Working at Search Engine Watch isn’t all about studying, understanding, and reporting on Google. With more than 9% of web users searching on other engines, it’s important that we occasionally take the time to check out what they are using and what those platforms are up to.
Read on for my hotlist of 12 alternatives to ‘The Big G’. As you’ll see, there’s been some changes in the alternative search world since my colleague Christopher Ratcliff wrote his comprehensive listicle back in early 2014. Since then, some have dropped off the map and others have been usurped in usefulness by Google’s increasingly rich functionality, and are not featured here.
Globally, Bing is still the second biggest search engine after Google and it also still powers the third biggest, Yahoo!.
With its clean white background, blue links, and green URLs, it sure looks familiar although it also features a few things that sets it apart. For example its ‘Rewards’ scheme gives you points when you shop or search via the service that can then be used to go towards buying things like apps and movies.
Bing also has a ‘My Saves’ function acting as a bookmark tool. It also boasts some prominent – and handy – filters for results by date, language, and region.
If you have an interest in digital in Asia, you need to know about Baidu.
Baidu is the search engine of choice for around 77% of China’s internet market. Though its dominance can be seen to fluctuate – thanks to fierce competition from other domestic rivals such as Shenma and Haosou.
Like Bing, you have to look closely at Baidu to see many differences between it and Google (other than it being in Mandarin). It is similar aesthetically, has a reliance on ads, and is also making moves to incorporate more rich features in the SERPs.
On the flipside though, the service is noted for its censorship of certain images and blocking of pro-democracy websites – to the extent that might seem quite extreme to searchers who are used to Google.
Yandex is to Russia as Baidu is to China. More than 53% of Russian search engine users favour Yandex. It also has a presence in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Belarus.
The search engine is available in English and Cyrillic and incorporates social logins. And if users choose to use Yandex Disk – its cloud storage service – it is easy to search your files right from the search bar.
As more of our computing moves into the cloud, users are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of day to day digital activities.
Googling is – perhaps surprisingly for such a quick innocuous activity – a formidable Co2 producer.
Launched in 2009, Ecosia is a Co2-neutral alternative. With every search made, the social business uses the revenue generated to go towards its tree-planting scheme. On average, 45 searches are needed to make a single tree.
Much of the engine itself is powered by Bing.
We have covered DuckDuckGo extensively in the past and the engine is still going strong.
Its USP is simple: it doesn’t collect, store, or pass on any personal information about its users. It’s a logical choice if you want a search experience which is free from ad targeting and if potential data storage about your search activities makes you feel uneasy.
While the service doesn’t target users with ads or suggestions based on search history, it is not free from ads altogether. The ads it does deliver are syndicated via Bing.
Like DuckDuckGo, StartPage was founded with strict user Privacy as its USP. Again, it doesn’t track and store your data, and it doesn’t target ads based on your behaviors.
The engine is powered by Google and does use ads (delivered by Google) to generate revenue. Each search result is also delivered with a ‘Proxy’ option which allows users to browse the following site anonymously.
I’ve included Twitter because I think its search functionality can be useful in certain situations.
For instance, during a breaking news event, tweets from people in the vicinity are likely to be the quickest up-to-the-second updates of what’s going on before initial news sites and Google’s algorithms catch up.
You can see this ‘First For News’ authority being something the service is increasingly exploring. Any search on Twitter will lead to a filtered ‘News’ tab initially, but users can easily click over to the ‘Latest’ tab to see updates come in from anyone using that search term second by second.
CC Search is a great tool for finding copyright-free content.
Whether you want an image to use on a blog post, a piece of music to add to a video, or you just want a piece of media to remix – it is a really h engine.
The site works by drawing in search results from existing platforms – such as Flickr, or Soundcloud – which have been tagged as Creative Commons material.
Continuing in the spirit of accessible content, Internet Archive (often known by its URL, archive.org) is a vast collection of documented material – including music, books, video, educational texts, and more.
It is also home to the endlessly fascinating Wayback Machine, a tool which has been taking snapshots of the internet since the 90s.
You are probably all familiar with Wikipedia but there are thousands of other wikis which are an amazing resource on a range of topics – from politics to pop culture.
Wiki.com is a handy search engine which draws in content from wikis only if you want community-led encyclopedic know-how about something (aside from Wikipedia).
Boardreader is a search engine which pulls in results from forums and message boards.
It’s a convenient tool if you’re searching for content written by everyday users about a topic, but you aren’t necessarily familiar enough with the niche to know the best forum or board to visit from the outset.
Slideshare, now hosted by LinkedIn, is a great tool for searching documented slideshow presentations, as well as PDFs and eBooks.
If you’re tasked with needing to do a presentation yourself, or you need information about a topic that is likely to have seen a presentation made for it in the past, Slideshare is a valuable repository. You can save slides you might need to refer to later and download entire slideshows direct from the platform.