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The most popular alternatives to Google – part 1

Google is the most popular choice for everyday searches amongst internet users worldwide. As of January 2017, over 88% of searches by UK users are carried out on Google; the brand name has even infiltrated common vocabulary. However, this Mountain View multinational is by no means the only search engine provider on the World Wide Web. Across this two-part article, we’ll present an extensive list of search engines that can be considered viable alternatives to Google. While Google continues to deal with data protection scandals, several competitors have seized the opportunity to offer alternative business ideas that don’t involve evaluating user data. Among these are anonymous search engines, the biggest benefactors since the PRISM affair. The PRISM program at the centre of this, developed and implemented by the National Security Agency (NSA), collects and analyses electronic data. Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and many other corporations have made it clear that they are prepared to handover sensitive data to NSA, if necessary. In reaction to this, many users have turned away from these established search engines – so website owners should consider other search engines alongside Google when optimising their project for online searches.

Bing: the Microsoft product made in Google’s image

The best-known alternative to Google comes from Microsoft. Their search engine, Bing, comes in second place behind Google in terms of user numbers, albeit by a fairly large distance. At the start of 2017, Bing’s UK market share was just a little over 8.5%. Bing models itself on Google visually, mimicking the successful model with additional search functions optimised for images, videos and news, as well as a maps service. Microsoft Bing also has a function to rival Google’s Knowledge Graph, known as the Satori Knowledge Base, which displays information published on Wikipedia in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

Bing was first launched in its Beta-version as Microsoft’s 2009 successor to Live Search, coming to prominence through close cooperation with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By integrating other services into its web search, along with an intricately designed image search, Bing can make a case for providing search engine innovation that goes beyond that of the market leader in certain areas. Microsoft is still similar to Google, in that it does not offer a private search engine. Bing analyses user data in order to personalise its targeted advertising, just like Google. 

Yahoo Inc: the search engine ‘powered by Bing’

Yahoo! is another well-known address in Silicon Valley. The web portal was one of the primary pioneers of the internet and has around 700 million users, chiefly through its webmail. However, this influential internet leader falls behind when it comes to search engines, representing a UK market share of just 2.59%. Since 2009, Yahoo! has been working with Microsoft, which explains why its search results read, ‘Powered by Bing’. Users who enjoy the Microsoft product should find themselves at home with Yahoo Inc, as they deliver closely matched results.

Google, Yahoo, and Bing dominate the market share

Clearly, Google is the dominant search engine in the UK. However, it’s also the top dog in the US and across other parts of Europe as well. With a market share of 86% in the US and 93% in Europe, Google is able to outperform its competitors Yahoo and Bing, whose market shares are in their single digits. In China, however, the barely known Baidu holds the position of top search engine. This could be due to Google not being accessible to the public because of limited freedom of expression in China.

Click here to download the infographic about search engine market shares.

Despite the dominance of well-known portals, taking a look at other search engine alternatives, such as those described below, is sometimes worthwhile.

DuckDuckGo: the anonymous metasearch engine

Representing an entirely different alternative to Google is DuckDuckGo. Operating under the slogan ‘The search engine that doesn’t track you’, American firm DuckDuckGo Inc. offers a combination of both a metasearch engine as well as a private web crawler. In order to do this, the search provider relies on over 100 services such as Bing, Yandex, or Wikipedia, as well as the company’s own program DuckDuckBot. Unlike Google, Bing or Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo presents itself as a search engine with higher data protection standards. According to the operator, neither IP addresses, nor user searches are stored. Instead of targeted advertising, displayed results are based on how closely they match the user searches.

DuckDuckGo is different from other common search engines because it bases its advertising model on a principle of ‘one ad per search results page’. Alongside its basic web search, DuckDuckGo offers users the choice of searching for images, videos, news, and products. What’s more, users also have the option of filtering out commercial search results. In this way, DuckDuckGo represents a viable alternative for users wishing to protect their privacy with an anonymous search engine.

Startpage: surf invisibly with a proxy service

Startpage by Ixquick also insists on anonymity, but goes one step further. By employing an integrated proxy service, Startpage allows users to remain anonymous when viewing websites that appear as search results. Instead of obtaining the user IP address, website operators simply see Ixquick’s Startpage IP address. Startpage searches Google in the US, providing all the advantages of today’s leading search engine without sacrificing user’s privacy. Searches appear just as they do on Google, with Startpage offering an image or video search, as well as a tool allowing users to filter searches by date.

In the same manner as DuckDuckGo, Startpage by Ixquick allows users to search knowing that their privacy is in safe hands. If you find Startpage’s use of Google for search results to be discouraging, it’s also possible to search from Ixquick’s flagship European site for search engine results powered by Yahoo, Gigablast and Yandex.

Oscobo: the anonymous search engine for the British market

Britain’s leading private search engine Oscobo is growing by the day. Just like other search engine operators who conform to high standards of data protection, Oscobo also promises to neither store, nor sell user data. The project was founded by Fred Cornell, a long-term employee of Yahoo, with the intention of offering users an alternative model to the classic search machine industry. The result is a search engine, specific to the United Kingdom, which also renounces all user tracking. Instead of targeted advertising, search results are catered exclusively to the terms entered in the search bar. Unlike Qwant or Hulbee, Oscobo doesn’t boast its own search technology, instead it relies on the search indexes of Bing and Yahoo. Plans are already being made for expansion across Europe.

See part 2 of our alternative search engine list to learn more about Google’s competitors. Find out how they use topics like data protection, a wide range of functions, or a specific target audience in order to chip away at the leading search engine’s market share.

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