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Alternative Search Engines for the Contemporary User

Alternative Search Engines for the Contemporary User
by Michael Yanovich

When on the Internet, how do you find things? Many use a search engine. Currently the most popular search engines that people flock to are Google, Yahoo, Baidu, and Bing. As of January 2011 approximately 98% of all web searches are done on these sites. However, there are quite a lot of other search engines that make up the smaller 2%. Some with many features that aren’t available from the big four. Here are a few that tend to come up often in Internet discussions for being unique with features and results.


blekko is unique search engine that focuses more on quality of results than on quantity of information. Unlike Google, they specifically do no want to collect all the of the world’s information or make it searchable. They remove low quality and spam sites (who focus more on monetization rather than providing information) from their index. What makes blekko unique from other search engines is that they rely on “human curation,” which relies on it’s users to help tag sites to increase the quality of the results.

blekko provides the ability to filter the results based on their defined relevance or date and blekko shows common tags so you can narrow your search base. blekko also provides the ability to change search preferences, with options such as ads displayed, secure searching (HTTPS), disabling Facebook features, and safe search.


DuckDuckGo is a Perl based search engine that focuses on delivering quality results while respecting users’ privacy. Two privacy issues they focus on are the search bubble and tracking. They even offer a Tor hidden service. DuckDuckGo’s website is also available over SSL.

One of the most unique things DuckDuckGo provides are the !bang syntax searches. With the !bang syntax one can narrow their search to a specific type of results or a specific site. They support hundreds of sites, and they have a complete list of available !bang commands here.

DuckDuckGo provides the ability to adjust search settings including, safe search, region, 0-click result, secure searching (HTTPS), re-directs, and user themes.


ixquick is a European based search engine that primarily focuses on privacy. Their privacy policy isn’t as neatly setup as DuckDuckGo, but it is very thorough in explaining their strong stance. In the process of protecting privacy and the security of their users they offer their search over SSL. ixquick’s results are mostly assembled from other popular search engines, of which they don’t specifically list. In the results, one has the ability to hone in on a specific type of result using their unique “Power Search Refinement.”

Many settings and preferences can be set – clustering of results, secure searching (HTTPS), and anatomizing picture and video searches.


whostalkin is a powerful search engine that aggregates results across several different sites and resources. Its primary focus is on searching social networking sites and blogs, ie: FriendFeed, Twitter, identi.ca, wordpress.com, and several others.One can focus their results on a specific division: news, blogs, or social networking, and various other networks.

The main categories that whostalkin makes searchable are: blogs, news, networks, videos, images, forums, and tags. At the time of this writing whostalkin does not provide a way to further customize usage or results besides the category selection.


YaCy is a P2P, decentralized search engine. Unlike most search engines where you visit a website on the Internet, you install YaCy and load up the search page locally. YaCy requires installation because it queries peers in the P2P network. By default YaCy expects you to contribute to the YaCy network. While it is contributing the program crawls various websites on the Internet and stores the results of the crawl locally. When someone else does a search and if their client connects to yours it will query your crawl cache for results.

YaCy’s main philosophy is that they want to keep information free and uncensored. They argue that other search engines are centralized which could potentially lead them to be censored, blocked, removed, or spammed. YaCy is open source, free software and is completely transparent. They provide more in-depth explanation of their philosophy here.

There are several settings that can be adjusted in YaCy, many revolve around the network itself. You can adjust how much caching it does and how much you want to contribute to the network as a whole.

There are several other great search engines that help make up the other 2% of the market share. This list is to highlight those that have unique features that aren’t found or commonly found together on other search engines. Wikipedia has an article of search engines (past and present) in a timeline format of when they were released.

Read the original blog entry...

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.

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