Google accounts for more than 90% of search queries: it dominates the search engine market. The Mountain View giant has created its reputation thanks to the power of its algorithms and its various products, which offer Internet users a lot of features. Google also prides itself as the search engine that respects users’ privacy the most. In reality, Google is much more intrusive than it suggests. That’s why, for several years, other search engines have been emerging. They are interesting alternatives that have a lot to offer, not only more privacy, but also great features.
Why find an alternative to Google?
Google knows everything about you: it knows what you’re looking for online, where you plan to travel, events in your calendar, and contacts. It also knows what ads you click on, and what you’re buying online. In other words, everything that happens in a Google environment is recorded. Like Facebook, Google recently indicated its willingness to give more control over the privacy, and to post updates on its various tools. Since then, several security and confidentiality settings have been offered to personalize browsing.
As well-intentioned as it is, in reality Internet users’ privacy is not protected anymore. Despite Google's recent announcement that users can automatically delete their history after 3 to 18 months, be aware that this is an option which needs to be activated. And most people don't think about activating it. Google knows this very well, and is playing on it. Indeed, data retention has a major importance for the search engine, which owes its shareholders to account. It must keep access to personal data as broad as possible, without being too obvious. Along with Facebook, Google is one of the two largest advertising platforms in the world. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the clash of interest between ad targeting and privacy.
Google, like other social networks, feeds on its users’ personal data, often without them knowing it, by offering practical tools which make daily life easier (diary, mailbox, maps, etc.). Therefore, the emergence of alternative search engines is quite legitimate.
General search engines
The second most used search engine is Bing. It was developed by Microsoft. It offers multiple features like translation, spell checking, sports scores, flight comparators, etc. Bing also has a mobile app on iOS and Android. In July 2009, an agreement was made with Yahoo!. The latter now uses the Bing database to power search results on its portal website.
DuckDuckGo is intended for Internet users worried about their data’s confidentiality. This search engine does not track online activity, which means that you cannot be subjected to targeted advertising. DuckDuckGo can be added as an extension to the browser to keep the activities private, and gives you all of a search engine’s functionalities.
Qwant is a French search engine. Like DuckDuckGo, Qwant claims that it does not record personal data for advertising purposes. The interface is very intuitive, and highlights hot topics and latest trends. For music lovers, Qwant also has a dedicated section where it’s possible to discover new music thanks to AI (artificial intelligence).
Quora is a “response” engine. Its principle is simple: like a forum, the user community can ask and answer questions. You can create question-and-answer blogs, and even analyze statistics from other users. Today, the Quora database has about 500,000 users, thanks to which it’s possible to find answers to almost all questions.
Lilo was born out of a crowdfunding campaign. It’s a meta search engine that uses data from other search engines. Even though it cannot guarantee its users’ complete confidentiality, Lilo does not collect any personal data, and disables advertising targeting. This search engine is distinguished by its projects focused on social issues. Every time you do a search, you win a symbolic water drop, which represents the money generated by advertising linked to the web page. Then, the water drop is converted into real currency when you decide to support a project.
Millions Short is a fairly revolutionary search engine that deliberately removes “big websites” from its results, to prioritize small and medium-sized websites only. Therefore, it gives a chance to discover websites that are not among the most popular search engines’ top results. If this idea can seem unexpected, it’s actually very interesting because today it’s often the same websites that we find in the organic results because they have the money to invest in SEO. However, some small, sometimes nested websites, can offer equally relevant results. The only downside is that Million Short does not show its search results’ background or how it calculates and evaluates the best websites.
Yahoo! has been around longer than Google, but is at the bottom of the 3 best search engines’ podium. This portal displays news and offers email, online stores, game centre, travel directory,and offers an email service, online stores, a game center, travel directory, etc. Since Flickr was integrated into its algorithms, Yahoo! has been providing better image results. When it comes to personal data protection, Yahoo! can be proud of doing better than Google.
Xaphir is a French search engine which aims to be more exhaustive in its search results. Unlike Google, these are not based on the most popular themes. Xaphir prioritizes so-called "trust" results, so as not to lock the Internet user into a sphere determined only by other Internet users’ searches. Xaphir also put a great emphasis on protecting user data.
IxQuick - Startpage
IxQuick is a meta search engine that merged with Startpage in 2016. Like DuckDuckGo and Qwant, IxQuick does not store user data. That’s why it has been described as "the world's most private search engine".
Searx is a meta search engine that gathers other search engines’ results without storing any personal data. It can offer personalized results like Google, without keeping the browsing habits and cookies in its database. It’s an open-source tool to which every user can contribute.
Yandex N.V. is a bit like the “Russian Google”, obviously used in Russia but also in many other independent countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. This makes it the 5th biggest search engine in the world after Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Baidu.This search engine offers many products and services to its users. It is best known for its involvement in many projects related to technology and the Internet. Yandex works much like other popular search engines.
Specialized search engines
Ecosia is a free search engine where the majority of advertising revenues is donated to organizations in charge of reforestation. The company promises to use at least 80% of its advertising profits to plant trees around the world. They guarantee full transparency by publishing financial support’s evidence. Use Ecosia just like you use Google. Download the browser extension , and make it the default search engine. Ecosia uses data from Bing, supplemented by its own algorithm. Thus, it provides fairly relevant results. Finally, Ecosia is committed to neutralizing all carbon emissions linked to Internet searches. It’s right to say that it is a truly ecological search engine.
Pickanews is an easy engine for setting up print media, internet press, media Twitter accounts, the main national television and radio channels’ monitoring. It’s possible to find in a few clicks the articles related to the configured keywords. Therefore, Pickanews is an essential tool for monitoring an e-reputation.
SocialMention aims to bring all mentions about a company or brand together in a single place. This web tool searches over 100 social media services daily, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to find a brand or a company name’s mentions. All the results are listed on one page, indicating the different sources. SocialMention also reviews blogs, images, and videos.
Yippy takes its roots from the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University. In the 2000s, researchers developed a tool called Clusty. Unlike traditional engines which use keywords and other metrics to show different search results, Clusty displays them as thematic clusters (hence its name). Much of this technology is now incorporated into IBM's Watson AI search systems.
Vimeo is video sharing platform launched in 2004. Today, it has more than 80 million creators. The majority are film artists or musicians using Vimeo to develop their notoriety and promote their work. Vimeo is distinguished by its "artistic" aspect, unlike YouTube which gathers a whole bunch of vlogs, tutorials and other funny amateur videos. Therefore, Vimeo is seen more as the artists’ professional network which leads to more interesting and useful discussions than on YouTube.
YouTube is a video hosting platform that was originally purchased by Google in 2006 because it failed to establish itself with its competing product, Google Video. It has gone from being a simple video sharing website to a powerful platform that is used by amateurs and professionals alike. Every minute, over 35 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube. Thanks to its targeted advertising system, it has now become a source of income for many people around the world.
CC Search (for Creative Commons) is a search engine that can be described as "cultural". It can find photos, music, texts, books, educational materials and more. You can share resources for free from Creative Commons research services. CC Search is also accessible through the Mozilla Firefox web browser.
Google is still the most popular search engine in the world, but there are many alternatives that are worth trying. Some of them even manage to provide a better user experience, and more comprehensive results, which don't just depend on a query’s popularity. Whether you are looking for a forward-looking search engine like Ecosia or you want to preserving your personal data, you will find what you are looking for among all of these alternative search engines.
Article written by Louis Chevant
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