious hate speech and getting replies that it’s not breaking the rules of the site. And Elon himself posting antisemitic, conspiracy, just disgusting things, with his blue ticked followers clapping at this every word. And the algorithm, I cannot stand algorithm social media. The all encompassing algorithm is just a way to drive what one should see and what should be hidden, and it is not transparent what are the criteria, which is a wide open way for making people think and behave as the platform owners want them to.
So I went to Mastodon, I already had an account there for a few months but hadn’t really tried it. Yet in that July everything fell in place and I felt right at home there. I’ve always been a fan of a different internet, a grassroot one, led by amateurs who give their hearts into it. I sad it many times, I miss the internet of the early 00s, with the discussion boards, the blogs, the personal sites, content made with passion. And Mastodon feels like going back to that time. Its federation is its strength, no one has enough power to control the Fediverse as a whole. And everyone can find an instance for themselves. I found people with common interests there, refugees from corporate internet, writing blogs about bike trips, tinkering, soldering and compost, and since the change I’ve been feeling much better mentally.
Now, switching from Twitter to Mastodon gave me an impulse to finally move forward with something I’ve been planning to do for quite some time now: move my internet presence in general from corporate, ads-pushing and personal information guzzling intertubes to the other side, the side that is made by people who want to make it good, away from the flood of enshittifaction that is permeating the mainstream internet.
Here in this blog post I would like to list the services that are a good alternative to the mainstream behemoths. Every service listed here I am using personally, and can recommend it without a doubt. And nobody paid me to do so, actually I am supporting them with money :)
Google - For replacing my search engine I tried several alternatives, I’ve been using Duck Duck Go for a few months, but I wasn’t too happy with the results it was giving me, and often I had to do another search in Google to find what I wanted. Recently I came across Qwant qwant.com and I believe I finally found a search engine for me. It does not collect any data about you, and the search results are (at least for me ofc) much better than Google. Qwant does not provide AI generated gibberish at the top of the search results page, it’s clean and it’s fast. I highly recommend it.
Gmail - Continuing on theme of the Google suite, for email I am switching from Gmail to ProtonMail. They are an email service that is privacy and safety focused, and does not gorge on your data as the mainstream email providers. They have a generous free plan, and paid options for people who need more out of their inbox. I’ve seen some people also recommending Tutanota, but I have never tried them. You can see I am using Protonmail, as the contact email for this blog is from them. Drop me an email to say hi :)
Google Maps - OpenStreetMap. In short one might say that OSM is a crowd-sourced version of Google Maps, but that would be only one angle. OSM is a massive community people whose intent is to provide the largest possible set of geospatial data. What does that mean? Firstly, it means that everyone can, and is encouraged to update OpenStreetMap. Secondly, it is possible to input much more different types of information to places on the map, in order to benefit different kinds of people. OSM puts great focus on people on bikes, people on foot, as well as people with different handicaps. For example every street crossing in OSM can be marked as having or not tactile information for people with sight issues. The height of the curb can be defined to allow people on wheelchairs to better plan their routes. In short, OSM is much, much wholesome than Google Maps and I encourage everyone to use it and to contribute to it. To contribute, you can register and start editing on the main OSM site, openstreetmap.org, or even better, install one of the mobile apps available, that will allow you to edit map data during your walks, when you are actually at the place you want to edit. I personally use StreetComplete, and more on it in the Android section.
Youtube - I’ll admit I am a heavy Youtube user, and there are many Youtubers I watch regularly. But recently I started discovering PeerTube and I like the atmosphere there. Peertube is a Mastodon for video, it’s another federalized ecosystem of independent instances that anyone can create. Sadly, people whom I watch on Youtube do not post there, but I discovered new creators there. A notable example is Andy Balaam, who made a great Rust tutorial. In general, Peertube feels like the early days of Youtube, with people posting what they find worth sharing with the world, their hobbies and interests, and as I said many times, this is the facet of the Internet that I prefer and find the most catching. If I ever create a video, I will post it on Peertube.
Instagram - Oh Instagram. Once all the rage and envy of everyone whose phone would not support the app. Who didn’t publish at some time a heavily filtered, retro-vintage-out-of-focus square photo? I sure did. Yet in recent times, especially after it being acquired by Facebook, the enshittifaction of Instagram has been in full swing. I’ve been opening it rarely the recent months, but everytime I did I was shocked by the ads-to-posts ratio. And it belongs to Meta, so most probably it tries to gather every possible information on its user and use it to profile and push towards us more crap. It just doesn’t feel like a place to publish content anymore. I’m still there to watch the stories of a few of my closest friends, but nothing more. As for the better alternative, I am moving to PixelFed, which also belongs to the Fediverse. It has zero ads and zero personal data mining. Its instances run on user donations, so there is no incentive to make it worse for the people. You can find me there at pixelfed.social/stfn.
AWS - I’ve been using AWS for many applications, most of all as cold backup of all my important data. Their Glacier tier of storage made it very cheap to store almost a terabyte of files. But this is coming to an end for me. I just don’t want to give Bezos any of my money and data, I’ve read too much about what Amazon is doing their treatment of their employees and contractors, about the scams, about Bezos and his plans to litter the Low Earth Orbit with thousands of satellites, etc, etc. I won’t lie, I have very strong negative feelings towards billionaires in general.
For backup I have moved to Hetzner, a German company that offers storage and VPS solutions. Their 1 TB storage box is only a little bit more expensive than storing data on AWS, but it gives me a peace of mind. I’ve also used their VPSs a bit for testing and was impressed by their speed. Not for this blog though, this blog is running on RackNerd, mostly because a long time ago I bought a very good deal VPS from them on a sale, so I’m keeping it.
The final nail to AWS’s coffin for me is that I found out that it is not simple to just get data from Glacier, so I still haven’t removed everything I store on AWS. I don’t want to feel like a prisoner of technology that is not easily under my command. And full disclosure, I’m also still using them as the CDN for this blog, but I want to move away from it ASAP, I just need to find some time to finalize the move.
What service would you recommend for a blog CDN? Let me know via email or on Mastodon. Thanks! And no, no Cloudflare, absolutely no Cloudflare.
Goodreads - For my book log, I’m moving to Bookwyrm. Bookwyrm is also a decentralized federation of servers, just like Mastodon. I like the simple and clean UI. Not much else to say, if you want to send me a friend request, you can find me at bookwyrm.social/user/stfn
Github - I recently found out about Codeberg. To quote their “About” page: Codeberg is not a for-profit corporation but an open community of free software enthusiasts providing a humane non-commercial and privacy-friendly alternative to commercial services such as GitHub. . The non-profit and FOSS loving side of Codeberg is what sold me to them. The downside of Codeberg is that it does not yet provide Github-like Actions for everyone, but I can live with that, and if I ever need to learn actions for professional reasons, I can just have a test repo on GH. On Codeberg you can find me at codeberg.org/stfn. For now there’s only one of me repos there, but I will eventually move all my public and worth moving code from GH to Codeberg.
iPhone - Android and F-droid. In September I switched from iPhone 7 to a Fairphone 4. And that is a big change in terms of both open source software, and sustainability. On the topic of sustainability, Fairphone the company, states that it is their core value. I have no way to check the validity of their claims when they talk about “responsible material sourcing” and “advocating for workers’ welfare”, but at least they are talking about such issues, in contrast to other phone companies. What I do know is that Fairphone is repairable and has a battery that can be just swapped as in the old days. Yes, you can just take off the backplate and pull out the battery, like in a Nokia 3310. Both of those aspects, repairability and replacability (is that even a word?) are important to me. Batteries do not last long, and being able to just order a new one, and replace it without dismantling the whole phone is a welcomed change.
As for open source software, this is the field in which Android’s relative openness wins over iOS. While Android is not open source, it is much less restrictive in what can be run it. On Android you can install apps from alternative sources without rooting the phone, and a great source of apps is F-Droid.
F-droid is an alternative to the Google Play store, hosting apps that are open source, and take privacy and security seriously. I will probably do another blog post on F-droid in detail, but for now, let me just say that among the apps from F-droid that I use daily, there are:
- AntennaPod, a player for podcasts
- Tusky, a Mastodon client
- Mullvad, a client for the Mullvad VPN
- StreetComplete, my favourite application and a joy for long walks. This app allows you to update OpenStreetMap by answering simple questions as you walk along, for example “what surface is this sidewalk? Are there light at this zebra crossing? Does this bus stop have a bench?” I highly recommend it, and at the same time warn, that this is a highly addictive sport.
I am self-hosting a lot of different services for my personal use, a full list of them can be found in one of my previous blog posts (stfn.pl/blog/11-my-homelab-0823/). One that is worth mentioning here is an RSS reader. My first RSS reader was the late Google Reader, and after its demise (wink wink google cemetery) I switched to Feedly. Finally, a few months ago I switched to a self-hosted FOSS solution: Fresh RSS, and I’ve been using it ever since. It just works and has a pleasant web interface. And its light, so it can run on anything, a Raspberry Pi will do just fine.
For me ebook reader I am still using my 4th gen Kindle which I bought way back in 2012. I will be using it until it dies and cannot be fixed, but for the next one, I will be looking for something that does not belong to Amazon, I am considering either an Inkbook or a Kobo.
I’m also thinking of ditching the stock Android for a more open and privacy confused mobile OS. Probably I will go with /e/ OS, as Fairphone is officially supporting them and recently has even started to sell their phones with that operating system preinstalled. But before that I need to do some more research, make sure my banking apps and all that other important stuff works seamlessly with it.
The process of me moving to the better side of the internet is still in progress. It’s often not easy to break established workflows and ditch tools that I have been using for a long time, but I feel this is the right thinkg to do, and it makes me happy.
Are you also moving away from Google and Amazon? How does it go for you? Are you using different solutions than I? I would love to hear your feedback, contact me on Mastodon or via email. Or maybe I could establish another way of communication? Let me know!
And finally,you can help with funding my future projects by supporting me on these crowdfunding sites:
I would like to express thanks to m0bi, discrust, Kuba Orlik and Arkadiusz Wieczorek for showing me cool, open source solutions.