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Why I’ve Stopped Using Google Search

…and what I use instead.

Google search used to be the winner by far, but recent decreases in its trustworthiness and the improved offerings of other search engines make switching a pragmatic choice.
A Google logo in a partially submerged sinking rowboat on the ocean. The scene shows a clear blue sky and calm sea. The rowboat is old and wooden, tilted to one side, taking in water, emphasizing the sense of sinking. The Google logo is prominently displayed on the side of the boat, colorful and contrasting with the natural oceanic background.
Is Google Sinking? (Image: DALL-E 3)

In the past, Google’s search engine was the best. I would regularly try searches in some of its competitors, and I always came back. Google’s results were more accurate and gave me what I needed more often than not.

In recent months, that’s flipped. Google’s results are disappointing at best and misleading at worst.

There’s a word for it.

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TL;DR:

Google search on the decline

Google Search’s declining quality and annoying ads have led to what many call its “enshitification.” It’s caused me to explore alternatives like Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Kagi, which offer better privacy, fewer ads, and in some cases, completely ad-free experiences.

“Enshitification”

Coined by technologist Cory Doctorow, the term enshitification has caught on because it clearly encapsulates a process we see happening with so many online services.

  1. First, they are good to their users.
  2. Then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers.
  3. Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves.
  4. Then they die.

I’d say that Google search is somewhere between steps 2 and 3 right now. Google’s search function has become an ad-delivery service that occasionally includes search results.

There’s a case to be made that promoting ads over search results is downright nasty, especially when the ads themselves are sometimes explicitly malicious and/or misleading.

And it’s unlikely to get better any time soon. Let’s look at some alternatives.

Alternative #1: Bing

I want to like Bing.com, I really do. I’ve been trying it periodically ever since it was released. The search results have certainly improved.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has pegged Bing at a solid step 2 in the enshitification process by ramming.Bing down our throats in Windows. Their most common technique is to ignore default browser and search engine settings.

Hence, I don’t use Bing. I guess it’s a form of protest.

But, in a sense, I kinda sorta do.

Alternative #2: DuckDuckGo

Perhaps the most oddly named search engine, DuckDuckGo.com is a popular alternative that sells itself as a “privacy first” search engine. Unlike Google (and possibly Bing), your searches aren’t kept or monetized.

DuckDuckGo gets its results from a variety of sources, including Bing. It is funded by ads on some search results pages. However, the ads are based on the results of your search, not on you or your previous online behavior.

For increased privacy and integration, DuckDuckGo now also offers its own web browser, though it’s not quite as feature-rich as some others.

I use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine of late. The results are better than Google’s and are significantly less cluttered with potentially misleading ads.

Alternative #3: Kagi

This is a new alternative I’ve been trying for about a month. What makes Kagi unique is that it’s a paid search engine.

Zero ads. None.

Like DuckDuckGo, Kagi uses several sources when you search for something. You might say it’s an aggregating search engine.

So far, I’ve been quite pleased with both the results and the experience. This may become my primary search engine.

Additional sources

There are many other search engines. A few more that I’ve only briefly experimented with:

  • AOL. Still around!
  • Brave. From the creators of the privacy-focused browser.
  • Perplexity.ai. AI-driven, of course.
  • Yahoo.com. Also still around!

I’m sure there are more.

Do this

You don’t have to stick with Google search. Given that its results are sub-par and its ads are distracting, sometimes misleading, and even malicious, there’s no reason to stay.

Experiment with some of the alternatives I’ve listed and see if one works better to securely meet your needs.

More solutions, techniques, and ideas are available if you subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

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50 comments on “Why I’ve Stopped Using Google Search”

  1. We have been using duckduckgo search engine for ages and love it. Would not want to change back.

    You also mentioned the duckduckgo browser, and implied you have tried it out.

    What did you think of their browser? We are fed up with Firefox, despite its good things as it has become as slow as molasses, when typing a search it appears one slow letter at a time, but I don’t want to use Edge.

    Hoping for your insights!

    Reply
  2. I’ve been experimenting with Bing Copilot which uses Chat GPT. It’s not exactly a search engine, but you can look at it as a search engine that summs up the results and gives you the links it got the information from. I still usr Duck Duck Go as my main search engine.

    Reply
  3. I’m intrigued that this topic came up, because I’ve been researching and trying different search engines since I saw a post about Kagi a few weeks ago.
    If Leo is fed up with Google search, it must really be time for Google’s virtual search monopoly to come to an end. Let’s do it!
    Note that due to the vast overhead of crawling the web, most upstart search engines are using Google and/or Bing’s searches as their main backend, often supplemented by other smaller engines or their independent efforts.
    My top recommendations
    1. Ecosia. Uses a combo of Google and Bing’s engines with significantly few ads and more privacy – like DuckduckGo, but it uses its ad revenues to plant trees around the world, which it has garnered significant expertise in (i.e. this isn’t token tree planting, they put a lot of thought into where to plant, develop partnerships with locals, etc). It’s the only search engine that allows you to contribute to a good cause while you search, and be powered by renewable energy, and that’s a big deal to me. Also recently came out with a browser based on Chrome (so compatible with Chrome extensions).
    2. Kagi. I’m on the free 100 search trial. Really is good. A nice feature is that it emphasizes smaller sites that the big engines overlook. That alone makes it worth supporting, at least at the $5/month level, if web searching is important to you.
    3. SearXNG. Run by volunteers on instances that they host, using a combination of engines that you can customizes. The nerdy choice, and probably the most comprehensive one.
    Here’s a couple fascinating search engine comparisons:
    https://greycoder.com/a-survey-of-important-search-engines-in-2022/
    https://libretechtips.gitlab.io/detailed-tests-of-search-engines-google-startpage-bing-duckduckgo-metager-ecosia-swisscows-searx-qwant-yandex-and-mojeek/

    Reply
  4. Nice video on Google.
    Totally agree about the garbage results that appear first; did not really think in terms of the results being from their paid sponsors.
    I have been using Brave for many years; trying to avoid Google as much as possible.
    One thing that you did not mention, was the biased results.
    With the upcoming USA elections, I am curious about your thoughts on Google promoting one side over the other?
    CP

    Reply
    • I know a LOT of people are complaining about bias in search results. Usually it’s because they don’t see the answers they expect, or don’t like the answers they see, regardless of whether those results are actually accurate.

      Search results don’t worry me nearly as much as how social media is being used, and AI-based deepfakes.

      Reply
    • Just read the story. Makes one wonder where we’re heading now with all the data gathering going on.
      As a kid back in the 60’s, I devoured Jules Verne. As an adult, I served on nuclear submarines. Who knows what the future holds.

      Reply
  5. Not sure this qualifies as “valuable,” so it might be headed for the trash, but fyi, I’ve been happy with DuckDuckGo for years. Appreciate your news!

    Reply
  6. Agreed. Alta Vista was far better at complex searches than any today (with the possible exception of the new AI creations). However, the very thing that made its capability so good was also a downfall. The database that it had to keep to power that capability grew exponentially with the increase in content to search. I can’t begin to imagine how it could possibly handle the web now.
    There was even a free “personal” version that you could put up on your own computer and/or LAN for searching your own files. Unfortunately, buried in the beginning of the code was a check for updates. When Alta Vista (DEC) shut down, the internal URL broke, and the program would no longer run.

    Reply
  7. The overwhelming number of ads in search results is so frustrating. I can’t even find a legitimate results until the second page in most cases. I’ll give DuckDuckGo a try.

    I just want my old Google back.

    Reply
  8. I used to use my personal domain for e-mail.
    Then one day I get this legitimate e-mail from NeuStar that since my domains was a dot US domain I had to prove I was a US citizen. The only documentation they would accept was my birth certificate or my passport. I don’t have a passport so my only option was my birth certificate. No way was I going to send them my birth certificate. Image what data someone could find if they ever had a security breach. So that night they terminated my use of my domain. I lost everything and had to start overt.

    Reply
  9. Hi Leo, always a pleasure. personally i like duckduckgo. i also like gmail but tighten it up a bit. i only run gmail in a separate, sandboxed browser on a vpn and dont do anything else on that browser. works for me.

    Reply
  10. Hello Leo,
    I have been using DuckDuckGo as an extension added to my Google Chrome for at least 2 years and I love it. I use DuckDuckGo as the default web browser on my Pixel 6a. Leo, I learn a lot from reading your articles.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Great comments idea’s Leo,
    Very timely.
    I’ve been using ‘StartPage’ for years, as it is ad free and keeps almost nothing. Why didn’t you mention this one?

    Reply
  12. I just tried DuckDuckGo and however it is displaying text (at 100% on my monitor) was horrid. Want to use it but not at the expense of my eyes.
    really poorly formed, characters.

    Reply
  13. Great commentary, thank you! I’ve been using DuckDuck for a while, for similar reasons. Seems to work just fine.

    Reply
  14. First, I am not a fan of Google or Bing, nor do I owe my living to them, so I couldn’t care less how they make money.

    I read this article and the posts and watched the video. I’m not sure what all the commotion is about. The only assertion that may cause one to abandon Google (or Bing) is the part about malicious, misleading, or inaccurate. But those are characteristics of the websites appearing on a Google search page, not of Google directly. You can say “malicious, misleading, inaccurate” for just about everything online. *User discretion and judgment is advised*. Don’t blame Google if you go blindly clicking and believing every link. Besides, in today’s world you have already decided what sites you consider trustworthy before you get there.

    People have suggested some alternative search engines. Every other “good” search engine out there also has sponsored links AND collects search results in the background using Google and/or Bing. What all those other “good” search engines do is babysitting and hand holding. So, if you “stop” using Google search, you’re still using Google search. Let’s remember Google search is a free service and it takes tremendous resources to deliver any of those results to you. So, something has to give – and that’s you – because that’s how the imperfect capitalistic system works.

    The bottom line consideration should be if you’re getting the results you want and expect, and that the results are useful. Not whether Google is making money. Let’s take the example of Leo’s coffee maker (in the video): For at least 90% of people in the U.S. who want to buy a coffee maker they will buy a recognizable brand name from Walmart, Target, Amazon, and maybe Bed Bath and Beyond. People already have accounts at these stores and/or there is a retail outlet within driving distance. The ads that show up at the top of the Google page are these options and they serve the purpose of listing choices for “coffee maker”. Not too many people are going to go to the 10th page of a Google search and buy a no-name coffee maker from a website they never heard of. So, the information provided on the first search page serves its purpose and is what’s expected.

    Let’s expand our search. Let’s say you’re looking for “axial motor design” or “ozempic side effects”. Sure, here too you get ads, but they are from the people who make these products. If you really want to learn about these topics, then you should also check out these sites. You can always skip the sponsored links and look at the others. The bottom line is that you accomplish your intended task and get the results you want.

    Finally, searching for information online is a technical, geeky, nerdy task. I believe Leo has had articles about this. If you’re not a technical person and do not have the characteristics of one, you are not going to get good results with online searches. Don’t blame this on Google. To know what the characteristics of a geek is, Google it.

    Reply
    • If Google started with the kind of results they are giving now you might be able to chalk it up to GIGO garbage in (garbage out), but in the past Google had great search results. Bottom-line economics has severely lowered the quality of the search results over the years.

      You seem to be blaming the overall decline of the quality of content quality on the Web for that, but Google has the technology to identify clickbait and other SEO tricks, but they choose the path of maximizing profit. It’s the same with network news. Previously, they actually reported the news. Now it’s mostly opinion and TV remote clickbait.
      And if Google is not to blame, why do Duck Duck Go and others give better results?

      Reply
  15. I have been using a new search engine called Luxxle for about the last month. https://luxxle.com.
    It says it has Better Search and Better Privacy.
    I do find it to be a bit slow compared to other search engines. I have also seen it sort of lock up when doing a search. To get out of it I have to close the webpage. Maybe this is just a bug that needs to be fixed in the future.
    Check out their site for more information Luxxle.

    Reply
  16. My prime requirement for a browser on my Windows 10 PC is its ability to incorporate a wide variety of user-friendly add-ons and extensions. I tried all those you’ve mentioned, but I have ditched them one by one and have zeroed in on Opera, with the DuckDuckGo search engine. They meet all my needs and requirements.

    Reply
  17. I needed this article as two years ago, Google intentionally blocks searches for particular people, places, and topics regardless how many ways I respecify the search. Sadly, only so many ways to camouflage t-r-u-m-p. Thanks to ask Leo, I will try out Kagi and DuckDuckGo,

    Reply
    • Are you sure it was Google blocking that search? I’ve often searched for The Former Guy by his name and got several results, and we’ve never had another reader mention Google blocking name searches. I wonder if you have some other blocking software in place.
      This is an excerpt from my search results:
      search the former guy

      Reply
  18. Plus, in my opinion — formed via many comparison test searches I’ve made between Google and Duck-Duck-Go — Google has become very politicized. Websites often do not get Google hits if they do not meet Google’s criteria for what is “politically acceptable.” Similar issues apply when seeking AI answers to questions. Answers are sometimes politically motivated depending on the AI source. Buyer beware.

    Reply
  19. I cannot use Bing until they change the name..it annoys me.
    Google is good..it finds things better than most web sites own internal search engines.
    I like the seamless Youtube(Google owned) ,google maps, esp street view which others do not have?
    When I suggest an edit, they respond within 24 hours.
    Business and tourist review sections are great..I have made many reviews about sites I have visited. Do the other search engines provide so many easy to use features?

    Reply
  20. StartPage has been my default search engine for years. It is my favorite – one that I recommend to others. I tried other ones including DuckDuckGo but returned to StartPage.

    Reply
  21. This debate about what is a “good” search engine is similar to a political argument. It’s all a matter of opinion and no one is going to change someone else’s mind. Above, Mark Jacobs uses terms such as “severely lowered the quality …” or “better results”. Leo uses terms such as “disappointing”, “misleading”, etc. A poster says the name Bing annoys him and another says that he like a particular search engine because they claim “Better Search and Better Privacy”. Really? What on earth do these sentiments mean from an objective perspective? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. There are no objective proofs and there are way too many variables to produce a “beyond a reasonable doubt” proof. Again, bottom line is, did you get the job done? And there is nothing stopping anyone from using many search engines until they’re happy.

    Reply
    • A rhetorical question can imply that the asker’s mind is made up and they are not seeking input, but rather emphasizing their stance or viewpoint.
      “There’s a case to be made that promoting ads over search results is downright nasty, especially when the ads themselves are sometimes explicitly malicious and/or misleading.” That sounds objective to me.

      Reply
  22. How about a page full of all the URL’s to all of the search engines mentioned on this page, as of (say) May 15, 2024? (There has to be a date limit, or the link page would never end…)

    Reply
  23. Several times, I noticed the removal of the “correct result”, which I knew of, and am now using Startpage.com They claim that they use Google results, don’t use cookies, and don’t track you. Google won’t know how to mislead you, so I believe it has slightly better results.
    I recently made an exact search, in quotation marks, and there would be only one result. It took Google 4 pages of ads and some biased articles about some other subjects, before the correct result one was finally on the 5th page.

    Reply
  24. This article is well timed as the AI search results in Google pushed me over the edge.

    I am sure AI has a value and a place. The rush by virtually everyone to implement it has led to really awkward photos and text in areas that used to have human generated text.

    The only positive thing Google did was to clearly identify AI generated content. This should be a requirement everywhere.

    Reply
  25. Frankly, I have some trouble accepting this article’s premise. For me, Google has *never* been an acceptable search engine, due to its inability to determine relevance. Although I’ve tried using it every 6-12 months, it always delivers first a fistful of ads and populist garbage. I count myself fortunate if there’s anything applicable on the first page.

    Most notably, Google has been a leader in ignoring my search parameters, especially exact match and exclusions. All too often, a search for +”A B C” -“X” would return prioritized hits for X at the top, leaving the “A B C” hits at least five items down the list, or missing entirely.

    I use DDG; before that, Firefox was my default engine.

    Reply
  26. I complete agree with Leo’s advice to stop using Google Search.
    Google has gone terribly bad because it is owned and run by bad and despicable people who have nefarious and many unwelcome bad intentions.
    One huge reason that I despise and abhor Google and its owners and management is that they are very unfair, very selfish and very dangerous as they had a huge hand at our last presidential election where they purposely redirected people’s searches and also gave false information to sway voters away from one party to Google’s preferred candidates and Party.
    These kind of horrible and criminal behavior should never be allowed or be tolerated in our USA.

    Reply

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