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Seeking alternatives to the internet biggies

I've been making some headway in a quest to avoid the internet giants and seeking smaller alternatives. Having deleted my personal Facebook account, my next objectives have been Google and Twitter. That's harder. I've been using Google for mail, search, news feeds, photo management, photo storage, IM and probably other things I can't think of at the moment - both at home and at the office. I won't be trying to tackle my professional use of any of either Facebook or Google, though I'm in charge of our organizational use of these services (and shifted us over to Google Apps in the first place). But at home I can afford to be innovative.

With regard to email, the first thing was to go over to FastMail.fm. I already had a paid account, but wasn't really using it. In the past, I used FastMail extensively, and know that it's a great service. In 2010 it was purchased by Opera, whose browser I've also been using lately. Opera have a nice IMAP client, so I can use that in conjunction with FastMail (whose IMAP protocol use is among the best). I simply set up automatic forwarding from my Gmail address, and will be able to gradually phase out Gmail.

A harder thing to forego is Google Reader. Reader is a great news feed aggregator in its own right and, what's more, syncs with many of the other good feed readers on PC and my Ipod. One of my favorites is Feedly. There's no service quite comparable to Feedly - a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome/Chromium. But Feedly does not work in Opera. So if I want to both use Opera and ditch another Google service, I need an alternative. I've tried Opera's feed reader and don't like it. Among its problems is not properly naming the source of the news feed being read. I've tried Liferea, a Gnome desktop application. This is better, but very slow (I have quite a lot of feeds). The best I've found so far is Lazyscope, a cross-platform Adobe Air application. Lazyscope mashes together both Twitter and news feeds, blurring the difference between them. It also offers a quick subscription to new feeds, and some nice sharing features.

A problem with the services mentioned (other than Feedly) is that they do not offer sharing with non-proprietary microblogging services. This matters to me because I would like to cross-post to Identi.ca. When I'm not reading news feeds, I now use Gwibber for this purpose - or TweetDeck or Spaz. Any of these are able to read and post to Identi.ca. Gwibber is my favorite since it is a natural part of Ubuntu's operating system. So if I'm using Lazyscope, I don't get to post to Identi.ca.

There's no question that outside of Facebook, Twitter dominates the microblog market, but as other services like Identi.ca and WordPress use the Twitter Api, and as microblogging clients like Tweetdeck, Seismic, Spaz, Gwibber and others make it possible to integrate alternative services into our Twitterstream, our dependence upon Twitter can be reduced.

For search, a viable alternative is Blekko. I've written to their support now, to ask if they can provide a search string suitable for the Opera browser. [Update: they got back to me really quickly. The search string is http://www.blekko.com/ws/%s]

I am still considering what service to use for uploading photos. More on this later.

[update] OK for photos, I've decided to use the same solution as for email. Fastmail subscriptions come with additional file storage space. Their standard $20 subscription has 100 mb - about enough for 1,000 photos at 640 x 480. Another $10 buys 1 GB more. Fastmail's photo gallery is more attractive than Picasaweb, Flickr and Facebook, and even allows a custom stylesheet. There are no commenting or sharing features built in. If I wanted a more social experience, I might choose my.opera.com (an all-round blogging platform), which comes with 2 GB of free storage.