Friday, December 18, 2020

Web Search Indexes and Ecosia in Safari

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

Google holds a significant leg up on Microsoft in more than market share. British competition authorities said Google’s index included about 500 billion to 600 billion web pages, compared with 100 billion to 200 billion for Microsoft.

Via John Gruber:

But I’ll bet the overwhelming number of searches are completely satisfied by the contents of pages indexed by Bing. It’s the quality of results that matters most. A 500 billion-page index is useless if it doesn’t surface the correct results.


What’s more interesting to me is that while there are a number of small search engines, Google and Bing are the only two comprehensive indexes. DuckDuckGo, for example, syndicates the contents of its index from Microsoft. Google has a monopoly on web search no matter how you look at the market, but there’s even less competition for indexing the web than there is for user-facing search engines. In fact, I think semantically it sort of breaks the engine in “search engine” — the term presupposes that the service showing you the results is the same service that is crawling the web to index them. That’s just not true today.

My experience has been that Google’s results are much better than Bing’s, which are better than DuckDuckGo’s.

Wesley Hilliard (via John Gruber):

Ecosia is a search engine that promotes privacy first and plants trees around the world, and with Mondays updates, it is now available as a default search engine setting on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Ecosia uses their income from search ads to fund planting trees around the world in harsh environments. The search engine doesn’t track users, encrypts searches, and anonymizes data within a week of it being created.

I’m going to give it a try, but given that it relies on the same Bing index I expect to be back with Google soon.


Update (2021-01-01): Ken Harris:

I remember why I stopped using @DuckDuckGo. It’s slow. It adds 10 seconds to every search when I have to:

- scroll down
- see that it’s not giving any useful hits
- scroll up
- add !g to the query and search again

DDG: great concept. Not quite there on execution.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter

I've been using for years, which is backed by google's search, but start page hides your identity. Good results + privacy.

That said, it's been impossible to run a browser plugin to make startpage the default search in Safari on the Mac since v13.

I had been using some ugly Keyboard Maestro hacks to get around this, but I finally switched to Firefox on Mac/iOS. It's rough giving up Safari but harder giving up a good search engine.

I use DDG as my iOS search engine mostly because they're the only one that respects the dark theme. (secondarily it's to avoid getting amp because I hate how amp pages feel.) I use google on the desktop. The worse results on mobile normally matter less because I'm searching for simpler things there.

As much as I don't like google's tracking, it is why I won't use another search engine. Google never returns links about Taylor Swift when I'm searching for something about the programming language.

@Mark: Just like any other search engine, Google is naturally good in some areas and bad in others. It has obvious biases. One of them is software development. This works out great if you care about one of the topics it biases towards.

I did a Google image search for "stiles", and the first 20 hits are all photos of (TIL) a fictional character on an MTV show about adolescent werewolves. I don't know how far down you would have to scroll to find an image that might be helpful for a woodworker setting up a cabinet because I gave up and added more terms until it worked.

Search is hard. Words and names can have many different meanings. I'm sure there are people who like seeing celebrities in their search results, too.

DDG's results are somehow getting worse over time.

DuckDuckGo works fine for me as a primary search engine, handling about 60% of my searches: usually when I'm too lazy to type a URL.

However Google is undeniably better. For software development questions there is no difference: largely this seems to be because it has (what I suspect is) a special-cased index over StackOverflow; however I also find other esoteric areas where Google excels.

Nevertheless, with this arrangement, I'm certainly not sharing as much information as I used to.

For Bing/DuckDuckGo, it's the long tail that's the issue.

FWIW, if you decide to try Duck Duck Go and don’t like your search results for a query, you can always start your search with: g!

Your search will then be piped through to Google for that instance. Starting a search with W! will search Wikipedia.

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