Product Reviews

The best search engine for desktop and mobile devices? It’s complicated

What search engine do you use? Is it really the best option for you? Jack Wallen takes on this issue and draws a conclusion you might not expect.

Image: ideyweb/Shutterstock

You use a search engine every day. In fact, search engines have become so prevalent in our society, that people no longer say “search for it online,” they say, “Google it.” Of course, by “Google it,” people mean to search for it using the Google search engine. 

But is Google the best option for your search needs?

That all depends on what you consider the most important for your searching needs. Are we talking privacy, speed, accuracy, shopping? What you place at the top of your demands might dictate which search engine you use.

Or, maybe you don’t really care and simply want the easiest route to success?

The truth is, there is no all-around best search engine for either desktop or mobile. No matter which search engine you choose, you compromise something. The question is, is said something worth compromising?

SEE: Electronic communication policy (TechRepublic Premium)

At one point in time, that compromise was considerable. I remember, back when DuckDuckGo first arrived on the scene, it couldn’t hold a candle to Google. Now? Both of those search engines are very close in speed, accuracy and features. 

And, of course, there’s Bing and even the new Brave Search (which is now in beta). 

What’s interesting is that Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Brave Search are all eerily similar. When you use any one of those three you not only get similar results for your search efforts, you’ll also enjoy the ability to filter your results down to All, Images, News, and Videos. And with Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo, they add Shopping into the mix. And both Brave and Google add the People Also Ask section, to help you further refine your search results.

SEE: How DuckDuckGo makes money selling search, not privacy (TechRepublic) 

At this point, the choice between search engines could come down to answering these questions:

  • Do you want a Shopping filter? If you answer yes to this, then you’ve narrowed your choice down to Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo.
  • Do you want a People Also Ask section to your search? If so, your search is narrowed down to Brave Search and Google. Of course, neither Google or Bing always present the People Also Ask section. It all depends on the search criteria and how you ask your question.

So, you see, the choice is still complicated. To that end, I’m going to focus on what many believe is the most important issue with a search engine: Privacy.

When we approach this selection with a nod to privacy. It’s then that things can veer away from the standard options. But before we get to an option you’ve probably never heard of, let’s consider the one you have. 

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that was built on the idea of privacy. DuckDuckGo features:

  • Never saves your search histories.
  • Doesn’t track you.
  • Settings can be saved in the cloud.
  • Information can be found with fewer clicks.
  • Allows for region-specific searching.
  • Offers a detailed, transparent privacy policy.

One thing you should know about DuckDuckGo is that it gathers search results from over 400 sources, so you can count on your results being accurate. More important (especially for some users) is that the results are unbiased. Companies go out of their way to get their results to the top of Google searches. Thing is, Google builds a data profile on users, which is used to tailor your results, based on what they think you’ll click on. This is called the Filter Bubble, which can be problematic. Why? Consider this: At some point, Google will have gathered enough information about you to “know” which way you lean politically. It will then use that conclusion and serve you results that you already agree with. That means you will be less likely to ever see results from an opposing point of view. 

SEE: The possible reasons Google is moving away from APKs on Android (TechRepublic) 

A search engine should be unbiased. Google search is not.

Our decision is now leaning toward DuckDuckGo as the best option. But wait, there’s more. DuckDuckgo isn’t the only privacy-minded search option. In fact, there are other privacy-centric search engines. Take, for instance, the Searx meta-engine. This open-source search engine isn’t just available as a stand-alone service. You can actually download the source and build your very own instance. Imagine having your very own in-house search engine. That’s serious privacy. If you don’t want to build your own instance, you can always take advantage of one of the many public instances of Searx.

The problem with a search engine like Searx, is that it’s fine for desktop and laptop users, but what about mobile users? You’ll have a heck of a time getting the likes of Searx set up as the default search engine on Android.

DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, makes it quite easy to switch on Android. For this you would install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser from the Google Play Store and then do the following:

  • Set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for Chrome on Android.
  • Remove the default Google search bar on the home screen and replace it with the DuckDuckGo widget.

Once you’ve done that, your Android internet searches will go through DuckDuckGo, instead of Google.

In the end, the decision is pretty simple:

  • If you want privacy, go with DuckDuckGo.
  • If you want your search results to be used for target marketing (among other things), go with Google.

For me, the choice is obvious. I’d much prefer to keep my searches private while retaining as much of what Google has to offer in a search. For that, DuckDuckGo is the only answer. If you want a solid, reliable, easy-to-use search (on desktop and mobile), while enjoying a level of security Google search cannot match, you owe it to yourself to switch to DuckDuckGo. 

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