I have an uneasy relationship with Google, and have been on a hunt for alternative search engines.
Yes, Google is great at finding everything you need to know in a flash, but here’s the thing: Google, in turns knows everything about you. Google will know if you’re looking for a job; if you’ve lost your job; if you think you might be pregnant; if you think you might be in labour; if you’re ill; if you’re looking to move house; if you fancy going out for a meal or the cinema this evening; when and where you’re going on holiday; your interests and hobbies; and perhaps some things you’d rather not share with even your closest friends (say, for example, if you discovered your other half has a thing for wearing ladies underwear chances are Google would know about it first!).
Being such a global giant, I don’t feel at ease with Google knowing so much about me. Who knows what it does with my data, or what it can do in the future with it. Coupled with Google’s well documented tax avoidance, well this was the impetus for looking out for some alternative search engines more ethical than Google.
Alternative Search Engines – Ecosia
In my search for alternative search engines I came across Ecosia – a green search engine that donates 80% of it’s revenue to the WWF”s rainforest project, aimed at conserving the Amazonian rainforest:
Ecosia is powered by Bing and Yahoo, which although is not brilliant, as Microsoft who own Bing have also been avoiding paying tax, the fundraising element of Ecosia gives it the ethical edge over Google.
Ecosia works just like Google – search for what you want, and as well as your search results you’ll be presented with relevant adverts based on your search terms. If you click on a sponsored link the sponsoring company pays Bing or Yahoo for the click. The difference is that then Bing or Yahoo gives the bigger chunk of that money to Ecosia, and Ecosia donates at least 80% of this income to support the WWF. Surfing with a conscience, if you will. In it’s first year Ecosia was able to donate USD $164,000 to the WWF, which is not an insignificant sum of money.
2015 Edit: Ecosia now no longer donate to the WWF, instead 80% of profits are invested in tree planting programmes.
Ecosia and I didn’t get off to a good start. To test it out, the first thing I searched for was “Moral Fibres”. This search didn’t show up this webpage, which isn’t exactly ideal. I wasn’t familiar with using Bing or Yahoo, so I gave them a go and a search on both for “Moral Fibres” showed up this webpage. As Ecosia is powered by both Bing and Yahoo, I’m not sure why this would be the case. I didn’t want to write off Ecosia right away, so I then looked for information on a topic rather than looking for a specific web page. Thankfully this search yielded good results.
Alternative Search Engines – DuckDuckGo
I wondered if there was any other alternative search engines out there not tained by tax avoidance. A bit more searching uncovered DuckDuckGo – a search engine that claims not to track you or collect information about you:
As DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your previous searches, and is forced to keep its focus purely on it’s search function, rather than advertising it’s seems like a fairly smart and innocuous choice for web searching. And it’s search function is pretty good too – I searched for Moral Fibres and my site and my Twitter account came up as the top two results which I was pretty pleased about!
So, as far as alternative search engines go, I found Ecosia good for looking for general information, great for the environmental, but not so hot for looking for specific webpages or if you want to use a website not tainted by tax avoidance. I might adopt a two-pronged approach to search engines – using Ecosia for general web searches (where, to be honest, I’d be much more inclined to click on sponsored search results) and using DuckDuckGo (which doesn’t collect information about you) for looking for specific webpages (where I would be unlikely to click on sponsored search results anyway).
Have you used Ecosia or DuckDuckGo? What did you think? Or are there any other alternative search engines that you recommend? I’m all ears!