Unbelievably, it does not seem entirely possible at this time (at least, not if you ever trusted them with certain information or ever did something for a friend that you don’t want to see disappear as well).
Here is my little adventure as of “Day Two” and it looks like I’m stuck at this point until they either (a) fix some of the brokenness below or (b) decide to blow it away in retaliation. I guess we’ll see, eh?
I have been contacted by several people requesting information on how to effectively migrate off of/leave GMail and/or Google in its entirety. This entry is intended to serve as a baseline plan for doing so; I built it based upon my own experience (caveat: yours may vary, depending upon your choice of tools and how deeply invested you are in Google products).
STEP 1: ANALYZE & PLAN!
I cannot stress how important it is to FIRST sit yourself down and carefully document all the ways you are currently using Google products. The entire list of products may be found here:
http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/products/index.html (Note: They are NOT all listed here!! Missing are “Webmaster Tools” and “Places” as well as the Android Market)
You are going to need to create a plan that covers all products you use (or ever signed up to use) for every email address/account you have registered with Google.
You are also going to need to carefully review each product to ensure you are removing your presence in the correct order to avoid mucking up your online accounts, services, etc. with other companies or sites.
For each address, I suggest you start by identifying which products you have active and what you’re using them for; this listing will be useful later, when you have to locate new providers to which you wish to migrate.
STEP 2: Now that you have (I hope) identified all products and services associated with each of your accounts, you need to look at:
(a) What other companies offer services similar to the ones you’re leaving behind.
(b) How each does/doesn’t support migration to them.
(c) Costs associated with said migration.
For me, the migration was likely simpler than for some as I had only mail, documents, calendar, and a places page, and an old AdWords/Sense account.
STEP 3: E-Mail Migration
I made the choice to move to Mozilla’s Thunderbird e-mail client, but any mail client that supports IMAP or POP will do for this step. A list of choices (not exhaustive) may be found here:
PC – http://email.about.com/od/windowsemailclients/Windows_Email_Clients.htm
MAC – http://email.about.com/od/macemailclients/Mac_Email_Clients.htm
Note: I choose IMAP as I wanted my changes to update on GMail’s servers in real time. You may prefer POP to avoid that. Here is some information on both so you can make an informed choice (aside – Thunderbird supports both methods):
IMAP – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Message_Access_Protocol
POP – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_Office_Protocol
Here’s how I did it with Thunderbird:
(a) Download and install Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/)
(b) Configure ALL of your GMail accounts as IMAP.
(c) Turn ON synchronization and “Keep messages local” and Turn OFF message deletion (for now)…. as shown in this screenshot (click to enlarge).
(d) Download all your email by checking all the folders on Gmail’s server to synchronize. Understand that, at this point, you’re only pulling HEADERS (not the entire message); POP, in contrast, would pull the entire message which takes longer and can be a real bandwidth hog.
Note: For me, this was an opportunity to clear my email history as well as migrate, so IMAP was a great way to do this. I pulled all the headers, decided which I wanted to retrieve, and just ignored the rest. Additionally, this kept me from also downloading all the attachments prior to this decision process. Of course, it also meant I had to retrieve those attachments individually by message (though I may have avoided this by setting the server to POP after I had deleted the messages I knew I no longer wanted).
(e) Once you have your messages downloaded and all attachments retrieved, turn off synchronization with GMail, close the Thunderbird client, and return to GMail’s client to delete folders, emails, and EMPTY THE TRASH of all the messages you do not want.
At this point, you’re pretty much done except for deciding how you want to handle incoming emails to the account going forward. I suggest you consider one of the following:
(a) Setting a temporary forward to your new account.
(b) Creating filters at Gmail to selectively forward emails based on keywords or sender/sender conditions (e.g., only me in the TO field, etc.)
(c) Creating an auto-responder (i.e., vacation message) that goes to any sender (or to your contacts only, as you prefer) giving the new address and advising that the old one is depreciated/abandoned AND THE DATE THAT IT WILL BE DELETED.
Personally, I decided to filter all incoming to the trash (I never see it), set my auto-responder to indicate my account is abandoned, and I’m holding on the actual deletion until a date/time in the near future.
You can access all of the above by going to: https://www.google.com/accounts/b/0/ManageAccount?nroma=1
STEP 4: Using “TakeOut” to receive a full download of your social presence on Google.
As they have been so fond of telling us, if you want to leave, they’re happy to help you do so (Which, I suppose, is something, even if it feels very much like “Don’t let it hit you in the arse”).
(1) Visit: http://google.com/takeout and login.
(2) Follow the directions to have all your available data given to you as a download. This includes the following:
(a) The things you “+1’d” (links)
(b) All your Buzz posts
(c) All your contacts and circle information
(d) All your Picasa Web Albums
(e) All your profile information
(f) All the contents of your stream (I believe this does NOT include the comments of others, but I have not yet had the chance to dig into that file).
You can choose to only extract one, some, or all of these items as you prefer and they will create a .zip file for you to download. I suggest you download each as it’s own file, particularly if you intend to upload the images to a new service (saves having to weed them out).
STEP 5: Updating all your online accounts/sites with your new email address.
This one can be annoying; not only do you need to go login and make the change, most sites require validation email click-throughs, which means you’re sitting there waiting for Gmail to deliver the darn things so you can verify and complete the process.
Use the list you created in Step 1 to ensure you get all your sites updated and be sure to delete the emails and empty your trash at GMail when you’re done.
Aside: All things considered, you may wish to get set up with a hosting company to set up and manage your email. “Free accounts” likely will follow Google if their unfortunate direction catches on and then, you’re either in the same boat as you are now or you’re stuck with what you wind up with (as the degree to which white-label providers support migration likely will lessen over time). I will make no recommendations here for obvious reasons.
STEP 6: Download and then remove your videos from YouTube
As the owner, you should be able to pull down your videos at will… but you cannot. Apparently, you’re limited to how many you can actually download at a time.
I presently have four videos left and was informed that I could not download them “at this time” after pulling two down and then, deleting them. My intention is to continue trying until I have them all (and have removed them all).
Note: If it comes to it, you can get an add-on for FireFox that will retrieve (almost) any media on a page. It’s called “Video DownloadHelper” and you can find it here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/video-downloadhelper/
STEP 7: Clear your RSS Reader
Essentially, this is as simple as going to your reader page, and navigating to “Manage Subscriptions” as seen in the image below:
STEP 8: Decided what to do with your Google Books
Thankfully, I did not link my library to my profile (as this is not reversible). So, for me, all I needed to do was remove the books from my library; I’ve read them, am not likely to re-read them, and can always pick them up elsewhere.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t delete them all together, but if Google’s ok with them rotting there, so am I.
This one is, unfortunately, a full loss; you can’t pull them down in mobi or other format and I wouldn’t expect that Google will ever allow you to do so, even if you did buy it.
STEP 9: Delete any Blogger blogs.
As expected, you cannot delete your profile at blogger, so I just removed everything I could, set it to private, and concluded Google could manage the remaining link/blog/content rot as they like.
STEP 10: Clearing “Calendar”
This, for me, was simple as I do not manage much of life within this product. I am not certain if a download is available or not, but if not, I suspect you’re left doing this migration by hand.
STEP 11: Silence “Talk”
As with the previous, I’m not really using Google Talk and I deleted the chats I had on file when I went through the email cleanse. I suggest you do the same.
STEP 12: Google Voice
I have a number with them, but have never used it as I could never get it to correctly manage forwarding and voice-mail. As all incoming messages are audio files, I suspect you can pull them down and save if you like, but beyond this, I cannot say I know much about saving information.
As memory serves, you can “take your number” to another provider; but you may want to review their terms of service to ensure this is the case.
STEP 13: Shutting down Checkout
I ran into my first real issue here – I see no way whatever to delete this account. I removed address information, but have no way to remove my bank account information or to revoke permissions to it.
Same goes for my credit card information.
(Aside: This is a serious and bad oversight, Google. Shame on you.)
I was concerned by this point that I might not be able to revoke or remove my Social Security Number; but I was able to “update” it with dummy information, thankfully. Since I haven’t actually used this account for anything, the risk of having “banking adventures” doesn’t really apply, but I suppose I can understand how/why this might operate this way (fraud aversion). Still, you should have the ability to end your relationship and Google seems remarkably unwilling to plan for such eventualities (To be sure, I see no “and don’t let it hit you in the arse” HERE).
STEP 13: Groups
Unsubscribing was mercifully simple.
STEP 14: AdWords/AdSense (note – two products, but am talking about them together)
AdSense – No way to remove or delete account; had to edit/dummy up information to extract my personal data and contact information. I changed my “name” to “removing information”.
AdWords – No way to remove or delete account; but since I hadn’t used it in ages and the credit card information on file was no longer valid, I am content to let it rot as long as Google cares to house it. I did however, delete all campaigns so they could not ever accidentally run and create “interesting adventures in banking”.
STEP 15: Decide what to do about Google’s Webmaster Tools
At the moment, I am not deleting this item, but only because it is nothing more than a site/XML map manager with rudimentary and aggregate data about my blog traffic. If that changes, I’ll revisit it then.
STEP 16: Google Places for Business
Regrettably, I cannot shut this item down because it just so happens that I created a place page for a friend’s business before we understood that Google refuses to help transfer ownership of such things (even when both parties clearly indicate they are happy to do so).
So, the choice here is either (a) kill the page and all the reviews my friend has garnered (and which he fully deserves) are blown away OR (b) keep it alive and strip all information in the account.
I have, obviously, chosen the latter. Too bad Google won’t allow you to transfer these things… particularly when (a) I don’t own the business the page references and (b) the owner WANTS the page and (c) I am MORE THAN HAPPY to give it to him.
So… there you have it… a “brief” look at what I did to disentangle myself from Google. All that is left is to delete my G+ account and then, my GMail account and I suspect the rest will go up in a pixelated poof as well. In fact… the only thing keeping me from precisely that is the above outlined. My good friend should not have to suffer because of Google or because of me.
Thankfully, I was not as deeply immerse as some I know (Google Health?!?!? *shudder*).
I hope this is helpful to others and that, if this has helped you, you will share it with others as well as consider helping those who reach out to you for assistance.