Search Engines - which one to choose?

Can't really avoid them, so might as well put some effort into choosing a good one. Let's get the analysis started then!

- List of providers -
- Disroot -
- DuckDuckGo -
- Wiby -
- Jive Search -
- Qwant -
- MetaGer -
- StartPage -
- Swisscows -
- Mojeek -
- Ecosia -
- Summary -

List of providers

DuckDuckGo

The best combination of privacy, features and quality of results. Logs no data (including IP) except the actual search queries; has no third party requests, either. In addition to Bing and Yahoo (now Oath), it uses its own crawler to provide the search results (which I am very impressed with - no junk or bias; small sites can actually hope to be on page 1 if they're relevant). More than that - DDG displays "instant answers" from over than 400 different sources in the top right corner of the window. Has ads that can be disabled in the settings. In addition to regular sites, DDG can search for images, videos (YouTube results only) as well as news. As an aside, their website has some great privacy articles. That's one way with which I check if a service is trustworthy to me or not (not decisive by itself, of course). Another one is running an onion domain, which not even Disroot does. Great search engine all in all. Keep in mind that the developer used to run a social network that encouraged submitting other people's E-mail addresses to it. The service is also US-based if that bothers you for some reason.

Wiby.me

An interesting new search engine dedicated to lean, personal, old-school websites. Really recommend keeping an eye on that one - and you can literally support the creation of a better Internet by submitting websites to it (if you know a good one, you should really do that). No big corpos allowed here! Keeps logs for 48 hours (archive), though.

Jive Search

Another one with seemingly zero logging - we don't store your search terms, ip address nor information about your browser. - and even has a Tor domain. Supports searching only for regular sites (results sourced from Yandex - very high quality according to my short testing) and images (on the other hand, these suck). Provides Instant Answers similar to DDG and SearX. As with Ecosia, MetaGer and StartPage - relying on a single source for the results, regardless of its quality, is subject to eventual bias and censorship. That, as well as absolutely zero customizability (can't change the basic, ugly default theme, or even turn off autocomplete) means it's probably worse than DDG.

Disroot

No logging (IP included) or tracking. This is actually a SearX instance (archive), of which there are many of (but this particular one has the advantage of Disroot's privacy). The available search categories are General, Files, Images, IT, Map, Music, News, Science, Social Media and Videos (the most out of any engine listed here) - and you can choose which search providers (over 70 are available! But no own crawler, though it's not really needed.) are used to display the results for any of them. Unfortunately, Disroot search does not return the same results as the engines it allegedly uses and often cannot even go beyond the first page. The image results are also absolutely terrible regardless of configuration. There are many other options like enforcing HTTPs, removing trackers from returned URLs, changing the theme, content filtering, etc. SearX is also integrated with the Wayback Machine - this means you can check out the sites without connecting directly to them, even if they are not available anymore. However, since the results are what we use a search engine for in the first place, I cannot consider Disroot better than DDG until its issues are fixed.

Qwant

A French engine that claims to be private, and yet does not directly state that IP addresses are not logged - only that they are disassociated from your search queries. Another good thing about Qwant are the unbiased results - which is in fact their second admitted goal besides privacy - It applies its sorting algorithms with the same requirements, without trying to put forward some websites because it would suit some particular business, political or moral agenda [...] Qwant presents the reality of a complex world, with diverse opinions, which make it rich and worth living. Exactly as it should be - and I've confirmed it with tests. And yet, Qwant has inexplicably signed a censorship agreement (archive), so watch out for any changes in the results. Can search regular sites as well as news, videos, images, social networks (seems to be limited to Twitter) and shopping sites (that option doesn't seem to bring up results for me at all).

MetaGer

This one from Germany also advertises itself as private, but stores your IP - For this purpose alone, we store the full IP address and a timestamp for a maximum of 96 hours- and shares a part of it with advertisers: To receive this advertising, we give the first two blocks of the IP in connection with parts of the so-called user agent to our advertising partners. The search results come from Bing and Scopia, the latter of which gives absolutely terrible ones (but you can turn it off and rely on Bing only). Only has categories for regular sites, images and shopping (which brings up results from some useless Keikoo site). Includes a proxy through which you can view the returned websites anonymously, as well as an onion domain. However, due to the weak search results (what if Bing ever goes down or starts censoring stuff to the extent of Google?), I don't see much reason to use MetaGer over DDG.

StartPage

A privacy-based proxy for Google search. Does not log IP and claims to not store personal data, however it does collect aggregate data about operating systems, browsers, languages and others, and also shares it with Google - In order to enable the prevention of click fraud, some non-identifying system information is shared. Has unremovable Google ads at the top of the search page. However, the biggest issue with this one are the absolutely terrible search results - that is because Google runs a massive censorship campaign (archive), deranking any alternative or conspiratorial content. This means you will even get results that don't relate to your query at all - and I've confirmed it with tests. Try searching for something like "was the Christchurch shooting faked" and you will see what I mean. Then compare with Qwant or DDG. I did this for many other queries which would result in displaying alternative or conspiratorial websites (if the search engine was honest, that is), but instead showed me irrelevant trash. And that is the main reason I cannot recommend StartPage at all. Also, just like Google, it supports no other ways to search aside from Web and Images.

Swisscows

Has the best privacy around - storing no data aside from the number of search requests entered daily at Swisscows. Can search for images, videos, music, and even includes a translator. However, all the results are automatically made "family-friendly" - and you can't even translate swear words - which would make it pointless for many people.

Mojeek

The only one using entirely their own crawler - and it's visibly reflected in the results, since you pretty much can't find small sites. Its privacy isn't all that great either - logs contain the time of visit, page requested, possibly referral data, and browser information, but no IP addresses, unless...

a search query is deemed related to illegal and unethical practices relating to minors, then the full log including visiting IP address will be kept and gladly handed over to any official authorities that ask
Cool story, Mojeek. Does this include lolicon? Anyway, today it is CP - tomorrow the Christchurch shooting and any other graphic or otherwise objectionable material they might decide to censor. No serious privacy advocate should be relying too much on this one, though the own crawler is nice to not be dependent on the big corpos.

Ecosia

Their claim to fame has been planting trees for every 45 searches (that's an average) you make using their service - but this, of course, relies on Bing ads being displayed (and I doubt it can counter the rampant deforestation, anyway). It's not very private by default - For example, when you do a search on Ecosia we forward the following information to our partner, Bing: IP address, user agent string, search term, and some settings like your country and language setting. However it claims to respect the DNT header: If you have "Do Not Track" enabled in your browser settings we do not collect any analytics data. Most other websites ignore this setting - we think users should have a choice. Is the IP address apart of analytics data? Depending on how literally the DNT information is interpreted, Ecosia can become a pretty good choice, combining ethics and privacy. You can search for regular sites, Images, Videos, News and Maps. However, the search results are sourced exclusively from Bing.

Summary

As you can see, there are lots of choices here, with different strengths and weaknesses. Some support your privacy heavily, while others slightly less so (but have other advantages like combatting deforestation). Some can search for websites only, while others add images, videos, news, torrents and other categories. Some have a Tor domain, integrated proxified view or the Wayback Machine - and some even use their own unique crawler. How to reconcile all this? Well, my recommendation is to add them all to the search bar, so you can type a shortcut for whichever engine you feel like using at the moment. This time (unlike with browsers or social media, where we just scrape by), it is the privacy supporters that have won the war - truly, we've got an abundance of tools at our disposal here.