Alternatives to the search engine Google.
Thursday, August 5, 2021

Comparing 7 Search Engines: Which One Is the Best?

Summary: Alongside Google, the leader among search engines, alternatives are increasingly gaining popularity among users. To give you an overview, we present a selection of search engines in the following. We will take a closer look at them, particularly with regard to their privacy aspects.

Contenuto

Google

Like several other Silicon Valley companies, Google was initially founded in a garage by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in September 1998. What had started as one server built from Lego, resulted in hundreds of thousands of servers spread across four continents today. As the most popular search engine, Google has a global market share of about 87% and an estimated 2 trillion search queries per year.

Security: With numerous search queries and optionally created Google accounts, a lot of personal data can be collected. Since Google is known to track and store all search activity, many users feel spied on. Google itself states that it collects the following data, among others:

The information we collect includes unique identifiers, browser type and settings, device type and settings, operating system, mobile network information including carrier name and phone number, and application version number.

Google justifies the accumulation of data by providing search results and advertisements that are as relevant as possible for the respective person. Since not every user wants to disclose all personal information in a search query, it is also worthwhile to consider using alternative search engines.

Microsoft Bing

From June of 2009 to January of 2012, Microsoft's search engine was in beta stage and considered as the successor of Live Search. As of August 2020, the link to the company behind Bing became even clearer, as both the logo and the name of the search engine changed from Bing to Microsoft Bing. The Integration with Office or Microsoft 365 products is highly valued by Bing users.

Particularly companies can benefit of this feature, since you can preview and open Microsoft documents on the home page of Bing, as well as see upcoming appointments in your calendar at first glance, for example. In addition, a daily changing background in HD welcomes its users. In the US, Microsoft Bing is the second most popular search engine with a market share of around 6%. With a worldwide market share of 5%, Microsoft Bing holds second place as well.

Security: As part of the Microsoft group, their servers are also used accordingly. Since Microsoft is located in the USA, they are subject to their national regulations. Thus, access to the user's data can be demanded in case of suspicion by the authorities. Microsoft states the following in its privacy policy:

We also share data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on our behalf; when required by law or to respond to legal process; to protect our customers; to protect lives; and to protect the rights and property of Microsoft and its customers.

There is no clear definition of when and whether it is appropriate to access user data from the government side. It is worthwhile to switch to an alternative search engine with server locations in Europe, for example, as data regulations tend to be more strict.

Ecosia

The environmentally friendly search engine Ecosia was founded in December 2009 by Christian Kroll and has its headquarters in Berlin. Its goal is to use the revenue generated by search queries to plant trees and thus counteract the effects of deforestation. The company is transparent with its figures by publishing a monthly financial report. Ecosia donates about 0.5 ct per search and after approximately 45 searches, one tree is reportedly funded. In July 2021, more than 130 million trees have already been planted since the company was founded. Ecosia ranks on fifth place among other search engines in the US, with a market share of 0.13 %.

Security: Not only does Ecosia prioritize sustainability, but also the security of its users. According to the company, search queries are encrypted, and no external tracking tools are used. In addition, users have the option to deactivate any sort of tracking. On its website, Ecosia makes a direct comparison to Google to illustrate how the search engines handle user data:

At Ecosia, we do not create a personal user profile of you but anonymize all searches after 7 days. Google has many other services ... which can be used on other websites, etc. This means that your data from many different sources may be combined and a detailed profile of you can be created to subsequently show you personalized search results and advertising.

Another interesting fact is that Ecosia handles search queries via Microsoft Bing. In order to remain carbon-neutral, Gold Standard certificates are purchased from myclimate. In our opinion, Ecosia is a more secure such as a greener and more sustainable alternative to the market leader Google.

DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg founded the company DuckDuckGo in February 2008 and currently employs around 120 people. With more than 2.4 billion search queries each month, DuckDuckGo is the fourth most popular search engine in the USA with a market share of just over 2.5%, and sixth worldwide with 0.8%. DuckDuckGo has made it its goal to make people aware of how to protect their data.

Security: DuckDuckGo wants to offer users high data protection standards without additional effort. Protecting the user's privacy online should be as easy as closing the blinds. For example, a browser extension can be installed that includes a tracker blocker and website encryption in addition to the search engine. A private browser app is also available for mobile devices with Android or iOS.

We don't collect or share personal information. That's our privacy policy in a nutshell.

Since the search engine uses Amazon's cloud infrastructure, the latter could exploit data such as the user's IP address. Due to regulations in the USA, this data would then have to be transmitted to the government in some cases. However, no instances are known to date which is why we recommend DuckDuckGo as a suitable Google alternative. However, users should keep in mind, that authorities could gain access, though it is highly unlikely.

On March 2nd, 1995, the search engine founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo went live. Today, the company belongs to Verizon Media and is based in California. Like other Verizon Media search engines, Yahoo! Search is powered by Microsoft Bing. In the USA, Yahoo's search engine has a market share of approximately 3%, just above DuckDuckGo. In a global comparison, Yahoo! Search ranks third with a market share of around 2.7%.

Security: Yahoo! Search's privacy policy states that the search engine stores your search history to suggest additional keywords. To protect children under 13 from inappropriate content, Yahoo! Search offers a family filter. However, it is also apparent from the privacy policy that a user’s personal data is stored, combined, and processed.

Your personal information may be transferred to countries other than your own, especially to servers in the United States . Some of these countries may not have the same data protection safeguards as the country where you reside.

Not only the data transmission and the transfer of data to governments are criticized. The search results of Yahoo! Search as well as AOL and OneSearch preferably show suggestions of their parent company Verizon Media and thus distort the search.

Qwant

Founded in 2011, the search engine with European server locations was released as a beta version in France and Germany two years on. Besides the publishing group Axel Springer, the European Bank also relies on Qwant, leading to significantly higher user numbers. Protecting the privacy of users is the top priority of the search engine, which is based in France. Qwant itself states that it processes over 189 million search queries a month and, in addition to the search engine, also offers its own map service without tracking, as well as a search engine for children.

Security: Qwant describes itself as a "search engine that respects your privacy" by not tracking its users or storing any of their data. In addition, the users' browsing history is not saved and analyzed by Qwant. To protect the privacy of individuals, no cookies are placed for advertising purposes, and data is stored anonymously. Unlike Google, Yahoo and Bing, Qwant does not create a user profile of you and claims to keep search histories neutral by not processing personal data and using it for advertising purposes, for example. Qwant explains this in more detail in its privacy policy:

We don’t keep your search history and we don’t create an advertising profile to target you. With Qwant, you are of course entitled to the rights guaranteed by the European General Data Protection Regulation of April 27, 2016, known as the “GDPR”.

With its European server locations and neutral search queries, Qwant is a suitable and secure search engine alternative to its American competitors Google, Yahoo! Search, and Microsoft Bing.

Startpage

As the winner of Stiftung Warentest's (leading German consumer safety group) search engine category, Startpage surpassed the search engine leader Google in second place and claimed the title of the "safest search engine in the world". Founded in 2006 in the Netherlands, Startpage's mission is to raise awareness and protect humanity's right to privacy. Some notable users include Edward Snowden and Max Schrems, who are world-renowned for their work in strengthening and preserving data protection and privacy.

Security: Startpage operates server clusters in the United States and the Netherlands and states that, in general, data from European search queries are managed on European servers, and data from American queries are managed on American servers. Startpage also delivers search results from Google, but the search data is neither tracked nor stored or sold, and no personal user profile is created. With the help of a proxy, users can also disguise and anonymize their identity on other websites.

The Privacy Policy of Startpage explains in more detail how search results are displayed by Google. However, users do not have to worry about their privacy:

When you search, your query is automatically stripped of unnecessary metadata including your IP address and other identifying information. We send the anonymized search query to Google and return the search results to you. We don’t log your searches.

The world's most secure search engine is a recommended Google alternative, as the same results are displayed, with the difference that the search queries are anonymized and completely protected.

Conclusion

It is worthwhile to consider alternatives to Google as search engines. Especially with regard to the protection of one's data, which is often transmitted unknowingly during each search process, a change of your default search engine can be worthwhile.

In terms of security, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Qwant and Startpage are out in front, as these search engines either anonymize user data or do not store it at all. For Ecosia, the sustainability aspect prevails in particular, since every search funds the planting of a new tree or supports social projects. However, the server locations of Qwant and Startpage are located in Europe, which speaks for more data protection, especially for European users.

But even individuals who do not want to stray from Google should at least check their privacy settings and adjust them if necessary. For this purpose, Google offers a privacy check, which is supposed to make the user's account more secure within a few minutes.

We hope that you were able to get a good overview of some Google alternatives and may adjust your privacy settings if necessary. This way, you stay in control of your data and prevent them from being transferred to random companies or even foreign authorities.

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