“Leave this ecosystem? No way! Why should I leave it when they are providing everything for free and it’s so convenient when everything is just there when you want it!” Yep! This is me approximately one year ago when I was heavily tied into the Google Ecosystem and I had been totally involved in all aspects inside this Ecosystem for five to six years straight. And it took me couple of months to actually explore the internet and discover why it was a bad idea. It’s very easy to say that any service on the internet is convenient because it makes your life so easier. However, every convenience comes with a cost. In here, your freedom of choice and your privacy is at stake!
I didn’t find the idea of moving out of my ecosystem was considerable because my Ecosystem seemed like my ‘Eden Garden’ where everything I wanted to do was in my hand’s reach. Want to store and retrieve photos easily? Use Google Photos. Want to store your documents? Use Google Drive. Want to edit those documents? Use Google docs. Want to add your photos to those documents? Google photos is integrated with Google docs. It’s as if the your Ecosystem knows what you want to do even before you even think of doing it. This nature of an Ecosystem poses us with two big problems.
- Privacy : Your Ecosystem knows a lot about you already to understand what you would possibly want to do (Only if it’s collecting your data which is what most of the ecosystems do).
- Restriction : Your Ecosystem confines you inside its walls restricting you from even thinking about migrating from your services because if you do, you may have to give up some of that convenience. And it’s gonna take a lot of time to unhook the hooks the ecosystem puts on you.
Privacy in an Ecosystem is a bigger discussion in itself. I want to specifically talk about the second one where it confines you inside its walls, which had happened to me. Convenience is like a drug (to put it bluntly). And even if I had known that my ecosystem tracks me 24/7, I was reluctant to give away my convenience. When you are heavily tied into an Ecosystem, you stop looking for other services which are clearly better because whatever your Ecosystem provides is the one that would work best for you in the current state and even if it’s something crappy and something you didn’t like, you would have to live with it. This is how the Ecosystem suppresses your freedom of choice by making you enslaved for what you are being provided, not for what you have demanded. That is basically monopolistic nature put into digital media.
Last year, I chose to read ‘Permanent record’ by Edward Snowden. It really changed my outlook and it made me question my online presence. It was really implicative when I looked back at my “Ecosystematical” lifestyle and how much I was missing out on the true essence of what makes the internet special. And, I decided I would migrate my data to those services that are clearly better and explore the wide world out there. And the journey was painfully slow because I had an archive of 50+ GB’s of photos in Google Photos and most of my documents were backed up in Google Drive.
The Takeout Process
Google has a takeout program where you can select all of your data and then request for a copy. Google then aggregates your data and then compresses them down to a zip file. You’ll get an email in your gmail inbox. Then you can download your data through the link. Easy right? No!!
What Google does, is it lets you choose how big of a data chunk you want to download. Say you have an archive of 20GB, you can download it in two chunks of 10GB each or 10 chunks of 2GB each. And those downloads will fail if your internet connection drops down certain threshold. Then you need to retry. If it fails more than 3 times, you need to request for the data again. Most of the people would give up here and choose to spend some more time in this ecosystem until they try again and the cycle repeats.
I had to request for my data thrice and I still couldn’t download all my data. And the only inconvinient process around the whole ecosystem was the takeout process. I don’t know if it was done deliberately, but I had to let go of my 50GB+ of archive which had very important documents and photos. My Eden Garden was punishing me when I decided to move away from it.
The solution is to move towards open source projects or towards the services that focus on your privacy. When any service focuses on your privacy, it just means they value you as an end user. Internet means Freedom. So, you should be the one who own your free will to navigate around and call yourself at home. It sure takes a lot of trial and errors to make yourself comfortable by finding a balance between convenicence and digital privacy. But it’s gonna be worth it. The more private you go, less convinient your experience will be. However, there are so many alternatives on the world wide web which is enough for you to build your own convenient ecosystem.
You might want to look at NextCloud Project which is a self hosted cloud solution which has plugins for any use case that you might have.
If you want to start self hosting cheap and best, you might want to look at Raspberry Pi Project which is a credit card sized computer which can be used to host your self hosted setup which can be scaled further in future. The possibilities are endless.
So, Instead of living in someone else’s Eden Garden where you live in their terms, why don’t you make your own Garden and live by your terms. Isn’t that what freedom tastes like?