Leaving Google: Finding a new Search Engine

Search is a tough one. Google is so good, and so fast. Search is a big part of how I do my job. When I don’t know how to configure a global field validator for Spring MVC, I turn to Google. Well, today, I turned to DuckDuckGo. (And now I know) 

Let me first say that if you’re looking for a comprehensive review of search engine alternatives, this is not the post for you. I’ve chosen a good alternative and will only switch from it if I’m dissatisfied with it after heavy usage.

I’m not going to use Yahoo. Sorry, they had their chance. And, while Bing is a really credible alternative, Microsoft is just another corporation that would pillage my usage patterns for a buck.

I’ve heard good things about DuckDuckGo from a number of sources, so I’m giving it a whirl. Setting it up as the Safari search bar search engine was a little annoying. Safari doesn’t let you add search providers by default; I had to install Glims*. I try to avoid browser extensions and plugins because they usually slow browsers down, and Glims does that, but it also comes with DuckDuckGo search bar support built in (you just have to turn it on in preferences). 

One really nice feature of DuckDuckGo is that the entire search result block is clickable. Having a big click target speeds up searching and the hover effect is visually pleasing. The search suggestions on the right hand side are terrific. I searched “Jasper Morrison" because I saw an an alarm clock of his in a magazine. On the right was the suggestion "royal college," which I clicked and learned that he studied design at The Royal College of Art for Postgraduate Studies. Furthermore, there was a summary box at the top with a brief bio for Jasper and some useful links. These summaries are available for many many searches.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that DuckDuckGo’s privacy policy is clear and concise: 

DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. 

I will say that DuckDuckGo feels slower than Google. I’m not surprised by this. First of all, it doesn’t have Google’s instant search feature. It also doesn’t have years of experts tweaking algorithms and server farms all over the world. But it is by no means too slow. As far as usefulness of results, I found it to be more or less the same as Google (without the Google+ crap mixed in).

First real DuckDuckGo fail: I’ve gotten in the habit of typing a stock ticker symbol into Google to quickly see how it is doing. Google has a great chart with live updates at the top of your search results. At first I thought DuckDuckGo had no such feature. Turns out, you need to preface it with the exchange (nasdaq:aapl). But it still just gives you some textual data in their summary box. No live-updating chart.

Other than that though, I’m really happy with DuckDuckGo. It’s clean, accurate and has found good results for all of my searches so far. What more can you really ask of a search engine?

* DuckDuckGo offers a number of options for Safari. I chose the one that was the quickest to get me up and running.