Estimated reading time: 25 minute(s)

Google dominates the search engine market in the United States and worldwide. The effect of Google’s dominance is that the vast majority of internet searches are made using the same service and algorithms. Google has no peer in terms of usage, but its largest competitor in the United States is Microsoft’s Bing. These big tech search engines do have large indexes and can provide useful responses to queries, but relying on them exclusively creates several issues. The big tech search engines do not respect user privacy, and they seek to monetize user data. Furthermore, relying exclusively on one search engine creates a “search engine bubble,” where a single entity acts as an internet gatekeeper. In this article, I will examine several alternative search engines (as of June 12, 2021) for people to consider instead of (or in addition to) the big tech giants.

(Note: I updated the post with an additional section for DuckDuckGo and a new external website recommendation on June 17, 2021.)

(Note: On June 22, 2021, Brave Search went public. Brave Search touts itself as a privacy-focused search engine with its own index. It is still in beta. I will review it in a separate post in the future.)

Public domain image of a smiling magnifying glass flipped on its side, here to introduce you to alternative search engines
A very kawaii magnifying glass to illustrate the article – I converted it from an SVG file and rotated – Original: “File:Kawaii magnifying glass black and white clipart.svg” by Mvolz is marked with CC0 1.0

The Search Engine Market Today

To begin, this section will focus only on general-use search engines like Google, not site-specific search engines like Amazon’s.

United States Statistics for May 2020-May 2021

Full Statistics.

From May 2020-May 2021, nearly 9 out of 10 internet searches were made with Google. Google had an 88.84% search engine market share. Microsoft’s Bing came in a distant second with 5.43%. Third was Yahoo! (2.99%), but it shares a search index with Bing, thus offering the same results. DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused alternative search engine that I will discuss further in this post, came in fourth place at 2.43%. Other small and foreign search engines combined for the remaining 0.43% of internet searches.

Worldwide Statistics for May 2020-May 2021

Full Statistics

Despite the fact that Google is based in the United States, its share of the search engine market is greater outside the United States than it is within the United States. Google’s worldwide search engine market share from May 2020-May 2021 was 92.18%. Bing and Yahoo! held the second and third positions worldwide at 2.27% and 1.5% respectively. The only other search engine to clear 1% was China’s Baidu (1.46%), an interesting situation that I will discuss below. Russia’s Yandex, which has a strong market share in Russia and several former Soviet states, was fifth with 0.69%. The only alternative, privacy-focused search engine in the top six was DuckDuckGo, at 0.59%. Various other search engines combined for the remaining 1.31%.

Google has a more-than-90% search engine market share in the majority of countries around the world, including in Europe as a whole, India, Canada, Australia, Japan, most South American countries, and more. For that reason, there is little reason to cover most countries in detail. However, I will note several exceptions below.

China Search Engine Statistics From May 2020-May 2021

Full Statistics.

The Chinese Government’s uniquely censorious nature yields some unusual search engine market share statistics for the period of May 2020-May 2021. Google is not allowed to operate in China and Bing is permitted to operate with restrictions – restrictions that sometimes make it outside China.

China’s own search giant, Baidu, dominated China’s search engine market share with 72.37%. A second Chinese search engine, Sogou, had a 20.14% market share. Bing fared slightly better in China than in the world as a whole, coming in third at 2.51%. Google managed to eek out at 1.95% market share in China despite the heavy restrictions placed upon it.

China is unique even among Mandarin-speaking countries and areas. Google has a 94.03% market share in Hong Kong and 96.58% in Macau. In Taiwan, which is independent for all normal intents and purposes, Google has a 94.83% market share. (All stats courtesy of Statcounter.)

Russia Search Engine Statistics From May 2020-May 2021

Full Statistics.

Russia does not put U.S. search engines under the same kinds of restraints that China does. However, Russia is unique for having a homegrown competitor to Google that has achieved near-parity in domestic search engine market share.

For the period from May 2020-May 2021, Google had an absolute majority of Russia’s search engine market share at 51.59%. Yandex RU, the Russian version of Yandex, was a close second at 45.86%. As I noted in an earlier article, Yandex is a Russia-centric big tech search engine that seeks to offer comparable tools and services to Google. Yandex does not replicate its success anywhere outside of Russia, although it does have a solid 24.62% market share in Belarus.

There are efforts to create homegrown search engines in other countries. Both South Korea’s Naver and the Czech Republic’s Seznam cleared 10% for May 2020-May 2021, but Yandex appears to be the only case of a search engine posing a legitimate challenge to Google in a country where Google is permitted to operate. (Courtesy of Statcounter.)

The Trouble With Google’s Dominance

A general-use search engine serves as a portal to the internet. When the vast majority of people use the same search engine, that search engine plays a significant and often decisive role in determining which content people see. If one wants a website to be discovered by users search for content, he or she must gear the website to be amenable to Google’s algorithms.

Using Google exclusively puts users in a bubble. First, there is a Google bubble in a broad sense – using a single source as an interview viewfinder. Second, Google creates personal bubbles by its very design. While many appreciate Google’s use of information about individual users to provide personalized search results, personalization can also limit the range of content that one sees. It is worth noting that Bing, Yandex, and Baidu all work similarly in these respects to Google.

Search engine algorithms are subject to favoritism and censorship that benefits the corporate entities behind the search engines. I recently wrote an article about Bing’s censoring image search results related to the Tiananmen Square protests. The root cause of this censorship was Bing’s abiding by the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party, but the people who suffered most were its users. Like social media, big tech search engines rely for revenue on users seeing ads. Unlike some alternative search engines that serve ads, big tech search engines collect user data from searches to offer personalized ads. Finally, similarly to social media, big tech search engines have a general interest in keeping users invested in their search. This interest can be at odds with unearthing the most pleasant and useful content in response to search queries.

The Importance of Being an Active Searcher

Big tech search engines, like big tech social media, views users as products. In return for a “free” service, the search engines collect information about users and use that information in a way to keep users invested in their product. They seek to “domesticate” users into passively relying on their search algorithms and services without the user considering what goes into the search results and whether this single portal to the internet is the best way to view the internet.

While discussing the use of Facebook newsfeeds as sources of actual news around the world, I argued that users should take control of their own information environment by using an RSS reader instead (one could also use email in a similar way). Being an active searcher rather than a passive one is part of being an active consumer of information generally. Finding interesting feeds to add to an RSS reader or email newsletter collection is all well and good. But how does one come across these worthwhile, sometimes easy-to-miss, quality feeds and newsletters? What is the point of escaping from being the product of Facebook if one remains the product of Google or Bing?

Thinking critically about search sources and using more than one portal to the internet is part of being an active consumer of information.

Before continuing, I must note that there is no one single search solution. Relying excessively on a single privacy-friendly search engine can yield similar search engine bubble results and issues as relying exclusively on Google or Bing, albeit without the same commoditization of the person.

Trying Different Search Engines

What is the best way to try different search engines?

My first recommendation is Wutsearch, a search engine launchpad created by Mr. Jeff Starr. I reviewed Wutsearch in an earlier article. With one exception (Gigablast), all of the search engines that I feature in this article are accessible on Wutsearch.

The Wutsearch search engine launchpad - a great way to try alternative search engines
Screenshot of the Wutsearch search engine launchpad

Two search engines that I listed – DuckDuckGo and Qwant – make it easy to query other search engines from their search bars. I discuss those features in my reviews of both search engines below.

Finally, I personally use search engine shortcuts. It is possible to create a shortcut to query different search engines in Chromium and Firefox based browsers (many niche browsers not based on Chromium or Firefox also support this feature – I use it on Falkon). For each search engine I discuss, I will note its “Get URL” which is used to add it to a web browser (several of the search engines are included with multiple web browsers by default).

List of alternative search engines added to Ungoogled Chromium
Some of my added search engines on Ungoogled Chromium (note I use several browsers, so I have different lists on different browsers)

The process is a bit different for each browser, but search engines can be configured in the browser settings. Do note, as I did in my Wustearch Review (scroll down to “Is Wutsearch the Best Way to Juggle Multiple Search Engines?”) that you can add site-specific searches as well. For example, the url to your search engine for adding The New Leaf Journal is https://thenewleafjournal.com/?s=%s&post_type=post.

Where Do Alternative Search Engines Obtain Their Results?

There are two kinds of search engines. Some search engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex, and Baidu, crawl the web themselves and create their own indexes. They then serve results from their indexes, in conjunction with algorithms and user-specific information. Other search engines are meta-search engines. These search engines rely on other sources for their search results and then serve the results obtained from these sources. Many search engines do not crawl the web at all, and instead simply serve results from other sources.

Most alternative search engines license their results from Google or Bing – Bing is more common. As a result, using an alternative search engine is not necessarily the same thing as searching in a way that is completely free of Google or Bing. However, several search engines that license results from Bing do not track users in order to provide personalized results. As a result, the results do come from Bing’s index, but they may be different than what someone using Bing proper would see.

It is important to note that relying on search engines that license their results does create a weakness. In a recent case, I discussed how Bing’s censorship of image results related to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 affected several alternative search engines that license Bing’s index, including DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Swisscows.

Because one of the purposes of this article is to encourage you to diversify your search sources and consider where your search results are coming from, I will make discussing the sources of various alternative search engines a key focus.

I came across a useful search engine map which provides a useful chart showing how different search engines are related. I will discuss a number of the search engines depicted on the map.

Which “Alternative Search Engines” Will We Discuss?

Broadly speaking, I define an “alternative search engine” in the United States as one that is not Google, Bing, or Yahoo! (Bing and Yahoo! use the same index). Of course, there is a range of “alternative search engines.” In this post, I will focus primarily on alternative search engines that make user privacy a key focus. Some of these alternative search engines also emphasize opposition to search result censorship. However, the more common express focus is user privacy. It is for this reason that you will not find a discussion of Yandex in this article.

I will only discuss general-use search engines. That is, search engines that search the internet broadly and are not restricted to a specific site or area. Furthermore, since I only speak English, I will focus on search engines that have a fully-English UI.

I will also generally focus on user-friendly search engines. That is, search engines that are as easy to use as Google or Bing. I will, however, discuss Searx in brief, which is not nearly as intuitive (for reasons that I will explain) as DuckDuckGo and other more popular search engines. I will neglect to mention Yacy, an interesting piece of decentralized search engine software that I have yet to try. (If you know about Yacy and how to use it, however, you do not need much of an introduction to different search engines.)

Excellent Resource: Search Engine Party

Resource Link.

Search Engine Party offers a detailed breakdown of 58 search engines, including every search engine that I will discuss specifically in this article. I used it as a reference point in my research.

Disclaimers

This list will be up to date as of June 12, 2021. The purpose of the article is to make the case for trying alternative search engines and diversifying your search engine usage. In listing search engines, my intention is to offer a list of viable and useful alternative search engines and to give people an idea of how these alternative search engines work. For that reason, I will not update this article other than to add any necessary technical fixes or correct errors. This is, however, a subject that I will write more about in the future at The New Leaf Journal.

I submit for the record that I am not a computer privacy expert or tech expert. Regarding privacy policies, I will provide links to the relevant documents and add any additional information that I am aware of that may be of interest to users. If you are concerned about how privacy-friendly a particular search engine is and how well it conforms to its own promises, I recommend using my article as a starting point for performing additional research.

Finally, this list is not exhaustive. There are many alternative search engines out there, and there are plenty that I am not familiar with. Furthermore, I am not including every alternative search engine that I am familiar with, even if it has a general focus on privacy. I will select a number of alternative search engines that both fit my list criteria and offer something interesting for potential new users. Again – I would consider this article a starting point for your own search engine searches, not a definitive answer to the question of what you should or should not use. With that being said, I think the selection of search engines that I will discuss is sufficiently comprehensive for all normal purposes.

Alternative Search Engine: DuckDuckGo

General Overview

DuckDuckGo is based in the United States. The search engine is not open source, but some of its components are. It is the most popular alternative search engine in the United States and in the world as a whole. DuckDuckGo states that it obtains its results from more than 400 sources, but it primarily relies on Bing.

The search engine licenses map data from Apple Maps and weather from Dark Sky. In both cases, DuckDuckGo draws the information in a privacy-friendly way and does not share information with Apple.

DuckDuckGo generates revenue from ads, but the ads are not personalized – they are instead based solely on search queries. The search engine does store cookies to save settings changes, but this feature is optional. Alternatively, users can use URL parameters to change settings without using cookies.

Additional Information from “Seirdy” of Seirdy.One (added June 17, 2021)

I received an interesting Guestbook comment from a tech blogger who goes by Seirdy explaining how DuckDuckGo’s search results work in detail. I am reprinting the comment below:

DuckDuckGo uses many sources for its “Instant Answers” (aka ZeroClickInfo), but uses only one of two sources for link results: Bing or Yandex (only one, never both; usually Bing). Engines that use external sources are often forbidden from mixing the providers’ results with other engines.

Seirdy

I knew that DuckDuckGo’s regular search results were tied closely to Bing. I did not know how DuckDuckGo’s relationship with Yandex influenced results. As Mr. Seirdy explains, DuckDuckGo does not mix Bing and Yandex results. Instead, it uses one or the other. DuckDuckGo will rely on Bing alone for most ordinary English searches. Mr. Seirdy’s note that “Engines that use external sources are often forbidden from mixing the providers’ results with other engines” likely also applies to some other alternative search engines that license regular results from multiple sources.

I did know that most of DuckDuckGo’s sources are used for its “Instant Answers” feature. I thought that Instant Answers was a bit granular to go into in depth in a survey post, but it is another useful DuckDuckGo feature that makes DuckDuckGo a capable regular search engine.

Thank you much to Mr. Seirdy for the information. You can see his terrific tech website here.

March 16, 2022 Update: DuckDuckGo has suspended its agreement with Yandex.

Unique Features

DuckDuckGo’s most notable special feature is its “bangs” functionality. By affixing a “bang” to the start of a search query, DuckDuckGo will send the search to a different place. For example, if one wanted to search on Amazon for a product, he or she could begin the search with “!a” and be taken to Amazon instead of DuckDuckGo. There are also bangs for the other alternative search engines discussed in this article. It is important to note, however, that bangs are for external searches and those searches are subject to the privacy policies of the external source. You can search for bangs on DuckDuckGo’s bangs page.

Selecting a DuckDuckGo bang for AlternativeTo.net
Preparing to use a DuckDuckGo bank to access AlternativeTo, which I featured in an earlier post

Overall Assessment

I have been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine since 2015 or 2016. It is a solid search engine that turns up useful results, and I think it is viable for everyday use. DuckDuckGo has improved its search results over the years, especially for local queries. That it relies on multiple sources for its regular search results is a positive thing in my view, although the results are still most strongly influenced by Bing. Because DuckDuckGo does not rely on Google’s index at all, it offers a useful alternative.

Bangs greatly extend DuckDuckGo’s functionality although I tend to prefer using my own browser-based search shortcuts. In an ethical sense, however, bangs cut against the ethos of some of the big tech search providers. DuckDuckGo makes it easy for people to direct specific searches elsewhere if, for whatever reason, they do not think that DuckDuckGo will return the most relevant results for a given query.

DuckDuckGo comes with most of the amenities that one would expect from Google or Bing and is easy and intuitive to use. It is an easy-to-recommend alternative and a privacy-friendly search engine for those who are looking for a one-stop search solution.

Alternative Search Engine: Startpage

General Overview

Startpage is based in the Netherlands. It is majority-owned by System1, a U.S.-based adtech company. This has been the subject of concern, but Startpage’s privacy policy remains a reasonably strong option with a comparable privacy policy to other search engines on this list.

Startpage is unique among alternative search engines in that it licenses its results from Google. Every other alternative on this list either licenses results from Bing or uses Bing’s index. Startpage provides a privacy-friendly (at least compared to Google) way of finding search results from Google’s index. Because Startpage does not track users in a personally identifiable way, it does not provide personalized search results.

Like DuckDuckGo, Startpage generates revenue through non-personalized ads.

In one disappointing note, Startpage does not allow for filtering images by usage license. Several other alternative search engines recently added this functionality.

Unique Features

Startpage offers an “anonymous view” feature. Next to Startpage search results, one will see a small button with a picture of a mask. By clicking the mask, one can open the page in “anonymous view” mode, wherein he or she accesses the page through a Startpage proxy. You can read about the feature here.

The New Leaf Journal open in Startpage's anonymous view mode - Startpage is an alternative search engine that licenses Google's index
The New Leaf Journal in anonymous view mode

Overall Assessment

Startpage distinguishes itself from most other alternative search engines with its reliance on Google’s index. For those who prefer Google’s index to Bing’s, Startpage can function well as a primary search engine – although it, like DuckDuckGo, lacks the ability to search for images by license. Anonymous view is a nice feature, although not one that most people are likely to use regularly.

That Startpage is majority-owned by an ad-tech company is concerning to an extent. Startpage does still have a strong privacy policy, and that may suggest that its new ownership has not swayed it from its original purpose. Privacy-conscious searchers may want to explore the issue further to reach their own conclusions about Startpage’s trustworthiness.

I prefer DuckDuckGo’s assortment of sources to relying solely on Google. For that reason, I only use Startpage as a secondary search engine.

Alternative Search Engine: Qwant

General Overview

Qwant is an alternative search engine based in France. The French Government uses Qwant for its web searches. It has a solid privacy policy.

Qwant states that it has its own web crawlers and is working to build its own index. In the interim, it partners with Bing to buttress its own indexing capabilities and provide useful results. It does not share information with Microsoft. I did find while examining Bing’s censorship of the Tiananmen Square protests that Qwant’s image results appear to derive solely from Bing.

Qwant serves map results from Open Street Maps – which is a unique and genuinely good feature (we have used Open Street Maps embeds in several New Leaf Journal articles).

An image of the Brooklyn Bridge on Qwant Maps - Qwant Maps uses Open Street Maps data
Looking up the Brooklyn Bridge with Qwant Maps

Like DuckDuckGo and Startpage, Qwant generates revenue from non-personalized ads that appear as a result of specific search queries.

Unique Features

I tend to think of Qwant as the French DuckDuckGo. While there are differences, the comparison works. Instead of DuckDuckGo’s bangs, Qwant offers “search shortcuts.” Search shortcuts work the same as bangs, but instead of an exclamation point, search shortcuts begin with an ampersand. You can see the full list of shortcuts here.

Overall Assessment

Qwant provides similar functionality and features to DuckDuckGo and, despite its working on its own indexing capabilities, returns largely similar search results. Qwant is a full-featured and very useable search engine in its own right. Its reliance on Open Street Maps is a minor advantage over DuckDuckGo in my view. Some may also consider its being located in France instead of the United States to be an advantage. I may consider using it as my primary search engine once its own index begins to distinguish it more from other search engines that rely on Bing.

Alternative Search Engine: Swisscows

General Overview

You will be shocked to know that Swisscows is based in Switzerland. It boasts a strong privacy policy and asserts that it does not create personal search profiles and anonymizes all search queries after seven days.

Swisscows licenses its search results from Bing and notes no other sources.

It generates revenue through non-personalized ads based on individual search queries.

Unique Features

I discussed Swisscows in an earlier New Leaf Journal article wherein I referenced its pamphlet on media education for children in making the case against sharing content about one’s children online. Swisscows emphasizes being a family-friendly company (as a family-friendly website ourselves, we understand). For that reason, Swisscows has a non-removable filter against very violent and adult content. To be sure, I have not tested this filter, but it is there.

Swisscows offers the ability to open search results in “anonymous preview” mode by clicking a button next to the result (similar UI to Startpage’s anonymous view). This opens an image of the webpage without the user having to actually visit the webpage. I appreciate this feature.

Swisscows touts its Swisscows Semantics, wherein it suggests several additional searches related to what the user searched for on the side of the full results. I do not find the feature especially useful, but it works well enough in the cases that I looked at it.

Overall Assessment

I like Swisscows and its company philosophy and mission. Its privacy policies are comparable to other search engines on the list. Anonymous view is a useful feature for scouting web pages before opening them. For those with children, Swisscows’s built-in filters are a nice feature, although Swisscows itself correctly advises parents to use the internet along with young children.

Swisscows has more than enough features to be a functional primary search engine, and I appreciate its values. I think it lags behind DuckDuckGo and Qwant in a few areas, specifically its exclusive reliance on Bing and its lack of map, calculator, and weather support (among other things).

Alternative Search Engine: MetaGer

General Overview

MetaGer is a not-for-profit meta search engine based in Germany. It has been around since 1996, making it the oldest search engine on this list. It states that it draws results from 50 sources, but its results are most strongly influenced by Bing. MetaGer has a strong and clear privacy policy.

MetaGer serves non-personalized ads to cover its costs, but it hopes to earn enough in donations to supplant the need for ads in the future.

Unique Features

MetaGer is one of the three open source search engines on the list, along with Gigablast and Searx (although Searx is a unique case). It touts is focus on opposing censorship and certain algorithmic ranking systems in describing its own ranking process.

MetaGer notes where specific search results come from. It also includes an internal blacklist and allows certain sources to be toggled on and off.

Overall Assessment

I have not used MetaGer as much as some of the other search engines on the list. On the whole, it is more than competent from my limited usage, but a bit sparse. Its UI is a bit dated compared to all of the search engines on the list except Gigablast.

Alternative Search Engine: Peekier

General Overview

Peekier is a hobbyist search engine based in the United States. It has the shortest, but also the strongest, most succinct, and most unequivocal privacy policy of all of the search engines on this list (save for Searx, which is a unique case). Peekier does not have ads and is not a commercial project.

In 2016, the developer stated that about 15-20% of the search results come from his own engine and the rest come from Bing.

To say more would be to divulge Peekier’s very unique feature, so I will reserve that discussion for the next section.

Unique Features

Instead of displaying text search results, Peekier displays thumbnail images of the webpages that are returned in response to a query. The engine allows users to expand and scroll the image before deciding whether they want to open the webpage. The functionality is similar to Swisscows’s “anonymous preview” feature, but the entire search engine is based on it.

Peekier is an interesting alternative search engine that returns thumbnail images of webpages - this is Peekier's results for The New Leaf Journal
Peekier search return for “New Leaf Journal”

Peekier eschews other features to focus on this one point. It does not include some basic things such as image search, video search, or news search.

I must also note that Peekier has the best mascot and contact page of all the search engines on this list.

Overall Assessment

Peekier is the most unique search engine I included in my survey. Its uniqueness and general lack of features make it not amenable for use as a primary search engine. However, its emphasis on thumbnail webpage previews is useful for shopping or looking at certain content links without needing to open another tab. Peekier can be a very useful supplementary search engine for specific purposes.

Update (3/16/22)

I published a full review of Peekier on February 26, 2022.

Alternative Search Engine: Mojeek

General Overview

Mojeek is based in the United Kingdom. Its regular search results are based entirely on its own index, which is created by its MojeekBot. Howevwem its image results, for the time being are still served by Bing and Pixabay. Mojeek’s news results seem to draw almost exclusively from UK-sources at the time of the writing of this article.

Mojeek has a short and strong privacy policy, and it is, in my view, the most categorical along with Peekier’s. It discussed its commitment to not tracking users in a recent blog post.

As of the time of this article, Mojeek does not use ads.

Unique Features

Mojeek’s unique feature is its fully independent index.

It is a bit limited in terms of features beyond its indexing, but it does feature a good selection of search operators for narrowing results.

Overall Assessment

Mojeek is an impressive project. As I argued in my article on Bing’s censorship, we need more alternative search engine projects that do not rely on the big tech indexes. It took a while for Mojeek to find our humble New Leaf Journal, but it discovered us in March and subsequently indexed a good number of pages and articles.

From my limited usage, I do not think that Mojeek is quite ready to be a primary search engine, but I will keep testing it here and there as it grows.

Alternative Search Engine: Gigablast

General Overview

Gigablast is based in the United States. Along with Mojeek, it is the only alternative search engine that relies exclusively on its own index. The search engine has a very short privacy policy page which states that no third parties are given access to user information and that query logs are deleted on a regular basis. Gigablast stated in 2013 that it does not share user IP addresses with third parties. It contains no ads or third party trackers. (Added privacy policy information on 6/19/21.)

Unique Features

Gigablast is open source, making it the only open source search engine that does its own indexing. It does not index Linkedin, Facebook, and Youtube, but does index Minds and BitChute. It includes a useful guide to its search syntax.

Gigablast focuses more on opposing censorship than most of the other search engines on the list, which tend to put privacy front and center.

Use Gigablast Through Private.Sh

Gigablast partnered with Private.sh for privacy friendly searching. Private.sh explains how it works here. It touts itself as open source, but the source code does not seem to be available yet.

Overall Assessment

I have used Gigablast very little, and for that reason I do not have much to offer at the moment. From my limited searching, it does return genuinely different results than the other search engines on the list. For that reason, it may be a good way to find content that is buried by Google and Bing. Sadly, you still will not find New Leaf Journal content on Gigablast. I have my doubts that Gigablast would work well as a primary search engine, but it does look like a useful tool to supplement other search engines.

I will look to try Gigablast more going forward and possibly write a review here at The New Leaf Journal in the future..

Alternative Meta-Search Software: Searx

Searx is not a search engine. Rather, it is fully open source software for running a meta-search engine on a server. This means that any person with the technical knowledge can install Searx software on a server and run his or her own Searx “instance.”

Fortunately, one does not need to run a Searx instance in order to use Pixelfed. There are numerous public Searx instances available that are free to use. Furthermore, there are meta-Searx instances that can search all of the public SearX instances.

Searx pulls results from a large number of search engines. Some Searx instances can also draw results from Google. Searx instances vary in terms of which search engines they query and how fast they deliver results depending on the host and server resources.

The extent to which a Searx instance is secure and privacy friendly depends on the specific host. Searx’s list of public instances offers basic information about each instance.

I have used some public Searx instances a bit and come away impressed with Searx’s features and UI. For example, I used a Searx instance to good effect in researching country conditions in Belarus for an asylum claim – selecting an instance that queried some Eastern European search engines.

The concept of Searx public instances is less intuitive than the regular alternative search engines (with the possible exception of Gigablast), but I recommend trying a few and seeing if they contribute positively to your workflow. Furthermore, Searx pops search engine bubbles by its very design.

A Small Selection of Searx Instances

Search Engine Party lists detailed information for five Searx instances and includes links.

Alternative Environment-Focused Search Engines

There are several search engines that donate proceeds to environmental causes. These are what I would consider quasi-privacy search engines. If they are properly used and configured, they do provide privacy benefits over their big tech counterparts. However, their purpose is primarily to promote causes, not to protect user privacy. For that reason, I am not focusing on them in this particular post.

However, I will take note of Ecosia since it is the second most-used alternative search engine behind DuckDuckGo. It focuses on planting trees. Ecosia uses Bing results and it can be configured to be more or less privacy-centric.

Other Lists of Alternative and Privacy-Friendly Search Engines

I have learned a good amount about privacy-friendly and alternative search engines by reading informative articles and lists around the web, often written by people with far more technical expertise than I have. Below, I will share some other interesting lists and opinions for you to read and consider.

  • Privacy Tools: Privacy Tools lists four privacy-friendly search engines, all of which featured in my post.
  • Switching Software: Switching Software offers a list of four Google alternatives.
  • Ethical.net: Ethical.net lists ten ethical alternative search engines. Seven appeared on my list. There are two I never heard of and Privado, which I did not include but may be worth your consideration.
  • AlternativeTo Google Search: AlternativeTo is a terrific site for finding alternatives to any given software or service. Because most people who are considering an alternative search engine will be migrating from Google, alternatives to Google is a good starting point. It is worth noting that AlternativeTo is a crowd-sourced list of alternatives – it is not limited to privacy-friendly search engines.
  • It’s FOSS: Mr. Ankush Das at “It’s FOSS” recommended ten privacy-oriented search engines. I discovered Peekier through this list. The 10th place recommendation, Gibiru, is one that I did not include in my list.
  • Restore Privacy: Restore Privacy has a very good list of seven alternative search engines along with some detailed information about each. If you are considering trying Searx, this is definitely worth a read. The list includes Yacy, which I referenced near the top of the article but did not include in my fuller discussion.
  • Seirdy.One: Mr. Seirdy, who I quoted in my section on DuckDuckGo, published his own list of alternative search engines and focused on search engines with their own indexes. In addition to listing the engines, he tested them using a methodology that he explained at the top of the article. I am looking into a few search engines that I learned about in this article. (Added June 17, 2021.)

Conclusion

I hope that you found my survey of alternative search engines informative. There are variety of strong privacy-respecting (to one extent or another) search engines that provide easy usage experiences on par with Google and Bing. Even if one is not inclined to abandon the big tech search engines entirely, it is worthwhile to try different alternative search engines and see results from different indexes that come without personalization. At a minimum, it is important to be an active information consumer online instead of being passively reliant on the indexes and algorithms of others.

Because of the broad scope of this article, I examined most of the alternative search engines briefly. In the future, I hope to write some more detailed assessments of specific search engines.

If you have comments, thoughts, or corrections, do let me know in The New Leaf Journal Guestbook.