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Global corporations. Is there a light in the end of the tunnel?

Open source *Google Chrome
Review

Originally published at medium.com.

Global corporations became a part of our everyday life for a long time ago, their products often don’t leave an alternative option for users. Either is it exist? This article touches an issue of dominating big companies in certain areas, but also contains a row of useful tips. Spoiler of one of them: if you’re a user of Android then the tips will help you increase time between charging your phone and improve your privacy.

Big companies thrive in the modern world. Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix — it’s only a short list of them. These names almost don’t leave our news feed, and in most of the cases by negative reasons. It’s enough to recall only a few big news from the recent past, like litigation Apple with Epic or a big system failure in Facebook. An issue in Android WebView that appeared in spring of 2021, broken work of multiple social apps, messengers and bank apps, and clearly showed, how sensitive we are sometimes to just one company.

You could understand from the companies list that I’m going to talk about the IT industry, and for clearness I’ll focus on one Google. Let me answer in ahead, that I’m writing this article without a foil hat and will try to make it really useful.

A bit of statistic about Google

I believe everybody knows this company, and familiar with their products. Here is a bit of statistic about ownership of the markets:

Google Search — 92% from all the search traffic (for all platforms)

from statcounter.com
from statcounter.com

Google Analytics — 86% from all the websites with any analytic system, and 56% from ALL the websites in the world.

from w3techs.com
from w3techs.com

Android OS — 71% from the mobile market.

from statcounter.com
from statcounter.com

Google Chrome Browser — 65% from all the search traffic (for all platforms)

I wasn’t able to find any static about GMail, but by my own observations it won’t be less than the statistic above.

The numbers talk about the current state — about reaching by the corporation monopoly in many areas. I’m not trying to blame Google in grabbing the world, I just want to highlight the level of influence of big companies, on the example with Google, on some areas of our life.

A couple words about WEB

I’m a web developer, that’s why this area is the closest for me. What does it mean, the company, which owns 65% from all the world traffic? It’s a company, that already has enormous impact on WEB, by the fact can decide direction of development by itself. What feature from the standard to implement, and what to ignore. How WEB will work in the future, and by which standards. Almost unlimited power, which we give them, choosing their product, Chrome.

If we look at another product, Google Analytics. 56% from ALL websites. In the world. JavaScript code that is connected to websites and gives Google access to all cookies on the website, and the main thing, gives Google opportunity to track and identify a specific user almost through all WEB.

I believe that most of the company workers are ordinary and good people, which have moral principles, but who can give guarantee about the leading part? Who can guarantee that the leading part won’t use the company power in the future for evil?

A bit about mobile OS

Let’s forget about WEB and pay attention to the mobile market, for these gadgets, that became necessary part of our life. By the fact we have only 2 common OS: iOS and Android. Most of the companies, which services we use (banking for example) write apps only for these OS. And in case with iOS everything is clear, it’s a closed system, and in case of troubles, humanity will need to rewrite it from a scratch. But what about Android, it is open, it is open source, you could think. And it’s true, but only partially.

Android is developed by Android Open Source Project, which is controlled by Google, and exactly Google decides in which side the OS goes. Android has open source code, but in case you remembered other necessary parts of the OS, like push notifications for apps, GSF (Google Services Framework) that is used in many apps, and Google Play Store in the end, through which all apps are distributed. All of the above are proprietary, i.e. closed parts, which makes open Android unavailable to use for a third party, at least without enormous efforts, like in an example with Huawei, which had to create own alternatives for the parts above urgently. But even in the case with Huawei it doesn’t solve the issue of populating the App Gallery, as most of the apps for Android is loaded exactly into PlayStore.Probably most of us use Google Pay (including me), successfully sharing data about our purchases to Google. Because we’re members of a ride of unseen generosity, when the free payment system is given to us, in that time when evil Visa and MasterCard take their fees from every purchase (read about Interchange). I’ll be humble and will skip a scandal from 2018, when MasterCard was suspected in sharing purchase data with Google.

Also it’s worth to mention a case (which became worse not only due to Google, but also to different vendors, like Xiaomi, Samsung and others) when after buying a smartphone you receive at least a dozen preinstalled services, which aren’t needed for most of users (bloatware), beside expected services from Google also exist from Facebook and EBay (and others, dependent on your area), which reduce working time of your device from one charge (significantly), send your private data in (un)known directions, and the most interesting thing, that can’t be disabled by built-in tools. Without a wish appear thoughts about large contracts, which were a reason of this, and you, like a gadget owner, became a member of the deal, unfortunately with rights of an experimental mouse.

Conclusions

With a wish this list can be continued up to the endless, Google became truly global corporation. But I took Google only for an example. There are dozens of other companies, which have the same power in different directions/areas. Everything above was lyrics only, let me repeat again, the goal of the article is not blaming all big companies in grabbing the world, and even not in discussing abusing power by companies, but a try to pay attention to the fact, how much we give power to companies ourselves day in day out, and how much become dependent on them.

So where is a solution? An exit is the same place as an entrance. Your Captain Obvious ©. If we gave them power by our hands, we can also take back the power from them. I mean think twice before choosing important (for you) services and apps, which you use regularly. And prefer open source solutions (free or paid).

Nowadays there are enough good alternatives, which provide the same level of functionality like closed apps, with a good UI. I’m a fan of an idea, that all critical services and apps must have open source code. It’s not the cure-all, and open source has its own drawbacks and problems, but it makes any product more transparent and reliable, less dependent from a developer, gives a guarantee that in case of a need we’ll have an opportunity to create a fork and continue development from the current state, instead of creating everything from a scratch.

Practical tips

Now it’s time to share practical trips, sharing of which was one of main goals to write the current article.

Tip #1. For Android owners. Disable bloatware services

The goal of disabling — increasing working time from one charge (for me, on Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro the result was significant) and increasing your privacy. My device became much faster, now it looks like a smartphone, that I’ve bought a long time ago (I believe you all remember that feeling of fresh bought phone).

As I’ve mentioned above, disabling via built-in tools doesn’t work, so you’ll need to use ADB (Android Developers Bridge) that will help to do it.

The process is quite simple, you can read how to do in details e.g. here or just make a search by “disable bloatware android adb”.

Tip #2. Use alternative services

Search — Brave, DuckDuckGo

Maps — OpenStreetMap

Mail vendor — Proton Mail (works like an ordinary mail vendor, but has encryption, also there is a free tariff)

Calendar — Proton Calendar (with encryption, there is a free tariff)

Drive — Proton Drive (with encryption, there is a free tariff, here you can easily store your documents and private files)

Google Captcha — hCaptcha

Github, Bitbucket — GitLab

Tip #3. Use alternative apps

Browser — Firefox

Messenger — Telegram (open source client)

Launcher — Lawnchair 2

Camera — OpenCamera

Keyboard — AnySoftKeyboard

Google Play Store — AuroraStore (an alternative open client)

YouTube client — NewPipe (without ads and with play in background)

Notes — Omni Notes

File manager — SimpleFileManager (from SimpleMobileTools)

Gallery — SimpleGallery (from SimpleMobileTools)

Calculator — SimpleCalculator (from SimpleMobileTools)

Clock— SimpleClock (from SimpleMobileTools)

Dialer— SimpleDialer (from SimpleMobileTools)

Contacts— SimpleContacts (from SimpleMobileTools)

SMS — SimpleSMSMessenger (from SimpleMobileTools)

P. S.

Probably some of you already had thoughts about the issue, and most likely have own list of open source apps and services — please share names in comments and I’ll add them to the article. Together we’ll make the list more full and useful.

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