Dumping Google Search

I’ve been looking at alternatives to Google Search. You should too. Lately, things are getting weird at Google. In short, I think they’ve lost direction. Google’s original thing was simple: fast, accurate search results without a bunch of clutter. That’s changed. Google is increasingly pushing itself into the social media business. I’m not sure exactly when the course correction started but the battleship is most certainly steaming in that direction now with the emergence of Google+ and the “added benefit” of Searching Your World.

Nevertheless, it seems increasingly clear to me that I don’t want to keep giving my information over to the Google masters. Looking at the original three reasons to use Google search (accuracy, clean interface, and speed), it occurs to me that Google search results are no longer as accurate as they give preference to their own services over others. Moreover, Google search results are no longer as clutter-free as they once were.

Then there is privacy. Lots of people are unhappy with Google’s latest revisions to the privacy policy, which makes clear they are sharing your data across all of their services, like it or not. This really doesn’t shock me. I’ve always known that in the Google business model, advertising agencies are the “customer” and I am the “product.” This is why I could never embrace Gmail despite its many benefits. Regardless, this adds a fourth component to choosing the best search engine that didn’t exist when Google was a plucky start-up, privacy. While my search results are pretty milk-toast, I don’t like the idea of someone using them to sell me milk and toast. Google indexes everything.

Adding privacy to the mix, my new criteria for a browser are, in order of priority: 1. accuracy, 2. privacy, 3. Clean UI, and 4. Speed. I list speed last because it is relative. I want something fast but it doesn’t have to be the fastest. So long as I don’t have to check my watch waiting for results I am fine. So where does this leave me with Google? On the outs.

Enter the Duck

I took Ben Brooks’s advice and started using DuckDuckGo a few weeks ago. It reminds me of Google 10 years ago. The search page is really clean and the results are very accurate. I’m guessing it is slower that Google’s search but it isn’t noticeable. Moreover, DuckDuckGo has the kind of security policy that I can curl up with and get comfy.

DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell.

So I’ve been running it two weeks and I don’t miss Google. It displays search results on a clean page, they feel just as accurate as a Google search would without the spam and Google+ bias, it is fast enough, and they don’t track a damn thing. Winner.

Adding DuckDuckGo to My Life

Since Apple has not added DuckDuckGo as a possible default search engine for Mac OS X or iOS, you need to do a little bit of legwork.

For the Mac, you can use Glims to update Safari’s in-app search bar. Since I do >90% of my searches with LaunchBar, I created a custom search template. To create one, display your LaunchBar index (from the Index menu) and select Search Templates. Then tap the Add button and add a new search template for DuckDuckGo pointing at http://www.duckduckgo.com/*

Next time you fire up LaunchBar, type duck, hit the spacebar, and go.

For iOS, I just added the search page to my bookmark bar as Duck. This syncs between my devices using the iCloud bookmark syncing feature and performing a new search just requires me to tap the word. There is also an iOS apps if you prefer.

After using Google search for so long, I was surprised at how easy it was to dump it and how little I miss it. Give DuckDuckGo a try.