The Divorce: I'm Leaving Google for Sandstorm

I've had a long relationship with Google. We've been together for nine years. I got a Gmail account in 2005. Since then, I've been a major user of almost every Google product ever released. I was a huge fan of Google Wave (rest in peace) and one of the earliest owners of Google Glass. Gmail introduced me distinctly to a company that was willing to put powerful features in the hands of users, and for quite a few years, Google seemed focused on a users first mentality. When I got my first smartphone in 2009, it was an Android, the Motorola Droid, the most customizeable device I'd ever owned. And my level of affection for Google only climbed.

But in the last couple of years, our relationship has soured. As Google defied industry expectations and began it's rise towards dominance, the focus seemed to change. No longer would the user be given control. Productivity began to take a back seat to style and design. The privacy policy and terms of use make for a one-sided relationship where only Google can dictate the terms of our interactions. A company that used to rely on best-in-class products to retain customers began to rely on walled gardens and platform lock-in.

Within the last year, I've come to the conclusion that I wanted a divorce.

My side of the marital assets: 6.4 GB of zip files, which make up my Google Takeout archive. Google keeps all the software I've been using for the last nine years, and data from several products which aren't a part of Google Takeout.

We live in an Internet-connected world. One where you expect to access your information online across a wide variety of devices. Anytime, anywhere. But currently this lifestyle requires that you hook up with one of a number of faceless corporations. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others are all more than willing to house your digital lifestyle on the Internet... for a price. Sometimes it's money, but more often than not, it's your privacy. These corporations have discovered that your personal data is among the most valuable property you have, and also the property you are most willing to give away.

So I'm moving to, a new startup that I've been following. Sandstorm is developed by Kenton Varda, a former Google engineer, and a host of other team members and advisors, all with an incredibly strong experiential background. There's no doubt in my mind this group has the technical chops to pull off the impossible: Redesigning the Internet around people again.

Whether I choose to host my own server, or go with a major hosting provider, Sandstorm allows me to retain full control of my experience. I can use the web apps I want to, on the servers I want to. I can move those web apps anywhere I choose at a whim. Whereas leaving Google services means a painful transition to different software along with a data migration hassle, when I want to move from one Sandstorm server to another, I can pick up my app and go. Everything comes with me. And even if a developer abandons a web app and stops supporting it, like the graveyard of dead Google services, I can keep using it, because it's an app installed on my Sandstorm instance.

In case you weren't aware, you're actually viewing this blog on a Sandstorm server. In particular, this is Sandstorm's alpha server. I've set up several blogs before, and this is by far, the fastest blog setup I have ever done. Obviously the alpha server is temporary, and one day I'll need to move this blog to keep it online. But that is an incredibly simple process. Download it from this server, upload it to a new one, and update the DNS record. As I realize how much content I've contributed to Google+ since 2011, I realize that migrating that to a new server would be far more painful.

So from now on, I'm going to be mindful of where I put my data. My standing goal is to be entirely off Google services by December 31st, 2014. I'm going to put my data on things I can easily take and move elsewhere. I'm going to embrace standards and open source where possible.

Sandstorm is currently crowdfunding via an Indiegogo campaign and you can try it out on the demo server right now. You can also find it on Github.