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Fri Oct 24 20:06:16 SAST 2014

Life without Google: Search engine alternatives

Sapa-dpa | 12 March, 2014 08:49
A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California.
Image by: STEPHEN LAM / REUTERS

Google processes 100 billion search requests a month, or about 3.3 billion per day.

It's become such a dominant force in web search that its name has become a verb: people don't "look up something online," they "Google it".

But there are other commercial alternatives out there, even beyond Yahoo! and Microsoft's Bing.

Many of them are small and put a premium on anonymity and data security. DUCKDUCKGO: This search engine, which sets itself apart with a duck logo, has been around since 2008.

It claims that it does not store data such as a user's IP address. Nor does it send information about a web search on to other websites, for instance when a user clicks on a link related to a search.

After revelations about US online snooping by fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, DuckDuckGo saw a dramatic increase in user numbers, with the number of search requests surging by a factor of two and a half.

In February, it saw an average daily rate of 4.5 million search requests. DuckDuckGo bases its search results on data from competitors, like Yahoo, and results from its own web crawler. IXQUICK: Ixquick also touts the fact that it does not store its users' IP addresses, send personal data on to third parties or leave cookies behind in browsers.

Based in the Netherlands, Ixquick pulls together its results by searching multiple search engines simultaneously.

Since 2009, it has operated STARTPAGE, which works by making anonymous requests on Google.

Startpage processes about 5.2 million requests per day and has also seen an increase in user requests since the Snowden revelations. QWANT: This France-based engine went online in 2013 and drew about 600 million requests that year.

Its focus is on privacy and security, but also providing users with an unfiltered view of the world.

Services like Google, it argues, shape their results based on users' location and past requests.

Qwant says it has no such filters, meaning requests pull up information from all over the world based on relevance, not on the users' profile.

It says it will install a cookie on a browser for a search, but that it does not store information for the long term.

People who visit the website also get to view a cross-section of trending information pulled from services like Twitter and Wikipedia, as well as from news websites. Other entrants could still show up.

European authorities have tried to create their own counterweight to Google for years, but without much success so far.

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