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What Makes Other Search Engines The Best DuckDuckGo Alternatives?
Privacy is the basic requirement for a good DuckDuckGo alternative. This means search engines that do not save your search history, IP address, unique user agent, or anything that can be used to identify you. Search engines typically use this data to create targeted ads and search results that are relevant to your interests. For example, every time you do a search on Google, the company saves your search queries and uses them to select a source of results related to your search habits.
Google is a particularly egregious offender because it uses data collected from other Google services (Google Chrome, Gmail, etc.) to influence what you see on the search results page. Private search engines often do not include personalized results as a result of their privacy practices. Some may find this inconvenient, but others see it as a valuable tradeoff. Traditional search engines often sell user activity data to third-party advertising companies without the user’s knowledge or consent. Google itself is an advertising company and gets its revenue from targeted ads. As long as a search engine allows you to search without tracking personally identifiable data, it qualifies as a privacy-based search engine.
private search engines
Some private search engines collect a minimal amount of aggregated usage data that cannot be used to identify individual users because a certain amount of user data is needed for the engine to work. This is the case for DuckDuckGo and many others, but we believe this is an acceptable amount and type of data for private search engines to collect. There’s a lot more to say about the web’s most popular private search engine, so we recommend checking out our full DuckDuckGo overview here. For more tips on staying anonymous online, read our guide to anonymous surfing here.
Swisscows (formerly Hulbee)
Swisscows, formerly known as Hulbee, is a private search engine based in Switzerland. Like DuckDuckGo, Swisscows operates a search engine service dedicated to providing relevant search results without saving your search history in an advertising profile. As a result, the visually clean search engine results page shows no ads. In addition to its privacy protections, Swisscows also uses a “semantic map” to provide the user with useful search suggestions, which is a list of related search terms in a column on the right side of the page. Also, Swisscow prides itself on being a family-friendly search engine that skips all violent and adult content by default.
Its location in Switzerland gives Swisscows a significant privacy advantage. By staying outside the jurisdiction of the US and the EU, Swisscows circumvents the surveillance laws of both territories, which are home to some of the most invasive intelligence agencies in the world. Switzerland is outside the reach of the Five, Nine and 14 Eyes alliances and is therefore less likely to be faced with giving data to authorities when requested. The good news is that Swisscows would not have any user data to hand over in such a case.
Launched in 2009, Gibiru is another private service similar to DuckDuckGo, but distinguishes itself by using 256-bit AES encryption to retrieve search results. Gibiru does not collect cookies, IP addresses, or search query history from its users, and therefore cannot sell user data to third parties or identify individual users. Your results are sorted into two columns: “all results” and “censored content”. The first is the full Gibiru index and the second is all links that are excluded from selected sources from major services like Google Search. Gibiru meets all the criteria for a good private search engine, but not much is known about the team that runs Gibiru. We haven’t seen any news of any privacy scandal involving Gibiru, so there’s no particular reason to suspect the search engine. However, it would be nice to know at least a little about the people behind the scenes.
Among the more unique entries on this list is YaCy, an open source peer-to-peer search engine application. Even private search engines require a certain level of trust, since there is no way to be completely sure how a company uses your data, but YaCy is a private company that does not have a central server or proprietary software. Instead, the software YaCy provides is a decentralized network of private computers operated by members of YaCy’s peer-to-peer network, numbering in the thousands. Unlike other private search engines, there is no single company or person that controls the YaCy network. The company provides the open source software and the community does the rest.
Each machine crawls the Internet on its own YaCy instance to form an index of websites and shares the index with other peers, producing a dynamic, uncensored set of results for each search term. The distributed nature of YaCy means that there is no single legal jurisdiction to which YaCy belongs. The laws of any given country or regulatory body only apply to individual users, not to the entire YaCy network. Most of the standard privacy criteria for search engines are irrelevant here. Using YaCy requires downloading the open source Java-based YaCy software and searching the Internet through your browser. Any browser will do.
Instead of returning results from a single search index, Searx is an open source metasearch engine that indexes search results from dozens of search engines at once. Searx does not track a user’s IP address or history, nor does it allow its sources to track user data, even if Searx sources from a major brand. Like Dogpile, Searx does not have a single index, but instead has dozens of instances run by different Searx users, each with multiple sources and variable results.
You can even create your own instance if you do some work, but there are plenty of public instances available on searx.space that you can immediately use as your primary search engine. After you enter a search query, Searx retrieves your results and includes the name of the search engines Searx originally collected the link from. You can adjust your Searx settings to choose which sources to include links from and which to avoid. Google sometimes blocks requests from Searx, but there are still dozens of other search engines and sources that Searx uses. Not only is it a private search engine, but it also indexes links that don’t appear in selected results from Google and other major services.
Mainly known for its private web browser, Brave is now developing its own privacy-oriented search engine. Brave Search is currently in a beta phase and is promoted as a private engine that uses its own index and search algorithm. So you don’t have to rely entirely on third-party indices, whether from major tech platforms or otherwise. At the same time, Brave Search mixes its own index with that of third-party search engines.
The ratio of Brave’s search results to other search engines varies from query to query, and each search page comes with a “results independence” metric that shows how many search results originate in the Brave index. Brave insists that the privacy of its users will always be protected, no matter how many results come from other sources. Brave Search is still in its beta phase at the moment, so we expect to see significant changes as time goes on. For now, it’s still a good search engine for everyday use. Unsurprisingly, it has replaced DuckDuckGo as the default search engine of the Brave browser.
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