I still remember when someone first introduced me to Google in the early 2000's. It was so much better than everything else that was out there. The results were more relevant and there was less cruft on the pages. It was terrific.
Then gmail came out, and it was a gift from the heavens. Actually, before gmail, I was paying for email from a terrific company called Oddpost. They were very early developers of an AJAX interface and had what is still my favorite email interface. Unfortunately, they got bought by yahoo, and with the horrible design aesthetic Yahoo has, and the unbelievable amount of advertising crap they put in front of me, the technology could be so cool as to have Princess Leia read my emails to me in a holograph and I still wouldn't use it. So gmail it was. The ads were minimally invasive (from a design standpoint) and the ability to make rules and labels and folders were fantastic. Still really like it.
But I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the path Google is going down when it comes to privacy. (And I've never been happy with Facebook's at all. But I moved to MN from my home in WI, and I stay on Facebook to stay connected with all parents, siblings, cousins, and next generation of kids coming up.)
I'm all aboard the train that is leaving Google station. I started using DuckDuckGo last summer after hearing about it from Garrick Van Buren. In the last couple months I've read articles by MacSparky and Ben Brooksthat also offered alternatives and ways to make it easy to have DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.
But I don't have a good alternative for gmail right now. And as I said, I'm still on Facebook. So, call me paranoid, but I've come up with some ideas on how I'm going to use those two services and keep my privacy to a minimum, with a minimum of hoops to jump through.
For the record I have a Mac, and Safari is my default browser. Last night, I downloaded the Opera browser as well as the Omniweb browser. In Opera, the only thing I will be doing is checking gmail. In Omniweb, checking Facebook.
I use Quickeys to set up keyboard shortcuts to trigger actions. So using control-O opens up Opera, and control-F (for Facebook) opens up the Omniweb browser. This allows me to keep my productivity (not having to remember which browser opens which site) while also feeling somewhat better about how I am being tracked (by keeping the two biggest offenders quarantined.)
So, many thanks to those folks on the web that are experimenting with this stuff and posting it for people like me to learn from.