Breaking Free: How I Ditched Google Services

A few months ago I refactored this site and replace all Google services with either self-hosted alternatives or remove them entirely.

Why Did I Do That?

Two main reasons:

  1. With US-hosted services there’s always a risk of conflicting with GDPR regulations. There was a wave of civil lawsuits in Germany in 2022. Even though the originators are facing criminal charges now (see this report in German), it affected millions of people with websites and cost every one of them a lot of unpaid work and brought needless hassles.
    The best way to avoid being targeted by these criminals is to not include Google web fonts on your page.
  2. When choosing between a vendor and a self-hosted solution, I always retain control over the self-hosted version. Google can (and occasionally will) shut your services down for any reason at any time.
    They cannot do so with a self-hosted service.

So what was necessary and what were the alternatives?

The Alternatives

This is what I did:

  • Google fonts: I self-host all third-party resources now. This resolves GDPR issues with permissions forms that load fonts before the permission was given (and how can you display the text in a form without fonts?).
  • Google Analytics: The self-hosted Open Source analytics tool Matomo replaces Google Analytics. Since Google regularly phases out or changes its analytics tools, migration is needed often. So when you have to do the work anyway, it’s easy to just get rid of GA entirely.
    This not only offers more control over the features I use, but it also offers better privacy for my readers. And mitigates the risk of GDPR-related charges.
  • Videos: Admittedly, this is a tough one. Replacing videos entirely with a self-hosted solution is not practical, particularly for larger files. On my former company landing page I had a small intro video, and I was able to self-host this one and still get it working in all major browsers. When linking to videos from others on YouTube, however, self-hosting is not an option. It’s more like linking to outside content which means that my website still remains Google-free.
  • Maps: Google Maps is integrated easily and conveniently. Unfortunately, it raises some GDPR issues and for significant web traffic, it may also get expensive. I have replaced it with screenshots of OpenStreetMap and corresponding links. This turned out to be even faster!
    And, of course, there are absolutely no privacy concerns here.

Best of all: With everything self-hosted, I could get rid of cookies on my old company’s website as well as my new one. No more cookie permission forms, either!

For this blog I still use cookies, so you’ll still see the cookie form in the corner …

What’s Next?

Now, I don’t abandon Google entirely. They offer useful services, and I have no reason to not use them. It’s just that for people like me, there are better choices out there. So if we can, we should focus on those.

What I’m still looking for is a mailing list replacement to Mailchimp. If you have ideas of what I could do here, please feel free to reach out!