When most people want to find something in the Internet, they go to Google. Even the act of searching for something on the Internet has become popularly known as going online to “Google” the topic or fact, as in, “Don’t believe me? Google it!”
For a while now and probably for a good while to come, Google is the default or majority search engine choice, but it is not the only one. Let’s do a quick review of the search engine in general and then look at several other search engines alongside Google. We’ll make it an even ten. Who knows? You might find one that is better suited to you.
History of Search Engines
What would you do if you couldn’t “Google” it? Have you ever wondered what the web would be like without a search engine? Well, it really couldn’t be a web without it. As we begin to compile the list of the most popular search engines today, it might be fun (and even enriching) to take a quick look at the history of search engines.
As said, the search engine is a vital component of the Internet. Without it, the vast library of knowledge available on 1,132,608,614 (and growing) web sites out there would be unavailable to us. That is because there would be no way of finding them. Let’s think about that for a minute.
The Web without Search
Let’s say you want to know how many web sites are in the world at this very moment (which I stated in the previous paragraph for that particular moment). You might search for, “total web sites world” and click on one of the results, like Internet Live Stats.
What if the search engine hadn’t been invented yet? How would you ever find a site without a search engine? No, you wouldn’t just type, “total web sites world,” in your browser’s address bar because there would be no search engine to support the browser bar search.
If you know Internet Live Stats exists, you can type the url in the browser bar and go directly to it. This is true for any site in your bookmarks or whatever source you would use to make your list. You might get new url’s to other sites from friends, family, co-workers, advertisements, and so forth and add these to your list, but unless you have somehow already added Internet Live Stats to the list of url’s you keep, you cannot find it without a search engine. there is just no way.
The First Search Engines
Your bookmarks are essentially a list of all the web sites you know. If this is the only way to find a web site – storing them in a list that you can click to go to the site – it would at the very least be really handy if there were a way people could quickly and conveniently share their lists.
While this is admittedly a simplification, it is also the broad strokes of how the first search engines worked. A database (list) of web sites would be compiled and then made available to anyone coming to your page to search for a site. At first, a user had to pretty much know what he or she was looking for to find it. Typing in something like, “my cat has a fever,” may not bring up anything but if you have been told of a site called, “mycatssick.com” and just forgot the url, the term “mycasttssick’ would more likely bring up the result you want.
This is how early search engines like Archie, Veronica, and Jughead (1990-1991) helped web users find the sites they needed. It would be the way most search engines worked until the World Wide Web Worm was released in 1994, and five legacy search engines were released: Infoseek, AltaVista, WebCrawler, Yahoo!, and Lycos. These search engines all began with the web crawler, or bot, crawling lists of web sites that the search engine had collected or that web site owners submitted, but soon real-time search capability in natural language (my cat has a fever vs. mycatssick).
WebCrawler was the first to index entire web pages. That meant that a user could enter a keyword into the search bar and if existed anywhere within a web page, that page would turn up in search results. Combine that with WebCrawler’s innovative use of natural language, and it became so popular at one time that it was almost impossible to use it during daytime hours.
There were several other search engines in the intervening years – AskJeeves, MSN Search, and AllTheWeb, for example – but things really changed when Google hit the Web in 1998. The second most popular search engine in the world today, Bing, launched in 2009.
Top Search Engines Today
People choose a search engine for a variety of reasons. Some want the highest tech behind it while others want a fully immersing personalized interface. Others are concerned about privacy, and maybe once in a while it’s fun to take a spin on an older model. That’s why there are three sections in this list of the top 10: The ones you know (popular), the ones you don’t (legacy brands), and the ones that don’t want to know you (privacy first search engines).
The Ones You Know
As the top search engine in the world at more than 1.6 billion unique monthly users every single month, Google holds the top Alexa rating (“1”), meaning Google gets more unique users every month than any other web site in the world. Google expands its reach on the web by having its own web browser – Chrome – which makes it easier for users to integrate web searching with other Google features, like Google Docs, Gmail, Google+, Google Drive, AdSense, AdWords, YouTube (owned by Google), and much, much more.
While it is true that Google is tops in search – I avoid searching for images anywhere else – there have been privacy concerns. In addition to the fact that we can tell it is keeping information on us so that vendors can bring us advertising in the next search or at the next web page we visit, there are things like, “We want Google to be the third half of your brain” coming directly from a co-founder’s mouth every now and then.
With that in mind, in spite of Google’s dominance and expertise at search, you might feel more comfortable trying something else. Plus, what the others lack in tech specs they gain back (for the most part) with a little more warmth and personalization.
Microsoft has made a few attempts at building the most relevant search engine. Starting with MSN Search in 1998 and rebranded as part of the Windows Live venture in 2006, the latest version was totally revamped for its re-launch in 2009 as Bing.
On your first visit to Bing, you are invited to customize your experience. You can change the background and colors. Beyond that, you can choose add-ons that bring you an improved experience for shopping, travel, and other special interests. Like Google, Bing integrates your Outlook or Hotmail email account plus the Office Online productivity suite. All of that sounds similar to Google, I’m sure, but Bing brings it to you with a little more of an inviting interface, greeting you with a photo of the day and the most important news of the day in a photo slideshow.
Yahoo! search existed long before Google (as the Internet counts time) and has a host of integrated features, including the original Yahoo! email and chat. Yahoo! News is a well-known and trusted source, too. There might be some objection to using the site, especially email, due to repeated data breaches but most of us have used it for so long, changing a password (again) is small stuff compared to changing everything else.
Once known as Ask Jeeves, Ask.com is among the top ten in popularity. Its interface is even plainer than Google, and it brings back more ad results at the top of the page than other search engines do, but it hits the spot for some people and you might discover yourself to be one of them if you try it.
The Ones You Forgot
These three search engines are lesser known but in their day were the most popular on the Web. You might find a little retro suits you.
The Ones that Forget You
As mentioned earlier, search engines and the Internet in general bring up huge privacy concerns. A few developers have taken it on themselves to alleviate at the very least the worry that your web browser is tracking you and your searches.
If you want Google search results without Google tracking, StartPage is the browser for you. It was developed by a team including consumer privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht and offers StartMail, a private email service.
Developed by the same company as StartPage, ixQuick brings search results from several search engines (including Google) without gathering and storing any information at all.
The long-standing favorite, perhaps, DuckDuckGo tracks nothing about you. If you go to DuckDuckGo to search one keyword, shut the browser, and come back to the search engine to do another search, DuckDuckGo will not know it is you. It is clean, clean, clean when it comes to gathering any data at all about you, your searches, and your IP.
Like most everything else in life, it is good to have a wide selection of search engines. Whether you want the fastest and smartest, the cutest, or the most secure, there is an option out there for you. Don’t just use the same search engine over and over again for all of your life. Who knows what you might be missing? Take this top 10 list and try a few and compare results to see what’s best for you. Thanks for reading!