In the modern world you don’t just have your smartphone on you at all times – you have Google as your daily companion as well. Through its broad range of services and applications for mobile devices the search engine market leader has taken a firm grip of the mobile phone industry with the help of its many partners. Google offers more than just a mere mobile search, the company provides personal...
If you want to search for something on the Internet, you Google it. Google is the most popular choice for everyday searches amongst users worldwide. About 94% of all searches by UK users are carried out on Google. But this Mountain View multinational is by no means the only search engine provider on the web. Here we present to you a list of search engines that are notable alternatives to Google and can keep up with the industry giant.
This article was last updated in April 2021.
- Overview: Google and alternative search engines
- Google and Bing dominate the market share
- Alternative search engines in detail
- Bing: The Microsoft product made in Google’s image
- Yahoo: The search engine ‘powered by Bing’
- DuckDuckGo: Anonymous metasearch machine
- Ecosia: Search for a good cause
- Baidu: The Chinese search engine with a dubious reputation
- startpage: ixquick’s daughter engine
- Oscobo: Anonymous web searches for the British market
- Qwant: The search engine that respects your privacy
- MetaGer: Metasearch engine with high data security standards
- YaCy: Search engine with decentralised approach
- WolframAlpha: Answers instead of references
- Yandex: The search engine for the Russian market
- Summary: Google Alternatives
- Alternative search engines for special purposes
- Children’s search engines: Google alternatives for the little ones
Overview: Google and alternative search engines
Large range of products
Second-largest search engine
Own email service
Metasearch engine / Web crawler
Can be disabled
Tor hidden service
Supports non-profit conservation organisations
Large range of products
Metasearch engine / Web crawler
Can be disabled by club members
No central server
Delivers direct answers
Google and Bing dominate the market share
While Google continues to deal with data protection scandals, several competitors have seized the opportunity to offer alternative business ideas that don’t involve evaluating user data. While some competitors such as Bing and Yahoo may be largely copying the business model of the market leader, there are many others that aren’t: the search engine market is a colourful place. There are numerous projects that strive for innovation, seek new ways of financing, or target specific groups. Website operators should therefore keep an eye on alternative search engines besides Google when optimising their project for web search.
The term search engine is generally used to refer to Internet search engines. These are web applications that allow Internet users to search the World Wide Web. Matching the search query, users receive a list of results with websites that offer the content they are looking for. The basis of the web search is a database of indexed websites created by the respective provider. Depending on the search engine, images, videos, news, shopping deals and other content is displayed as search results in addition to websites.
Especially in the US and Europe, Google is still the leader in terms of search engines. With 89% of the market share in the States and 94.5% in European countries, Google leaves its competitors Yahoo and Bing far behind. In China, on the other hand, the search engine Baidu, which is little-known in the West, holds the top spot. It should be kept in mind, though, that Google is not accessible to the public in China.
Google: The market leader among Internet search engines
Google, the search service from the US company Google LLC, records more than 5 billion users each day, leaving the global competition in the search engine market far behind. Its full text search for web documents is only one service of the Google product palette, which provides answers to practically all questions on the net.
Users can Google search images, videos, and news via the same user interface, search for products, books, and scientific papers, or do research in the online atlas. There’s also an available free email service, and office suite including online storage. With the Chrome web browser, Internet users can even use a Google product for viewing websites.
But this omnipresence of what’s probably the most powerful Internet company in the world doesn’t please everyone. The online giant from Mountain View, California has faced criticism for years, especially when it comes to the issue of data protection. The company uses all its services to collect data on its users. This can then be used to run extremely efficient marketing campaigns - the main source of income for the company, which offers most of its products for free. Internet users don’t just have to grin and bear it though. For every Google product on the market, there is an alternative. Those who place a high value on their privacy may well find some interesting alternatives in our search engine list.
Google searches use a gigantic search index that contains billions of websites as well as a system of powerful algorithms to make sure that users receive the best results for their search queries.
The corporation is involved in more than 2000 open source projects and has established itself as one of the leading innovators of the Internet industry.
|✔ Large range of free products||✘ Offers little data protection and no anonymity|
|✔ Huge search index||✘ Server in US|
|✔ Accurate web search thanks to powerful algorithms|
Bing: The Microsoft product made in Google’s image
Bing models itself on Google visually. The alternative search engine mimics the successful model with additional search functions optimised for images, videos, and news, as well as a maps service. As a counterpart to the Knowledge Graph, Microsoft offers the Bing Knowledge Graph, which is fed by Wikipedia information.
The beta version of Microsoft’s successor to Live Search was launched in 2009 and distinguished itself through close cooperation with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By integrating other services into its web search, along with an intricately designed image search, Bing can make a case for providing search engine innovation that goes beyond that of the market leader in certain areas. But if you’re searching for an anonymous search engine, you won’t find it from Microsoft. Bing collects user data just like Google does, to personalise its targeted advertising.
|✔ Works closely with social networks||✘ Offers little data protection and no anonymity|
|✔ Own mapping service||✘ Server in US|
|✔ Also offers news search|
Yahoo: The search engine ‘powered by Bing’
Like Google, Yahoo! is another well-known address in Silicon Valley. The web portal was one of the primary pioneers of the Internet and reached millions of users worldwide, chiefly through its webmail. But the search engine of this Internet dinosaur, on the other hand, merits little consideration. Yahoo only represents around 1.25% of the market share in the US.
Since 2009, the search engine has been supported by an alliance with Microsoft. Anyone who enjoys the Bing experience won’t find any unpleasant surprises with Yahoo, whose common algorithm provides almost identical search results. Since a combined UK market share of around 5.5% allows the search engine alliance of Microsoft and Yahoo to compete with Google, website operators should keep this alternative search engine on their radar.
|✔ Cooperation with Bing networks||✘ Offers little data protection and no anonymity|
|✔ Large news portal||✘ Server in US|
|✔ Own Freemail service|
DuckDuckGo: Anonymous metasearch machine
Representing an entirely different alternative to Google is DuckDuckGo.Operating under the slogan “‘The search engine that doesn’t track you’, the American firm DuckDuckGo Inc. offers a combination of both a metasearch engine and a private web crawler. To do this, the search provider relies on over 100 services such as Bing, Yandex, or Wikipedia, as well as the company’s own program DuckDuckBot.
Unlike Google, Bing, or Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo presents itself as a search engine with high data protection standards: According to the provider, neither IP addresses nor user searches are stored. Instead of personalised advertising, ads are used that are matched to the search terms.
Alongside its basic web search, DuckDuckGo offers users the choice of searching for images, videos, news, and products. Users also have the option of filtering out commercial search results. To store settings once they’ve been made, information can be loaded anonymously into a cloud. This presents DuckDuckGo as a viable Google alternative for users wishing to protect their privacy by using an anonymous search engine.
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Server in US|
|✔ 400 sources for search results|
|✔ Available as Tor hidden service|
|✔ Ads can be turned off|
Ecosia: Search for a good cause
On behalf of the metasearch engine Ecosia, a new tree is planted every 1.3 seconds according to their data. Users of this Google alternative make an active contribution to environmental protection with each web search. This is made possible by advertising revenue, 80% of which is used to support reforestation projects all over the world. With a counter, users can follow how many trees will be planted in the future because of their search queries alone. On average, around 45 searches are required to finance one tree.
Both the search results and the web ads that Ecosia delivers come from Microsoft Bing. It also uses its own algorithms to make the search engine more efficient, according to the provider. Ecosia anonymously passes on stored data such as search queries, IP addresses, and browser types to partners like Microsoft.
Ecosia GmbH, which is based in Berlin, is behind the sustainable search engine. As a result, Ecosia’s search queries still come primarily from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, though the user interface can be displayed in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, or Swedish.
|✔ Advertising income benefits nature conservation projects||✘ Web search data is passed on to partners|
Baidu: The Chinese search engine with a dubious reputation
Baidu, with its market share of more than 75%, is the most used search engine in the People’s Republic of China. In the Alexa ranking, Baidu places fifth on the list of the most visited websites worldwide. For users from the western world, though, the search engine has little to no relevance for the following reasons:
- Baidu is available exclusively with a Chinese user interface.
- According to Reporters Without Borders, the company works closely with Chinese authorities to curb discussions on taboo issues that are critical of the government.
- Baidu, as well as the Baidu browser and Baidu mobile browser, collects personal user data and sends it unencrypted to Baidu servers in China, according to a report by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
In addition to web search, Baidu also offers the encyclopedia Baike as well as the Google Books counterpart Baidu Tushu.
|✘ User interface only available in Chinese|
|✘ Content is censored|
|✘ The search engine collects personal data|
startpage: ixquick’s daughter engine
The alternative to Google Startpage, has been around since 2006. As the ‘world’s most private search engine’, it succeeded Ixquick.com this year - a web search also penned by the Dutch development team.
The slogan ‘enhanced by Google’ is revealing: Startpage only accesses data from the market leader. Searches are always anonymous, though, and no cookies are applied. Despite the collaboration, Startpage doesn’t deliver any user data to Google. In addition, the alternative search engine only accesses Google’s database - the order of the search results is determined by the service’s own algorithms. Startpage finances itself using non-targeted ads.
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Only uses data from Google|
|✔ Own (paid) webmail service||✘ Only offers web, image, and video searches|
|✔ Own ranking algorithm|
|✔ Proxy service|
Oscobo: Anonymous web searches for the British market
The rank of anonymous search engines is reinforced by Oscobo from Great Britain. Like other search services that promote high data protection standards, this provider also promises not to store or sell user data. The project was initiated by Fred Cornell, a long-time Yahoo employee, who wanted to offer users an alternative model to the classic search engine industry with Oscobo. The result is a search engine, specific to the United Kingdom, also renounces all user tracking. Instead of personalised advertising, only ads related to the search query are displayed.
The alternative search engine does not have its own search technology; instead, the service uses the search index of Bing and Yahoo. Additionally, Oscobo incorporates results from Twitter into its results. In the meantime, there is also a Chrome extension from Oscobo.
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Only accesses the Bing-Yahoo network|
|✔ Twitter results are also displayed|
|✔ Also offers a news search|
Qwant: The search engine that respects your privacy
The French search engine Qwant also emphasises data protection. The alternative to Google puts the user’s wish for more privacy first. According to its own information, neither user tracking nor a filter bubble is used. The search engine only uses temporary cookies that do not collect any personal information. Cookies for commercial purposes are blocked.
A filter bubble refers to an effect on the Internet in which users receive only a heavily filtered spectrum of information. Algorithms, for example, only display search results that appear to be suitable for the user. Since different groups in society only stay in their own information bubbles, this can be quite dangerous as they are sheltered from opposing perspectives.
The search results are partly based on its own technology, but the company wasn’t satisfied with the amount of the Internet being covered. For this reason, Qwant combines the findings of its own crawler with the search results of Microsoft Bing. Users can display not only the web search for the selected search term, but also news, images, videos, maps or music by clicking on the respective tab.
Qwant is also available as a search engine for young users. If you click on the entry ‘Junior’ in the product selection, you will be redirected to Qwant Junior, the special edition of the Google alternative for children.
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Confusing design|
|✔ Music search, news search, notebooks|
MetaGer: Metasearch engine with high data security standards
MetaGer is a metasearch engine from Germany, developed by the University of Hannover and operated in cooperation with the registered association SUMA-EV since 2012. For web searches, MetaGer relies on a combination of its own index and alternative search engines (up to 50 different ones) and web services such as Scopia, Bing, Yahoo. In the settings, users can individually decide which sources are to be used for the search. In addition to the German-language version, an English and a Spanish version of MetaGer are available.
MetaGer doesn’t only offer a large range of sources, it also boasts data security standards: The search engine doesn’t save cookies or browser fingerprints. IP addresses are already anonymised during the search and so aren’t passed on to the queried search engines. User tracking isn’t required. Users also can visit search results via an anonymous proxy. Since all MetaGer servers are located in Germany, all web searches are subject to German national data protection guidelines.
The German search machine is financed using advertising revenues (ads appear above the organic search results), donations, and club member fees. Members can use MetaGer ad-free. In addition to the web search, MetaGer also offers other useful features like the associator (which helps to find related search terms), a source search, a URL shortener, and a map service (though only available in Germany). As a user of MetaGer, though, you have to accept that it’s rather lacking in its design.
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Design is not user-friendly|
|✔ Nonprofit organisation||✘ Some services only in German|
|✔ Accessible as Tor hidden service|
|✔ Relies on multiple search engines|
|✔ Source code search|
|✔ Proxy service|
YaCy: Search engine with decentralised approach
With YaCy, the user is also the operator. With its peer-to-peer approach, the project goes about its service in a completely different way than conventional search engines. Instead of running on a web server, the free search engine software runs directly on the user’s computer. This can connect with other YaCy users, resulting in a decentralised search network. Which sites the search engine has in its index is determined by the user: Each user can start their own web crawler and specify which sites it should access. The ranking is generated by increasing or decreasing user results. This means that the jointly operated search network is not censorable and can never be completely terminated.
It’s also not possible to record user data at a central location. Search queries are not transferred to a server, since the search engine is located on its own PC, meaning that all data remains there. The project is supported by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and - like MetaGer - by the SUMA-EV association for free access to information. The open source software is available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
|✔ Peer-to-peer decentralised network||✘ Small search index|
|✔ Open source||✘ Software must be downloaded|
|✔ Anonymous search||✘ Limited range of functions|
|✔ Data stays on individual PC|
WolframAlpha: Answers instead of references
The search engine WolframAlpha follows an entirely different approach than other Google alternatives. Instead of offering users the best web content, the search engine tries to simply deliver direct facts. The alternative search engine just supplies a lot of data. If a user is interested in sources, they can find them with an additional click.
In the premium version, users can also upload photos and other files and analyse them with the search engine. The service is primarily aimed at scientistsand students, though Bing and Apple’s language assistant Siri also use results from WolframAlpha. The US company Wolfram Research, which primarily manufactures software for mathematics and natural sciences, is behind the project.
|✔ Delivers direct facts||✘ Only offers data and no opinions|
|✔ Understands search queries very well||✘ Offers little data protection and no anonymity|
If you do prefer to stick with Google as your default search engine, you should know the best way to search with the service. You can use Google Search Operators to specify your input so that you are also guaranteed to get the right results.
Yandex: The search engine for the Russian market
While the Western world googles, the search engine Yandex dominates in Russia. Almost every second user from Russia uses the service of the Russian-Dutch group of the same name. It contains a web search as well as a search function for images and video material. Users also have access to a map service and translation tool. Yandex’s answer to Google Analytics is the web tracking solution AppMetrica. The company even has its own web browser.
Yandex is counted as one of the innovative leaders of the search engine market. It caused quite a stir with its reorientation of the search algorithm in 2014, wherein the company completely devalued backlinks as a criterion for ranking. This move made Yandex one of the first search engines to centre on onpage factors like content relevance.
The Russian alternative to the successful product from Mountain View, California should in no way be looked at as a copy of Google. In fact, Arkadi Wolosch founded Yandex a full year before Google came onto the scene. The fourth-largest search engine in the world, it’s primarily relevant for the Russian-speaking sphere. Companies that are active in Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, or Turkey should consider placing search engine advertisements on Yandex as well to better reach their target groups.
Like Google, Yandex is also a target of data protectionists. The web tracking solution AppMetrica’s tool Webvisor is considered particularly tricky. This tool records the mouse movements of website visitors in video format. Such a method raises data protection issues in many countries.
|✔ Own map service||✘ Questionable data protection and no anonymity|
|✔ Translation tool|
|✔ Powerful SEO analysis tool AppMetrica|
Summary: Google Alternatives
Comparing the various alternatives to Google, it quickly becomes apparent that data protection plays an important role for many of them. This is quite understandable, however: the privacy of users is the only area where a non-specialised search engine can really score points against Google, after all. A search engine that considers privacy to be a fundamental issue must not link search queries to user-identifying information, even if this allows for more accurate search results and personalised advertisements in most cases.
To be able to offer an alternative search engine that outperforms Google in terms of data protection, two different approaches are available in principle:
- Using Google search results or search results from alternative search engines such as Bing while ‘masking’ user searches
- Using their own crawlers to index web content, in order to have complete control over the way in which user data is collected and processed
However, the latter solution is simply not feasible for most providers: the capacities and time involved to completely index the web cosmos is just too much for simple companies. In practice, many representatives therefore rely on a combination of their own crawler and the search index of established search engine giants such as Google or Bing and ensure maximum privacy by masking the search queries Startpage, DuckDuckGo, MetaGer, and Qwant mentioned in the comparison are without doubt some of the best Google alternatives with such a hybrid approach where they focus a lot on protecting users during web searches.
Alternative search engines for special purposes
A Google alternative does not always have to follow the leader and cover the entire spectrum of the web universe. It’s becoming increasingly common for many services to specialise in very specific topics or search areas that can help users with very specific requests even better or more precisely than Google. We have collected some interesting search engines for special purposes:
giveWater aims to have a positive impact on the world by empowering users to solve the issue of poor quality water and ineffective sanitation across the developing world. A user simply searches on giveWater.com and paid search ads generate income for the company. The profits are then distributed among the charitable partners, which are then used to provide clean water for areas in need.
The alternative to Google, Lilo is very unusual in that it has a waterdrop system. When a user searches on Lilo, they receive a waterdrop, which they can then allocate to the charity of their choice. The alternative search engine also impresses when it comes down to protecting its users and preventing ad tracking and other privacy concerns.
Givero was founded in 2018 and allows its users to select which causes they want to support. The company donates half of its ad revenue to selected charities. The more searches that are made, the more money the charities get. The search engine really values privacy, taking inspiration from competitors like DuckDuckGo.
Also Google alternatives such as Ecosia, which raises money for charity, or the science search engine WolframAlpha can be classified as special purpose search engines.
Children’s search engines: Google alternatives for the little ones
Nowadays, it is important that children learn as early as possible how to access information via the Internet or the World Wide Web. Children’s search engines can make it much easier to get started. These alternative search engines work specifically with allowlists or passlists (also known as whitelists) and therefore only allow websites that are harmless for children. For this purpose, the providers of the child-friendly search engines apply a wide variety of check criteria such as the type of design, but also data protection, advertising, and costs. Here are a few examples: