Google Search generated $225 billion in revenue in 2022, thanks in part to being the default search engine on all Apple devices. To retain that position and continue reaping the ad revenue it generates, Google pays billions to Apple; phone manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola; major wireless carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon; and browser developers like Mozilla and Opera. These payments may lead to the question: is Google Search’s 90% market share due to it being the best search engine, or because it has enough money to pay distributors for top placement?
Some people also have concerns about potential bias in Google’s results or about the information Google collects to show targeted ads alongside search results. The argument is that better information on users leads to better targeted ads, which users are more likely to click on and thereby generate money for Google from advertisers.
If you are unsatisfied with Google’s search results or uncomfortable with the privacy implications of Google’s data gathering, try another search engine to see if you prefer its results and privacy stance.
How to Switch Search Engines
For Apple users, you can choose a preferred search engine in Safari’s settings: choose Safari > Settings > Search and select the desired search engine from the Search Engine pop-up menu. You can also choose a different search engine for Private Browsing windows.
In Chrome-based browsers like Google Chrome, Arc, Brave, Microsoft Edge, and Opera on the Mac, open Settings and look for Search Engine. A pop-up menu lets you choose from some standard options, and additional choices let you add search engines that are too new, or not paying, to appear. Firefox offers similar options in Firefox > Settings > Search.
On the iPhone and iPad, go to Settings > Safari > Search Engine. To use a different search engine in Private Browsing tabs, turn off Also Use In Private Browsing and select another option.
Top Alternative Search Engines
Conceptually, search engines search a set of Web pages for matching keywords and return a list of them in order of relevance to the user. The difficult part is dealing with the number of pages and scaling the service to respond instantly to tens or hundreds of millions of queries per day. Estimates suggest Google indexes 50 billion pages and processes 8.5 billion searches per day; Bing indexes 4.5 billion pages and handles 400 million daily searches.
Beyond Google, here are the main search engines and what sets them apart. (Note that if you come across Yandex—sometimes called the “Google of Russia”—avoid it.)
- Bing is the second-most popular search engine in the world. From Microsoft, Bing sets itself apart with a busy, highly designed search results page that mixes a variety of results—this may work for you, or may be overwhelming and difficult to parse. Bing claims to offer more user privacy than Google, but it still tracks users to better target ads.
- Yahoo was the first Web search engine, but it hasn’t run its own search index since 2009. Today, Yahoo’s search results are powered by Microsoft Bing, so while the search results page will look different, the results will be identical to Bing’s. Yahoo’s privacy stance is similar to Bing’s too.
- DuckDuckGo does not track or store user information, so it is a good choice when privacy is paramount. Its ads are chosen only by matching with search keywords. Although DuckDuckGo uses Bing for some of its results, it also incorporates information from numerous other sources.
- Ecosia is a Berlin-based option founded in 2009. The company is a “social business” that claims to be carbon-negative, offer full financial transparency, and protect users’ privacy. Ecosia relies entirely on Bing’s search results and ads, earning money through ad clicks. It claims to have planted over 188 million trees in 35 countries since its inception.
- Brave Search is a truly independent search engine. While it leaned on Google and Bing for some results early on, Brave Search now relies on its own created-from-scratch index. It emphasizes user privacy and does not track users, searches, or clicks. Brave Search displays keyword-based ads, but users can pay $3 monthly for Brave Search Premium for ads-free results pages.
- Kagi is another independent search engine that rolls its own index and provides access to members only, eschewing ads entirely. You can sign up for a 100-search test account, and if you like Kagi, you’ll pay $5 monthly for 300 searches or $10 monthly for unlimited searches.
So, if you have become disillusioned by Google, due to its search quality or its activity tracking for targeted ads, we recommend trying one of these suggested search engines to see if something else might just work better for you.