Rebel Against Technology Monoculture
Monoculture is the pervasive method of growing crops for modern civilization. Maintaining high yields, however, relies on the heavy use of synthetic inputs such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer. Further critiques include its detrimental effects on ecosystems, degradation of soil vitality and the need to use vast quantities of water. Alternatives exist in the form of permaculture, crop rotation and other methodologies, but these remain a small (albeit growing) fraction of food production systems.
Just like monoculture, the homogenization and concentration of technology and services is a problem we should recognize, raise awareness about and actively fight against. For a long time, the trend in the industry is for the big players to get bigger and bigger – the result of market concentration, political influence, the purchase and absorption of new players and what many consider as unfair competition. As a result, consumer choice diminishes; for example, Google is commonly seen as the only provider of online advertising services worth engaging. This is problematic and potentially dangerous.
There are alternatives, though, and we can all play our part to bring diversity back to the technological landscape by making an active choice to use and promote alternatives. Doing so helps to restore competition to the relevant sector. In turn, this helps drive innovation with consumers benefiting from better products and services. Let’s look at some of the “challengers”:
Web Search – Depending on the market, Google enjoys market share into the high 90s%. Yet Ecosia offers great search results (albeit derived from Microsoft’s Bing) that support the planting of trees. For those particularly privacy-conscious, DuckDuckGo could well be the answer.
Web Browser – Google Chrome dominates in this area. Firefox, however, is a terrific product – one that offers improved privacy, innovative features, and an underlying engine that bucks the trend of a handful of the most popular browsers.
Operating System – In place of the 800-pound Gorilla Microsoft Windows, check out Linux Mint; it is easy to use, supports multimedia out-of-the-box and, let’s not forget, free.
Productivity – Microsoft Office is perhaps the undisputed example of tech monoculture. The de-facto standard for documents, spreadsheet and more for over twenty years, if we are chained to any one product, this is it. Yet, Google Drive lacks features that many of us rely on. LibreOffice, on the other hand is both “free” as in speech, as well as “free” as in beer (gratis vs libre), and its innovation pathway has been relentless.
Maps – In place of Google Maps, we have a worthy alternative in OpenStreetMap. Using it for planning a journey has never yet led yours truly astray.
Online Advertising – It’s hard to see Google AdWords being threatened any time soon. However, trying out Bing Ads or Yandex (depending on your target market) could be well worth the effort.
Social Media – We know how privacy-hostile and security lax Facebook has been. Why not check out Minds .com?
File Storage – instead of Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, it’s worth considering SpiderOak or Tresorit. Both base their infrastructure on the premise that “your data is your data”; they couldn’t access your file contents, even if they wanted to.
Video & Text Chat – Fed up with how convoluted Skype has become? Concerned about your privacy since WhatsApp is now run by Facebook. Viber works well and is ad-free.
Graphics – Instead of spending an enormous sum on PhotoShop, you really should give GIMP the chance to impress. It won’t disappoint. And it’s free – always.
Diversity is a good thing. Support it.