Alternative Search Engines Part 3 of 3


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Part 3: Alternative Search Engines

So the week is over and I have learnt a few things. If you have not done so yet, it would be worth reading Part one and two for context.

https://lepiorz.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/alternative-search-engines-part-1-of-3/

https://lepiorz.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/alternative-search-engines-part-2-of-3/

I went into this clouded by visions on the millennium, when Google ruled the roost. Yahoo was dying, Ask was rebranding, Lycos and Alta Vista were clinging on for life. I came into it thinking despite all my concerns with Google, it would still be the best and I would just have to shut up and put up.

I guess we took it all for granted; Google has wowed us with new features such as auto complete and “doodles”. However, the thing we must consider is:

“Did these things actually improve my experience or just distract me?”

ImageDid we stop and think about the search results and how they are determined. It wasn’t so long ago that if two different people on different machines Googled the same word, they would get the same results. Now we all get personalised results.

We all joke about “in-private browsing” being for porn and I suspect to a large extent this is probably true, but If I am in financial trouble I do not want Google knowing this, I certainly don’t want them to start adding adverts to evil corporations like Wonga or the other scum at payday loan companies to my search results.

This is all a lot like a store loyalty card (I do not have any of these), in that the cookies/IP address and habits are all stored to funnel information that somebody has deemed in your interest, want you to read, and political beliefs, which leads onto…

The Information Bubble

(I would highly recommend you all read this http://dontbubble.us/ at some point.)

My biggest concern though is this “information bubble” I like to read from different sources as it gives me a broader overview of a topic and I therefore make up my own mind. If I read the Daily Mirror I know it will be poorly written and anti Tory, if I read the Mail I know it will be disgustingly racist and hate everyone, the BBC won’t have an opinion and SKY will be all about Murdoch. The thing is, I watch/read them all as each outlet distorts its views to fit its agenda. But you can pull out what you want from each of these stories and make up your own mind.

Google has taken that away from me, and as I discovered over this last week is that other search engines have caught up and over taken Google in a number of areas. Below I have rated sites of my preference for that area.

Privacy

  1. Ixquick
  2. DuckDuckGo
  3. Blekko

All close with little difference, but that is my order. All sites have their own set of rules and guidelines on how they treat your data. Ixquick just shades it for me for talking about the IP collection

Search Results

  1. Ask
  2. DuckDuckGo
  3. Blekko
  4. Ixquick
  5. Google
  6. Yahoo

User Interface before search

  1. DuckDuckGo
  2. Blekko
  3. Ixquick
  4. Google
  5. Ask
  6. Yahoo

There is very little to separate the top 3 and could really be placed in any order.

User interface after search

  1. Blekko
  2. DuckDuckGo
  3. Yahoo
  4. Ixquick
  5. Ask
  6. Google

My recommended engine

I will be honest; I really wanted to go for ixquick after discovering the benefits of a metacrawler, I just find the results are a little strange for me and I find myself having to use DuckDuckGo to get the results I actually wanted.

ImageBut in the end I have to recommend DuckDuckGo. Its results, privacy and interface are by far the better experience for the user. It is hard to explain, but it just feels right. In the way Google felt so right the first time, DuckDuckGo and me just clicked.

If Blekko manages to get localised UK results then I think it would be my favourite, so for now I will use DuckDuckGo , but keep an eye on Blekko for any changes in the future.

I do have to give Yahoo and Ask a special mention, just for the vastly improved experience they have offered, and the changes it has made when comparing to 2005 http://startupboy.com/2005/12/20/fix-the-search-interface-first/. If there is anybody out there with earlier examples I would be very interested in seeing them.

For those interested, here is my top search engines I am used this week and including others I am aware of and used, but not part of this experiment.

  1. DuckDuckGo
  2. Ixquick
  3. Blekko
  4. Yahoo
  5. Ask
  6. Google
  7. Bing

So it isn’t all bad news for Google, Bing is markedly worse.

Problems encountered

Finally, here are the problems I encountered during my week of test driving different search engines.

  • I naturally go to Google, years of muscle memory kicks in. Even though I set the search engine as my home tab, I will still search with the Chrome address bar or start typing http://www.googl…; Before I realise I do not want to use Google.
  • I eventually realised I could change the “address bar” search engine in the “tools” section in Chrome.
  • As I have been writing this I keep typing “googling” rather than searching, I have proof read it a few times now and keep finding cases where I wrote “google” or “googling” instead of “search”.
  • That the University of Sheffield seems to only SEO to Google, as its pages are way down in the ranking on most other search engines.
  • In Chrome, remembering to set “Homepage” “Start page” and “default search engine”, otherwise you using 2 or potentially 3 search engines.
  • I am not as important / special as I thought I was. Other than Google, searching for “Jamie lepiorz” tend to bring results I was not expecting.
  • Comment boards feature far too higley on search engine results. This is one area where Google is still a head, in that they do not count message boards in SEO.

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About jamym

I am a Learning Technologist at the School of English at the University of Sheffield. I will mostly blog about my musings on technology and what i am up to. You can follow me on Twitter with @jamielepiorz.

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