Privacy-Conscious

by Jaime Iniesta

TL;DR: We’ve replaced all our external integrations with cookie-free alternatives, to respect our customers’ privacy in a non-tracking environment.

Two woman facing security cameras

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

When you’re building a SaaS, you need to focus on the core of the project, and only dedicate resources to developing that, outsourcing all that is non-essential. In our case, that’s providing web developers with the best way to validate markup on large sites.

All the rest: web analytics, email, and chat communication, hosting, error monitoring, has to come via a third-party service that is integrated into the app. It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel every time.

No-brainers

If someone asks, “how can I measure our site traffic, what analytics should I integrate?”, probably the first answer is going to be: use Google Analytics!

If someone asks, “how can I embed comments into my blog?” you’re surely going to hear “Disqus!”.

And if someone mentions live chat for customer support, you’ll probably hear about Intercom, Olark, or Tawk.

And all for good reasons: they’re excellent products, and most of them are free!

What’s the price?

You know the saying, “if you’re not paying, then you’re the product”.

Well, that’s not that simple, as in some cases you can be paying, but still be the product (think of Gmail for Business: you pay for it, yet you still feed their advertising network with your data).

Other times, you’re not the product, but your customers are: when you use Google Analytics, you’re contributing to the Google tracking network with their traffic behavior.

No cookie for you

Github recently announced they removed all cookie banners from Github, which were required by European laws, and this was quite a surprise to many web developers. How can this be possible? We all know cookies are so useful on web applications, how is it possible to build a decent one without using cookies?

Well, the thing is that they still use cookies - but only the ones that are required for Github to work:

EU law requires you to use cookie banners if your website contains cookies that are not required for it to work. Common examples of such cookies are those used by third-party analytics, tracking, and advertising services. These services collect information about people’s behavior across the web, store it in their databases, and can use it to serve personalized ads.

In other words, in Europe, you only need to show a cookie banner if you’re using third-party integrations that use cookies because they tend to abuse the user with nasty practices like tracking cookies.

A remedy for cookie sickness

So yes, we’re all sick of cookie banners and so tired of them that most of the time we just accept them to get them out of the way. But it turns out there’s a good reason - they’re informing you of potential abuses like tracking and privacy breaches.

Happily, there are better options. What if we just don’t integrate 3rd party services that use cookies? Are there alternatives? Yes, there are!

Cookie-free alternatives to popular 3rd party services

These are the alternatives we’re using to substitute these popular services with a similar one that doesn’t require cookies for their integration:

Plausible instead of Google Analytics

Plausible.io logo

Plausible is a Privacy focused Google Analytics alternative that provides you with the most important features you need on web analytics, it’s easier to integrate and to use, it’s lightweight so your pages load faster, open-source so you can decide to host it on your servers, and doesn’t require cookies.

https://plausible.io/

Fastmail instead of Gmail

Fastmail logo

Gmail is probably the most popular email service and is free for personal use and cheap for business accounts. But this comes at the cost of your privacy and the privacy of the ones you interact with.

Fastmail, instead, is an email service that respects your privacy and the privacy of your clients, at a similar price to Gmail for business. Check out the comparison:

https://www.fastmail.com/gmail-alternative/

Commento instead of Disqus

Commento logo

We don’t currently embed comments in our web pages but we’re considering it. Commento looks like a great alternative to the popular Disqus:

https://commento.io/

DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search

DuckDuckGo logo

When it comes to search, Google is the undisputed king, that’s clear. But, when you search anything in Google, you’re feeding their advertising network with more data about your personal interests.

Our recommended alternative, and the one that we integrate into the search sidebar in our blog, is DuckDuckGo. An awesome search engine powered with results from Bing, Wikipedia, Yandex, and other sources, that doesn’t mess with your privacy:

https://duckduckgo.com/

Recommended lecture

Privacy is Power book cover

If any of this has made you curious about the no-tracking, privacy-first current, we recommend reading Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz.

Carissa exposes how our personal data is giving too much to big tech and governments, why that matters, and what we can do about it.

Other cookie-free alternatives?

We’d love to hear from you! Are there other cookie-free alternatives to popular integrations that you recommend? Please drop as a line at hello@rocketvalidator.com and let us know!

Update 2021-07-17

We’ve removed Papercups.io from our list of cookie-free alternatives because they recently integrated Posthog analytics into their chat widget, to track how many times it was opened and closed, without prior notice, and using cookies.

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