If you have read my past posts on search engines you would have realised that I am always looking to use a search engine other than Google search – well anything other than Google in everything I do!
In the past I have recommended Scroogle which unfortuately died in 2012, ixquick.com a European based search engine, duckduckgo.com which is still going and growing in strength and most recently privatesearch.io which also seems to have disappeared although the excellent sister site privacytools.io is still going – they have great advice on which software and services to use to be as private as possible (and move away from Google).
All these services have one thing in common, they anonymize your searching to mitigate against your personal life being tracked. Results are not produced by profiling the user (tracking), every user will get the same search results when entering the same search terms.
Scroogle used a hack into Google’s search engine but suffered from being reliant on Google not changing their API to thwart this kind of third party service.
Duckduckgo relies on Bing, Yahoo and crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia for it’s search results.
Privatesearch.io did something similar but also used Google for results.
Not sure what happened to Privatesearch.io but it was based on the opensource asciimoo/Searx project: https://github.com/asciimoo/searx. This works in a similar way to the other engines – anonymizes your search and uses Yahoo, Bing and Google (it shows which search engine the results have come from and also uses many other sources). It is completely open source and there is a thriving community – https://twitter.com/Searx_engine – where many people have created their own search engine sites for general search or for specific search criteria: http://stats.searx.oe5tpo.com/ This link will list all the current Searx sites available (and whether they are up – note the down signal for privatesearch.io). The one I use the most is the general Searx.me site.
ixquick.com is still going, and it has somehow acquired the domain startpage.com. It is owned by a commercial outfit – Surfboard Holdings B.V. in the Netherlands. It has had much more written about it and many awards and plaudits associated with it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixquick. It’s based in Europe and adheres to European privacy rules plus a lot more. The only drawback is that it is a little slow.
What I found with all these engines was that results were very much steered towards the USA – I’m in the UK so I wanted results more relevant to my local area. Searx.me does offer preferences where you can change the country to United Kingdom and I found that the results are very good using this engine. Ixquick also now has the ability to change preferences to UK English and even has a ‘Pages from the UK’ button automatically appearing (I assume that changes according to which country you are in) and I have found the results very relevant.
So what would I recommend now?
At this time I would definitely recommend startpage.com from ixquick as your default search engine but if speed is important and you like the idea of using an opensource solution rather than commercial then go with SearX – that’s what I use.
Note: when saving preferences they are usually saved in a cookie. If you delete cookies on exiting your browser have a look at the selectivecookiedelete add-on for Firefox detailed in a previous post: My Firefox settings – retaining some cookies whilst deleting everything else on exit