Best search engine
Last updated: November 4, 2022

Here’s the best search engine: DuckDuckGo.

Why: DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t track you. As the company puts it, “We don’t track you in or out of private browsing mode. Other search engines track your searches even when you’re in private browsing mode. We don’t track you – period.”

Business model: Advertising, though without the surveillance and tracking that Google and others rely on.

Whatever you do, don’t use Google for search.

• Web: duckduckgo.com

• Mac app: DuckDuckGo for Mac for OSX laptops/desktops – this is a Web browser that also functions as a search engine, as described in Best web browser

• iOS app: DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for iPhone/iPad – this app also functions as a Web browser, as described in Best web browser

• Android app: DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for Android devices (though we suggest avoiding Android if possible)

Disclosure: Mark Hurst (creator of Good Reports) has consulted to DuckDuckGo in the past.

Other options

Whoogle, a “self-hosted, ad-free, privacy-respecting metasearch engine.”

Mojeek, a UK-based search engine that doesn’t track users. Search results come from Mojeek’s own index, rather than tapping into another search engine – as detailed in Mojeek’s search engine map infographic.

Brave Search, created by the team behind the Brave web browser (listed here on GR). From the launch announcement: “Brave Search is built on top of a completely independent index, and doesn’t track users, their searches, or their clicks.”

Ecosia, a search engine that promises to use some of its profits to plant trees. It also claims to follow strict privacy standards.

Searx, “a free internet metasearch engine which aggregates results from more than 70 search services. Users are neither tracked nor profiled.” To search, first click into a specific instance on this list, such as US-based searx.bar.

• Even more options at switching.software, ethical.net, and Restore Privacy (which says more about Startpage - see below).

Different approaches

Weird Old Book Finder, by Clive Thompson, searches public-domain books from the 18th and 19th centuries. See Clive’s explanation.

Wiby is a search engine that only indexes small websites, according to the EFF’s Cooper Quintin.

Marginalia Search, an experimental search engine focused on small personal sites. In the words of its creator, “It’s perhaps not the greatest at finding what you already knew was there [but] is designed to help you find some things you didn’t even know you were looking for.”

Use with caution

Startpage promises to deliver Google search results without exposing your data to Google, promising that “personal data and search history are never recorded” and IP addresses are not logged. There’s also an “Anonymous View” feature that promises private viewing of any website you click into (much like what the DuckDuckGo browser does, as described in Best web browser). However, Startpage was purchased by an adtech company in 2019 (source: 1, 2), which makes us wary of using the site, since the privacy promises are coming from a company funded by (surveillance) adtech dollars.

Not recommended

• We are aware of Neeva, the new “ad-free, private” search engine. Neeva was founded by career Google execs who built the Google search-advertising platform that they now claim to be opposing. Neeva does not inspire confidence, so we recommend the options listed above.

• We are also aware of You.com, a relatively new search engine. Like Neeva, You.com has deep ties within Silicon Valley, as it was founded by career Salesforce execs.

• We no longer recommend Qwant, a Paris-based search engine that claims not to track users. As of June 2021 it was reported that Qwant, nearing bankruptcy, asked Huawei for a bailout in the millions of euros.

Related: Best visual search engines