I have compiled a short list of seven search engines that I think are worth using and I try to tell you why below.
I use different default search engines on different devices.
Smartphone: I use Google. Google integrates GPS for local search and maps better than the rest.
iPad: I use Bing. Bing still has local search plus decent web and news search.
HP Touchpad: this is my stay at home tablet so I’m more interested in straight web search, not local or mobile search. I use Blekko. That could change but for now Blekko is holding it’s own for general use. If I need a second opinion I use Startpage (see below.)
Laptop: This is where the work gets done. My default is DuckDuckGo because of privacy. If I need a second opinion I generally use Startpage.
Bing – The second largest search engine in size and users. Pretty good for both mobile and desktop use.
Blekko – Blekko deserves mention because it maintains it’s own unique database of web pages. Not a bad engine for everyday desktop use.
DuckDuckGo – DDG is a hybrid search engine which gets it’s database from several sources (including Bing) but then uses it’s own algorithm to render its own unique result. DDG’s big strength is privacy in that it never tracks what you are searching for nor does it keep a record of your searches. Over time this can be a profound advantage. Very few ads and nice clean interface. Recommended for desktop use.
Gigablast – Gigablast maintains it’s own database of the web using it’s own spider. I’m not convinced one can use Gigablast on it’s own for daily searching, but it is a valuable addition to many metasearch engines. Gigablast is often useful in digging up a good web page that Google or Bing somehow miss so it is useful for research.
Google – Google has pretty much become the gatekeeper for the web. No other search engine has indexed more pages and can retrieve them than Google. In addition Google offers a well done mobile version which is probably second to none.
With all that going for it, why would you use any other search engine? Problem 1. Privacy. Google tracks just about everything you do on the web either by it’s search engine, of it’s huge ad network or by social media. Over time they develop a pretty elaborate profile of you. Problem 2. Personalized results. One of the things Google does is use the data profile of users to change the search results each user sees when they search. That means that you are not seeing the same result for “science fiction” that your neighbor is seeing. In other words, Google is showing you what it thinks you want to see, rather than an objective returning the best quality search result. It is a bit like being advised by a yes man who tells you only what you want to hear. I expect this to get more pronounced over time. Librarians and researchers in particular should beware of this.
Ixquick* – Ixquick is a metasearch engine good for general desktop use. It gives good broad search returns and is useful for getting a general overview of web pages on a given topic.
Startpage * – Startpage uses Google, without the personalization and without the privacy concerns (see “Google” above). Desktop web search this is very handy. If you are happy with Google, but worried about privacy give Startpage a try.
*These search engines do not have their own database but use the database of other search engines.