On July 5, 2021; WSJ reported that Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have privately warned the Hong Kong government that they could stop offering their services in Hong Kong if authorities proceed with planned changes to data-protection laws that could make them liable for the malicious sharing of individuals’ information online.
Many of us have come to rely on a handful of internet giants as our platform to reach information and customers. In fact, the four most downloaded apps of the decade (from 2010 to 2019) are all owned by Facebook.
The most downloaded app between 2010 and 2019 was Facebook's main app, followed by the company's Facebook Messenger app. WhatsApp came third, and Instagram fourth.
And Google is not just a search engine - its search technology also powers services such as Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube, among others. Alternatives to these do exist, but are little-used and the Google apps are seen as essential by many consumers.
It's possible that Google could redirect Hong Kong Google users to the US (or another) country's version of Google. That would likely strip out localised search results, but keep the service accessible. But it may also be that Google would block Hong Kong users based on their geographic location as determined by an IP (internet) address. One simple way around that is using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which makes your computer look like it's somewhere else - a trick often used by the tech-savvy to access streaming services in other countries.
But it is slower, and reputable providers require a subscription - a hassle many people would rather avoid for simple search results.
The standoff has forced many to contemplate a simple but important question: Could we survive in a world without Google and Facebook? Whether you want to live without them is another matter altogether, and unbundling your life from Google and Facebook may not be easy.
Here are just some of the potential impact categories and industry.
Social networking (Instagram, Facebook, Youtube)
You may be surprised by just how many social networking platforms are out there. They range from WT.Social, “the non-toxic social network”, to Mastodon, a decentralised, open-source network. The benefits of many of these smaller networks include greater privacy, no advertising and greater control over your feed. The downside is that they are not nearly as popular as Facebook, so the user base is far smaller. In other words, most KOLs which heavily dependent on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are largely impact, both on the influence power and reachability. Advertising business would largely impact, especially those focus in Digital marketing leverage on Facebook, Instagram and Google. We offered KOLify platform for KOL to retain their fan.
For news, you can always go straight to your favourite first-hand sources. Most major media titles offer convenient apps, or you can use a news aggregator such as Flipboard to pull in feeds from a wide variety of sites. You can also opt for a conventional newsreader like Feedly, which allows you to select your news sources. (the old school (20 years old) RSS source).
Search, maps and browsers
Microsoft’s Bing brings some colour to internet searches. Unlike the two tech giants in the spotlight, Microsoft does, of course, offer an alternative to Google search, with Bing.
Other search engine options include DuckDuckGo and Qwant, both of which promise to keep your searches private and not track you online. There are also plenty of alternatives to the Google Chrome internet browser, including Microsoft Edge and Apple Safari. Mozilla’s Firefox is still the choice for many who value privacy. There are even alternatives to Google Maps, such as Apple Maps, Bing Maps and HERE WeGo.
IT company which heavily customised their SaaS service on Chrome need to conduct more compatibility development with other browser.
Email, chat and storage
There is no shortage of competitors to Gmail and Google Drive. Microsoft 365 is an obvious option, and Microsoft even provides tools to help import emails and files from Google’s services. The latter converts files to Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats. Microsoft also offers free services, including a web-only version of Office and OneDrive for online storage.
If you are security-conscious, look for a service with end-to-end encryption. These include ProtonMail and Tutanota for email and calendar, Sync for online storage and our decentralised messaging platform for messaging.
Your options are more limited if you want to switch from Google’s Android. There is Apple’s range of iPhones and iPads, of course, or you could take the opportunity to simplify your life with a feature phone like Nokia’s 2720 Flip. It is a 4G phone, so you can use it as a hotspot for your laptop.
For certain types of Android phones, you may be able to install a custom ROM such as LineageOS. These ROMs are versions of Android that are based on the operating system’s open source code.
They are generally designed to “de-Google” your device, with privacy one of the key goals. Just be aware that using these may void your device’s warranty.
Another option is a Linux-based smartphone, such as Purism’s Librem 5 or Pine64’s PinePhone. Do not expect the ease of use or state-of-the-art hardware of an iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy S21, but these pioneering devices offer the power and openness of Linux.
I sees a return of word-of-mouth recommendations instead of online reviews if Google shuts down its homepage. MLM/ membership platform may return to individual shopper hand. Local Media will benefit on this new trend. Content is now King.
It isn't easy to leave services like that behind. We have been using our own self build email server instead of Gmail, Decentralised Chat instead of Whatsapp, our own hosted Video conference instead of Zoom. We still leverage a lot of Google Technology, especially on SEO. For most business owner: it is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. Buckle up and adopt to change.