With Facebook seemingly attracting negative news on a daily basis, and Google also often criticised for matters concerning subjects like online privacy and tax contributions, many internet users might be tempted to give some of the lesser-known search engines and social media sites a try, in much the same way as they might turn to independent shops instead of major supermarkets.
The digital sector, however, has certain companies that are more intrinsic to it than any brand is to the high street. Tesco, for example, is the most popular UK supermarket, but we don’t refer to supermarket shopping as ‘Tescoing’. We do refer to internet searching as ‘Googling’, though, and we might talk of ‘Facebooking’ our friends. Twitter, meanwhile, has a verb for something that (unless you’re a bird) can only be done on that site – tweet.
This familiarity with the internet’s biggest calling-in points means that stepping outside of our comfort zone can feel daunting, but if you do want to give somebody other than Google a try, how do you know which search engines are worth a go, and what do they offer that’s different? Here are a few suggestions:
Ecosia is a search engine we’ve talked about before – its main draw is that it bills itself as an environmentally-friendly search engine that uses its profits to plant trees. That in itself will be enough to get many people to use it, but how does it perform as a search engine?
Essentially, the results Ecosia brings up are almost the same as those on Bing, which is a search engine that divides opinion. The adverts are a bit more scattered around than on Google, but since Bing gives a cut of the clicks through to these ads to Ecosia’s charitable causes, it seems churlish to moan too much. As far as I can see, if you can put up with Bing, you might as well use Ecosia.
DuckDuckGo is kind of the Partick Thistle of the search engine world. While Google and Bing clash for search engine bragging rights in the same way Celtic and Rangers do to be the football kings of Glasgow, DuckDuckGo quietly chugs along, happy to avoid all the baggage of the big two and offer its small band of devotees something different.
The main selling point of DuckDuckGo is it offers complete privacy. In times when people are concerned about what information the internet superpowers hold on them, it’s not hard to see the attraction of a search engine that promises not to store its users’ data.
Describing itself as “the world’s most private search engine”, StartPage is a good choice for people who find Google’s results and rankings hard to part with, but are uncomfortable with Google’s general intrusiveness, as it uses Google’s results but without tracking the user.
If you’re concerned about what your children might be searching for on the web, Swisscows might be the search engine for you. Any searches for adult material like ‘porn’ are blocked, and the site claims it is using artificial intelligence to generate results based on “semantic information recognition”. It’s also yet another search engine promising not to keep data or track its users.
These are just four alternative search engines worth trying, and while businesses still need to remember that how their sites are performing on Google is the most important matter, they are a reminder that with search engines, like with anything else, there’s plenty to be gained from shopping around.