It’s hard to believe but there was a time when the first task for searching online was to choosing which one of the different search engines to use. That’s right. Choose a search engine!
Back in the dim and distance past (around 1999), Google was just one among many search engine providers – remember the likes of Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite, Infoseek, (whatever happened to them)?
Nowadays of course, pretty much everyone on the planet (apart from Microsoft employees and probably China) uses Google as the default option.
But with the company taking a lot of flak recently for its convoluted tax avoidance measures, some people are looking to give Google one in the eye by shunning its products and services.
Now, for some of its more marginal offerings, that might be easy enough. But when it comes to search engines, Google has held the field for so long it’s hard to remember that other options do actually exist. So, if you’re looking to wean yourself off the Google diet, take a look at our top picks of the alternative search engines out there.
Dogpile is one of our favourites. It’s got a sharp, clean home page and delivers superfast results. It uses an aggregate search strategy similar to that pioneered by Google. Basically, it queries a whole pile of other search engines (including Google, Yahoo and the Russian giant Yandex), filters the results and then aggregates them into its own list of what it thinks are going to be the most relevant. And we have to say, Dogpile does a very good job.
According to The Guardian’s technology editor, Charles Arthur, this one offers search results that are just as good as Google’s, and often less full of spam. It’s Charles’ default search engine, so that in itself says something about the quality of its results. A big bonus for opponents of Google’s dodgy tax policy, is the fact that DuckDuck is ethical too – no shyster tax shenanigans and it doesn’t try to track you online.
Despite having the might of Microsoft behind it and an advertising campaign to match, Bing has never really taken off in a big way. And that’s a shame, because it’s actually very good. However, Microsoft’s accounting and tax policies are allegedly as sharp as Google’s, so if you’re boycotting Google for ethical reasons, don’t stop here.
Blekko styles itself as ‘the spam-free search engine’. But we think the really cool thing it does is the way you can tailor your search to specific categories. So if you wanted to search for info about Tom Cruise from tech news sources only, you type in Tom Cruise /tech, and voila, a heap of Tom Cruise stories from the best tech sources on the web.
Google is still our favourite here, of course. Its sheer power and reach are unbeatable. But sometime it’s nice to have a change. So next time you’re looking for something online, why not give one of these other guys a go?