Last time, we started our discussion on the best search engines by talking about the behemoth, Google. While Google is, by far, the most popular and commonly used, and arguably the most accurate search engine, it doesn’t mean it’s always the right search engine to use. Let’s talk about some other alternatives and see where they might fit in.
Bing gets the silver medal for being the world’s second most popular general search engine. Even so, it only gets about 3.5 percent of the world’s internet searches.
Bing is also the most similar to Google, at least as far as how it works under the hood. It’s focus is on providing accuracy and uses anonymous information from you and your search history to curate the results.
Whereas Google takes a very minimalistic approach to search, Bing usually has a visual treat for its users everyday. Each day, Bing decorates the background of its search page with a photograph with a little snippet of information about the photo. It might be some event happening somewhere in the world, a rare animal from a rainforest, a historical photo, a beautiful skyline, or literally anything else. No, it’s probably not what you were looking for, but it is kind of neat.
But on top of that, Bing also throws curated headlines, local weather, and sponsored posts right at you too. You’ll either love it, hate it, or have no feelings about it. Either way, the first impression you’ll have with Bing is that it’s busier, even before you do a search.
Something we didn’t mention last time when talking about Google—Google uses a mobile-first approach. That means sites that load well on mobile devices tend to get prioritized on Google. If your website is old and doesn’t scale properly for smartphones and tablets, you’ve probably noticed a drop in traffic over the last several years—this is why.
Bing doesn’t really care about this, but it also indexes a much smaller number of pages than Google, so the results are going to be pretty different. If you are looking for images or videos, Bing also has more options for filtering and displaying information, so it slightly outperforms Google there.
The user experience with Bing isn’t horrible, it’s just different. If you are used to using Google everyday, the transition to Bing will just feel a little strange, but it’s a decent alternative, and making the switch for a week or two is a fun experiment. We’d love to hear what you settle on.
Most popular search engines collect user data to curate search results. For instance, Google uses it to improve the results it gives you. Google also uses that data to help advertisers make informed decisions.
First and foremost, this data collection probably isn’t going to hurt you. It’s definitely a little weird to think about, but in the long run, it’s not necessarily tied to you as a human being. Let’s put it this way:
Let’s say, in the course of a week, three thousand people do a search for “soda,” two thousand people do a search for “pop” and a thousand people do a search for “coke.” Of those six thousand people, you are somewhere in there, looking for a soft drink. Google gathers this level of data to tell advertisers what words people use to look for certain types of products. Those advertisers can then make the decision on how they word their ads and what terms they pay money for. The data is, more or less, anonymous. Not every single company works this way (Facebook and Zoom have had data privacy scandals involving personally identifiable information), but that’s generally the gist of how this information gets used.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however, and some people have just decided to take more steps to be as anonymous as possible online, and Duck Duck Go is a good search engine for those who don’t want Google to know what they are looking for.
Duck Duck Go will give you totally different results from Google and Bing, but it doesn’t use any information about you, anonymous or otherwise. It also does little to warn you when something is fraudulent. Don’t get us wrong, you can run into scams, malware, and other threats from Google results, but Duck Duck Go has fewer layers of protection.
It also means the results aren’t going to be as localized. Looking for a nearby restaurant will only base your location on the location of your Internet Service Provider, so it might not be as accurate.
All that said, Duck Duck Go is a relatively safe option, and if you are uncomfortable with Google knowing what you search for and using that to curate your results, it’s a pretty solid solution.
An alternative to Duck Duck Go that follows a similar privacy philosophy is Qwant, a French search engine that doesn’t collect user data.
It’s pretty unlikely that another search engine is going to topple the big G, but if you are more concerned about your online privacy, Duck Duck Go or Qwant are pretty good solutions. As with anything, you should always be mindful of what information you are giving up, and be careful what you click on. Even if the search engines themselves are safe, the websites they point to might not always be secure.