Web Search Alternatives

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Web Search Alternatives

by Geoff Keston

Docid: 00021156

Publication Date: 2107

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Alternative Web search engines
are vying for any available market share they can grab,
but they are mostly competing against each other instead of chipping
away at Google’s runaway lead. Many of these competitors are pursuing
strategies such as focusing on specialty categories like employment
opportunities or on features like privacy and semantic search.
And, like Google, these alternatives are moving away from the practice
of displaying pages of unsorted information, which is less helpful to
users, and toward
displaying pages that help users more easily scan and make sense of

Report Contents:


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name Google is
nearly synonymous with Internet search engines, but alternatives
have a significant place
in the market.

Faulkner Reports
Engine Privacy:
Policy and Practice Tutorial

The three closest competitors are Baidu, Bing, and Yahoo, and there
are many niche options. Alternatives
are seeking to attract and
retain users by making searches more useful and relevant, at least for
certain users and for certain purposes. Moreover, some search engines
specialize in particular functions to
differentiate themselves from Google. People-focused search engines in
networks return specialized results, job search engines help certain
types of users focus on only the information they need, and
international engines attempt to deliver truly globalized results.

Google has few
serious competitors, despite valiant
attempts by
innovators and specialists, the battle for users is nonetheless
a serious one. Displaying mere lists of
information may become obsolete, as uncluttered views with relevant
recommendations and suggestions based on natural language queries may
become the norm – particularly if Google continues
to innovate in
these directions.


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While there are many search engines available today, there are
few serious alternatives to Google, except in specific regions
like China and Russia (as discussed below). Table 1 lists the global
market shares of top players..

Table 1. Core Search
Leaders (Desktop Searches)
Search Entity
February 2018 January 2019

October 2020


74.23% 78.23% 69.30%


7.22% 8.04% 13.85%
Baidu 12.36% 7.34% 12.78%


4.21% 3.3% 1.76%

Source: NetMarketShare.1


Table 2. Core Search
Leaders (Mobile Searches)
Search Entity February 2018 January 2019 October 2020


86.73% 79.42% 92.87%


10.99% 17.66% 4.44%
Bing 0.89% 0.80% 0.81
Yahoo 0.95% 1.02% 0.57

Source: NetMarketShare.2

in on these market share numbers reveals that in two key global markets
— Russia and China — Google doesn’t dominate. In
Russia, which has close to 150 million people, Yandex controls over
half of the market. It also offers email, payment, and Web hosting
services and even a taxi company.3

the bigger story is China’s Baidu, both because of the size of its home
and because of the company’s overall size, which puts it firmly in
second place in the worldwide market. One notable feature of Baidu,
apart from its dominance in China, is that it is making strides in
artificial intelligence technology through Baidu Research, and not just
its use in search
The capabilities the company develops in the coming years could expand
its reach and increase its financial resources, thus making it a more
powerful search provider as well as enhancing its overall market

despite Google’s dominance, there are many other search engines that
are important for their privacy policies and specialized features, if
not for their market size. Some search
engines focus on specific types of searches and particular
ways to present results:

  • Relevant lists (DuckDuckGo)
  • Metasearches
    engines, such as Dogpile)
  • Decision
    suggestions, such as Bing)
  • Popular
    questions (such as Ask)
  • Portals

And some search engines focus
on particular types of content:

  • People (Facebook,
  • Jobs
    Monster, Indeed)
  • International
    information (Baidu,

Current View

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Google’s market share will not allow
any close for the foreseeable future. Other
search engines fall into two categories: competitors and alternatives.
Competitors aren’t poised to beat Google, but they limit its
marketshare, especially in certain regions. Top competitors, in
addition to regional leaders like Baidu and Yandex, include the

  • Ask groups
    answers, not just links, and it solicits real people for answers rather
    than relying on searches alone. In other words, users get answers not
    only from the Web but from people too. Using natural language is also
    a differentiator for this search engine, and Ask supports both simple
    and complex questions.
  • Bing is a
    search engine operated by Microsoft. It is the second place search
    engine in most markets.
  • Yahoo!
    basically operates as a portal. The company purports to offer
    relevant” information in context, connecting advertisers to consumers,
    well as minimizing what users do not need. While Yahoo! began as a
    human-monitored search engine, it has turned over responsibility for
    searches to Microsoft’s Bing.

on the other
hand, aim to occupy a niche, often by offering tighter privacy than do
larger search engines. Prominent examples of privacy-focused search
engines include the following:5

  • DuckDuckGo – Like Google, DuckDuckGo
    relevant lists. Unlike Google, its lists are less
    cluttered with ads. It emphasizes
    privacy, since it does not track users or collect or share personal
  • Search Encrypt – Searches are encrypted and
    redirected through a private search engine, and browsing history is
    deleted after half an hour.
  • StartPage – StartPage doesn’t store information
    from users, and it has an “anonymous
    view” that lets users preview a site without visiting, and thus without
    leaving the privacy protections of the site. Search results aren’t
    based on past searches.

The design of these privacy-focused search engines as well as traditional
search engines like Google is that
people can use natural language terms to find any type of information.
But there are many search
services and directories
that cater to niche or specialty markets rather than letting users find
information across the open Web.
Some of the more interesting of these sites
include the following:6

  • Bloggernity – Focused on blogs, this site provides a
    keyword-driven search engine as well as a browsable directory organized
    by category.
  • Boardreader – People
    can use Boardreader to search multiple forums and message boards with a
    single query.
  • Creative Commons (CC) Search – Returns only results
    that use some form of open access license from the Creative Commons
    organization. Open access resources are becoming increasingly common in
  • National
    Geographic’s Map Machine
    – This
    large collection of all of National Geographic’s maps in a searchable
    database includes world maps, satellite maps of Mars, Globe Explorer
    aerial imagery, and other content.
  • Quora
    – Quora lets users ask a question phrased in the syntax of a
    question, and then other people on the site provide an answer. It is
    different from search engines, which are keyword driven and which scan
    the Web automatically, but it is also different from message boards
    because it maintains only one master entry for each unique question.
  • Searchcode
    – Searchcode says that it lets users “search over 20 billion lines
    of code from 7,000,000 projects.” Users enter “a code snippet or
    function” into the search bar.
  • Social
    – With Social Mention, people can search across
    variety of
    social networking sites for information posted or generated by users.
  • USA.gov
    – Formerly known as FirstGov.gov, it is a sizable
    search engine and portal that gives researchers direct access to
    information from the United States government, state governments, and
    local governments.
  • Wiki.com – Searches only wikis, including but not
    limited to Wikipedia.
  • Wolfram Alpha – This site provides scientific data
    and mathematical calculations rather than openly scanning the Web.

a search is
confined to a
single, well-defined subject area, a niche
provider can often outperform Google and other leading general-purpose
search sites. Also, these niche search engines can be used as a
complement to the market leaders, providing supplementary research


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Search engine technology is mature, but it is also
still developing. Underdogs that
emphasize innovation and convenience are driving some users to
differentiated and specialized
engines. Moreover, new user interfaces and mobile
devices are inspiring still more innovations. The
outlook for alternative search engines is promising.

while alternatives have not diminished Google’s market standing,
regulators might. This threat is longstanding: According to
a report that was made public in 2015, the US Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) in 2012 portrayed Google as a monopoly and said that
the company’s actions have “resulted – and will result – in real harm
to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising
markets.”7 In October 2020, the US Justice Department sued
Google, which it called a “monopolist,” for allegedly breaking antitrust
laws. The Justice Department’s press release about the suite said: “As one
of the wealthiest companies on the planet with a market value of $1
trillion, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions
of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has
accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States
and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies
in search and search advertising.”8 There is even talk that
the federal government could push to forcibly break up of some large tech

interesting development is that in 2015, the alternative search
engine Blekko, which
used semantic
technology and human
curation, was bought by IBM and its technology was added to IBM’s
Watson project.10 (Blekko is no longer available
online.) Similarly, in 2018, Google acquired Tenor, which is a search
service for GIFs.11
These acquisitions
illustrate that some alternative search engines may be more
appealing as technologies than as standalone tools for end-users.


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their cue from Google, alternative Web search engines can develop an
integrated home page with links to any of their services. One-click
access is a convenient and appealing
feature –
it reflects an integrated user experience. Alliances – beyond the type
forged between Yahoo! and Bing – should
also be
explored. Perhaps a
triumvirate of a social media site, search engine, and network provider
include location-based services bundled together would be attractive.

importantly, alternative search engines should look to social media to
provide unique content to differentiate their results and provide
relevant context for them. In other words, beyond groupings,
decision engines, metasearches, and one-size-fits-all portals, context
could make content truly relevant. Thus, users themselves could
change the direction of a search. And while it may take a long time to
change the direction of a giant like Google, perhaps the alternative
search engines can make a quick turn, gain market share, and earn
greater status and revenue.

Web searchers should explore niche
search engines and portals, like IMDB and USA.gov, as these specialty
sites sometimes produce better results than mega-search engines
like Google and Bing.


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About the

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Geoff Keston is a project manager
for a leading technology
consulting and
services company. In this role, he has been responsible for the
successful completion of enterprise software implementations, network
upgrades, and telephony implementations for major retailers, financial
firms, and public institutions. Geoff also writes extensively on issues
relating to software, data networking, and e-commerce, as well as on
the cultural, economic, and political issues raised by technology. He
is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and a Certified Novell

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