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Clean up your YouTube-viewing experience (or learn how to de-Google your online life)
Tools available to improve and protect you when using YouTube and other Google products
Everyone by now probably knows that Google is one of the world’s biggest tech giants, and privacy certainly isn’t a cornerstone of their business model. In fact, quite the opposite, as YOU and your data are their primary product and means of income. Google’s extensive harvest of YOUR private personal information comes as an exchange for using any of their many “free” services, such as YouTube.
It is difficult to break free of YouTube entirely, but there are ways to protect yourself and make the viewing experience better in the process.
First, consider installing Mozilla Firefox as your primary desktop browser. Once you have the browser running, you should check out the various settings options, especially around tracking. The latest version of the app, by default, activates strict cooking handling such that cookies from one website cannot be accessed by another.
You can strengthen this even further by activating the Containers tool and then creating a Google container under which you would access any of the Google services, such as YouTube. (While here, you should also create a container for Facebook, another for shopping, etc.) Containers function to further isolate your browsing activities.
Specifically for YouTube, I highly recommend the add-on Enhancer for YouTube. Its numerous features allow you to tweak your viewing experience to do things such as block ads, block chat, block comments, stop videos from auto-playing, and so much more.
There are also alternatives to YouTube that you may or may not be aware of. Vimeo is a popular ad-free platform that puts its focus on content creators. Some content can be viewed for free, while other videos require a small payment. As for posting, free users are provided with limited uploading and storage space.
You might be interested to check out my Vimeo channel here.
Another option is PeerTube. You haven’t heard of it, you say? PeerTube is more a technology than a platform. It is part of the Fediverse of decentralized services, such as Mastodon and Pixelfed. The focus is on privacy, and there is no advertising. I recently launched my presence on PeerTube, and I invite you to check out my work here. The service operates on donations.
There are numerous alternatives to G-Mail, but most are not free or they only offer very limited capacity for free, essentially as a trial.
My preferred option is Proton Mail. (Proton also offers Drive, Calendar, and VPN services.)
Other privacy-focused options include Tutanota and FastMail.
Here are some more ideas for kicking Google from your life, courtesy of Tutanota.
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Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp
While you are focused on your privacy, you may want to consider limiting the use of Facebook-owned services as well. And there are alternatives.
In the decentralized Fediverse, there is a service called Friendica which offers many of the same features as Facebook without the ads and privacy invasion. Other options, depending on what you like to post, might include Mastodon or Spoutible.
You can find me on Mastodon here.
Pixelfed is a terrific alternative to Instagram, and their recently launched app is beautiful.
You can find me on Pixelfed here.
Most of these services are free or very low cost, but typically they ask for a donation. Most of the services also offer apps. For Mastodon, there are numerous app options, but I highly recommend Ice Cubes.
It should go without saying that Twitter is a platform that no one should be using anymore.
Mastodon has benefited substantially from the decline of the Birdsite since Musk took over. The main drawback that some users feel comes with signing up for Mastodon, as the onboarding process can be a bit daunting. Mastodon itself is software that runs on hundreds of servers around the world. Each of these operations is called an instance, and the operators of each instance are free to establish their own rules in terms of who gets an account, what can be posted, etc. Complicating matters, instances of Mastodon come and go for various reasons, so choosing the best instance for you can be a bit overwhelming.
I tried several before settling on one based in Canada, mstdn.ca
The next challenge for adopting Mastodon is that the web interface, if I am to be totally honest, is ugly with a capital U. The service focuses on functionality not prettiness, but that can be overcome by using one of the many available apps. If you are fortunate enough to be using an M-series Mac, some of the apps are also available for your desktop or laptop, in addition to mobile devices. As I mentioned above, my favourite app is Ice Cubes.
Another option, and one that is honestly more user-friendly, is Spoutible. There is no mobile app yet available, though the mobile website is quite easy to use.
You can find me on Spoutible here.
So there you have it: you can de-Google your life (as well as de-Facebook and de-Twitter it). You’re welcome 😁