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A look at search engines with their own indexes

Posted by on his and Gemini capsule.
Last updated . Changelog.
About 6 thousand words; a somewhat long read


Preface

This is a cursory review of all the indexing search engines I have been able to find.

The three dominant English search engines with their own indexesnote 1 are Google, Bing, and Yandex (GBY). Many alternatives to GBY exist, but almost none of them have their own results; instead, they just source their results from GBY.

With that in mind, I decided to test and catalog all the different indexing search engines I could find. I prioritized breadth over depth, and encourage readers to try the engines out themselves if they’d like more information.

This page is a “living document” that I plan on updating indefinitely. Check for updates once in a while if you find this page interesting. Feel free to send me suggestions, updates, and corrections; I’d especially appreciate help from those who speak languages besides English and can evaluate a non-English indexing search engine. Contact info is in the article footer.

I plan on updating the engines in the top two categories with more info comparing the structured/linked data the engines leverage (RDFa vocabularies, microdata, microformats, JSON-LD, etc.) to help authors determine which formats to use.

Toggle table of contents

About the list

I discuss my motivation for making this page in the Rationale section.

I primarily evaluated English-speaking search engines because that’s my primary language. With some difficulty, I could probably evaluate a Spanish one; however, I wasn’t able to find many Spanish-language engines powered by their own crawlers.

I mention details like “allows site submissions” and structured data support where I can only to inform authors about their options, not as points in engines’ favor.

See the Methodology section at the bottom to learn how I evaluated each one.

General indexing search-engines

Large indexes, good results

These are large engines that pass all my standard tests and more.

Google
The biggest index. Allows submitting pages and sitemaps for crawling, and even supports WebSub to automate the process. Powers a few other engines:
Bing
The runner-up. Allows submitting pages and sitemaps for crawling without login using the IndexNow API. Its index powers many other engines:
  • Yahoo (and its sibling engine, One­Search)
  • DuckDuck­Gonote 2
  • AOL
  • Qwant (partial)note 3
  • Ecosia
  • Ekoru
  • Privado
  • Findx
  • Disconnect Searchnote 4
  • PrivacyWall
  • Lilo
  • Search­Scene
  • Peekier
  • Oscobo
  • Million Short
  • Yippy searchnote 5
  • Lycos
  • Givero
  • Swisscows
  • Fireball
  • Netzzappen
  • You.comnote 6
  • Partially powers MetaGer by default; this can be turned off
  • At this point, I mostly stopped adding Bing-based search engines. There are just too many.
Yandex
Originally a Russian search engine, it now has an English version. Some Russian results bleed into its English site. Like Bing, it allows submitting pages and sitemaps for crawling using the IndexNow API. Powers:
Mojeek
Seems privacy-oriented with a large index containing billions of pages. Quality isn’t at GBY’s level, but it’s not bad either. If I had to use Mojeek as my default general search engine, I’d live. Partially powers eTools.ch. At this moment, I think that Mojeek is the best alternative to GBY for general search.
Petal Search
A search engine by Huawei that recently switched from searching for Android apps to general search in order to reduce dependence on Western search providers. Despite its surprisingly good results, I wouldn’t recommend it due to privacy concerns: its privacy policy describes advanced fingerprinting metrics, and it doesn’t work without JavaScript. Requires an account to submit sites. I discovered this via my access logs. Be aware that in some jurisdictions, it doesn’t use its own index: in Russia and some EU regions it uses Yandex and Qwant, respectively.

Google, Bing, and Yandex support structured data such as microformats1, microdata, RDFa, Open Graph markup, and JSON-LD. Yandex’s support for microformats1 is limited; for instance, it can parse h-card metadata for organizations but not people. Open Graph and Schema.org are the only supported vocabularies I’m aware of. Mojeek is evaluating structured data; it’s interested in Open Graph and Schema.org vocabularies.

Smaller indexes or less relevant results

These engines pass most of the tests listed in the “methodology” section. All of them seem relatively privacy-friendly. I wouldn’t recommend using these engines to find specific answers; they’re better for learning about a topic by finding interesting pages related to a set of keywords.

Right Dao
Very fast, good results. Passes the tests fairly well. It plans on including query-based ads if/when its user base grows.note 7
Gigablast
It’s been around for a while and also sports a classic web directory. Searches are a bit slow, and it charges to submit sites for crawling. It powers Private.sh. Gigablast is tied with Right Dao for quality.
Alexandria
A pretty new “non-profit, ad free” engine, with freely-licensed code. Surprisingly good at finding recent pages. Its index is built from the Common Crawl; it isn’t as big as Gigablast or Right Dao but its ranking is great.
Yep
An ambitious engine from Ahrefs, an SEO/backlink-finder company, that “shares ad profit with creators and protects your privacy”. Most engines show results that include keywords from or related to the query; Yep also shows results linked by pages containing the query. In other words, not all results contain relevant keywords. This makes it excellent for less precise searches and discovery of “related sites”, especially with its index of hundreds of billions of pages. It’s far worse at finding very specific information or recent events for now, but it will probably improve. It was known as “FairSearch” before its official launch.
SeSe Engine
Although it’s a Chinese engine, its index seems to have a large-enough proportion of English content to fit here. The engine is open-source; see the SeSe back-end Python code and the SeSe-ui Vue-based front-end. It has surprisingly good results for such a low-budget project. Each result is annotated with detailed ranking metadata such as keyword relevance and backlink weight. Discovered in my access logs.

Yep supports Open Graph and some JSON-LD at the moment. A look through the source code for Alexandria and Gigablast didn’t seem to reveal the use of any structured data. The surprising quality of results from SeSe and Right Dao seems influenced by the crawlers’ high-quality starting location: Wikipedia.

Smaller indexes, hit-and-miss

These engines fail badly at a few important tests. Otherwise, they seem to work well enough.

seekport
The interface is in German but it supports searching in English just fine. The default language is selected by your locale. It’s really good considering its small index; it hasn’t heard of less common terms (e.g. “Seirdy”), but it’s able to find relevant results in other tests.
Exalead
Slow, quality is hit-and-miss. Its indexer claims to crawl the DMOZ directory, which has since shut down and been replaced by the Curlie directory. No relevant results for “Oppenheimer” and some other history-related queries. Allows submitting individual URLs for indexing, but requires solving a Google reCAPTCHA and entering an email address.
ExactSeek
Small index, disproportionately dominated by big sites. Failed multiple tests. Allows submitting individual URLs for crawling, but requires entering an email address and receiving a newsletter. Webmaster tools seem to heavily push for paid SEO options. It also powers SitesOnDisplay and Blog-search.com.
Infotiger
A small index that seems to find relevant results. It allows site submission for English and German pages. It also features a “similarity” search to query pages similar to a given link, with mixed results.
Burf.co
Very small index, but seems fine at ranking more relevant results higher. Allows site submission without any extra steps.
Entfer
a newcomer that lets registered users upvote/downvote search results to customize ranking. Doesn’t offer much information about who made it. Its index is small, but it does seem to return results related to the query.
Siik
Lacks contact info, and the ToS and Privacy Policy links are dead. Seems to have PHP errors in the backend for some of its instant-answer widgets. If you scroll past all that, it does have web results powered by what seems to be its own index. These results do tend to be somewhat relevant, but the index seems too small for more specific queries.
websearchengine.org
tuxdex.com
Both are run by the same people, powered by their inetdex.com index. Searches are fast, but crawls are a bit shallow. Claims to have an index of 10 million domains, and not to use cookies.
ChatNoir
An experimental engine by researchers that uses the Common Crawl index. The engine is open source. See the announcement on the Common Crawl mailing list (Google Groups).
Secret Search Engine Labs
Very small index with very little SEO spam; it toes the line between a “search engine” and a “surf engine”. It’s best for reading about broad topics that would otherwise be dominated by SEO spam, thanks to its CashRank algorithm. Allows site submission.

Unusable engines, irrelevant results

Results from these search engines don’t seem at all useful.

Yessle
Seems new; allows page submission by pasting a page into the search box. Index is really small but it crawls new sites quickly. Claims to be private.
Bloopish
Extremely quick to update its index; site submissions show up in seconds. Unfortunately, its index only contains a few thousand documents (under 100 thousand at the time of writing). It’s growing fast: if you search for a term, it’ll start crawling related pages and grow its index.
YaCy
Community-made index; slow. Results are awful/irrelevant, but can be useful for intranet or custom search.
Scopia
only seems to be available via the MetaGer metasearch engine after turning off Bing and news results. Tiny index, very low-quality.
Artado Search
Primarily Turkish, but it also seems to support English results. Like Plumb, it uses client-side JS to fetch results from existing engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Petal, and others); like MetaGer, it has an option to use its own independent index. Results from its index are almost always empty. Very simple queries (“twitter”, “wikipedia”, “reddit”) give some answers. Supports site submission and crowdsourced instant answers.
Active Search Results
Very poor quality. Results seem highly biased towards commercial sites.
Crawlson
Young, slow. In this category because its index has a cap of 10 URLs per domain. I initially discovered Crawlson in the seirdy.one access logs.
Anoox
Results are few and irrelevant; fails to find any results for basic terms. Allows site submission. It’s also a lightweight social network and claims to be powered by its users, letting members vote on listings to alter rankings.
Yioop!
A FLOSS search engine that boasts a very impressive feature-set: it can parse sitemaps, feeds, and a variety of markup formats; it can import pre-curated data in forms such as access logs, Usenet posts, and WARC archives; it also supports feed-based news search. Despite the impressive feature set, Yioop’s results are few and irrelevant due to its small index. It allows submitting sites for crawling. Like Meorca, Yioop has social features such as blogs, wikis, and a chat bot API.
Marlo
Another FLOSS engine: [Marlo is written in Haskell]. Has a small index that’s good enough for surfing broad topics, but not good enough for specific research.

Semi-independent indexes

Engines in this category fall back to GBY when their own indexes don’t have enough results. As their own indexes grow, some claim that this should happen less often.

Brave Search
Many tests (including all the tests I listed in the “Methodology” section) resulted results identical to Google, revealed by a side-by-side comparison with Google, Startpage, and a Searx instance with only Google enabled. Brave claims that this is due to how Cliqz (the discontinued engine acquired by Brave) used query logs to build its page models and was optimized to match Google.note 8 The index is independent, but optimizing against Google resulted in too much similarity for the real benefit of an independent index to show. Furthermore, many queries have Bing results mixed in; users can click an “info” button to see the percentage of results that came from its own index. The independent percentage is typically quite high (often close to 100% independent) but can drop for advanced queries.
Plumb
Almost all queries return no results; when this happens, it falls back to Google. It’s fairly transparent about the fallback process, but I’m concerned about how it does this: it loads Google’s Custom Search scripts from cse.google.com onto the page to do a client-side Google search. This can be mitigated by using a browser addon to block cse.google.com from loading any scripts. Plumb claims that this is a temporary measure while its index grows, and they’re planning on getting rid of this. Allows submitting URLs, but requires solving an hCaptcha. This engine is very new; hopefully as it improves, it could graduate from this section. Its Chief Product Officer previously founded the Gibiru search engine which shares the same affiliates and (for now) the same index; the indexes will diverge with time.
Neeva
Combines Bing results with results from its own index. Bing normally isn’t okay with this, but Neeva is one of few exceptions. As of right now, results are mostly identical to Bing but original links not found by Bing frequently pop up. Long and esoteric queries are less likely to feature original results. Requires signing up with an email address or OAuth to use, and offers a paid tier with additional benefits.
Qwant
Qwant claims to use its own index, but it still relies on Bing for most results. It seems to be in a position similar to Neeva. Try a side-by-side comparison to see if or how it compares with Bing.
Kagi Search
The most interesting entry in this category, IMO. Like Neeva, it requires an account; it will eventually require payment. It’s powered by its own Teclis index (Teclis can be used independently; see the non-commercial section below), and claims to also use results from Google and Bing. The result seems somewhat unique: I’m able to recognize some results from the Teclis index mixed in with the mainstream ones. In addition to Teclis, Kagi’s other products include the Kagi.ai intelligent answer service and the TinyGem social bookmarking service, both of which play a role in Kagi.com in the present or future.

These indexing search engines don’t have a Google-like “ask me anything” endgame; they’re trying to do something different. You aren’t supposed to use these engines the same way you use GBY.

Small or non-commercial Web

Marginalia Search
My favorite entry on this page. It has its own crawler but is strongly biased towards non-commercial, personal, and/or minimal sites. It’s a great response to the increasingly SEO-spam-filled SERPs of GBY. Partially powers Teclis, which in turn partially powers Kagi. Update 2022-05-28: Marginalia.nu is now open source.
Teclis
A project by the creator of Kagi search. Uses its own crawler that measures content blocked by uBlock Origin, and extracts content with the open-source article scrapers Trafilatura and Readability.js. This is quite an interesting approach: tracking blocked elements discourages tracking and advertising; using Trafilatura and Readability.js encourages the use of semantic HTML and Semantic Web standards such as microformats, microdata, and RDFa. It claims to also use some results from Marginalia.

Site finders

These engines try to find a website, typically at the domain-name level. They don’t focus on capturing particular pages within websites.

Kozmonavt
The best in this category. Has a small but growing index of over 8 million sites. If I want to find the website for a certain project, Kozmonavt works well (provided its index has crawled said website). It works poorly for learning things and finding general information. I cannot recommend it for anything serious since it lacks contact information, a privacy policy, or any other information about the org/people who made it. Discovered in the seirdy.one access logs.
search.tl
Generalist search for one TLD at a time (defaults to .com). I’m not sure why you’d want to always limit your searches to a single TLD, but now you can.note 9 There isn’t any visible UI for changing the TLD for available results; you need to add/change the tld URL parameter. For example, to search .org sites, append &tld=org to the URL. It seems to be connected to Amidalla. Amidalla allows users to manually add URLs to its index and directory; I have yet to see if doing so impacts search.tl results.
Thunderstone
A combined website catalog and search engine that focuses on categorization. Its about page claims: We continuously survey all primary COM, NET, and ORG web-servers and distill their contents to produce this database. This is an index of sites not pages. It is very good at finding companies and organizations by purpose, product, subject matter, or location. If you’re trying to finding things like ‘BillyBob’s personal beer can page on AOL’, try Yahoo or Dogpile. This seems to be the polar opposite of the engines in the “small or non-commercial Web” category.
sengine.info
Only shows domains, not individual pages. Developed by netEstate GmbH, which specializes in content extraction for inprints and job ads. Also has a German-only version available. Discovered in my access logs.
Gnomit
Allows single-keyword queries and returns sites that seem to cover a related topic. I actually kind of enjoy using it; results are old (typically from 2009) and a bit random, but make for a nice way to discover something new. For instance, searching for “IRC” helped me discover new IRC networks I’d never heard of.

Other

Keybot
A must-have for anyone who does translation work. It crawls the web looking for multilingual websites. Translators who are unsure about how to translate a given word or phrase can see its usage in two given languages, to learn from other human translators. My parents are fluent English speakers but sometimes struggle to express a given Hindi idiom in English; something like this could be useful to them, since machine translation isn’t nuanced enough for every situation. Part of the TTN Translation Network. Discovered in my access logs.
Quor
Seems to mainly index large news sites. Site is down as of June 2021; originally available at www dot quor dot com.
Semantic Scholar
A search engine by the Allen Institute for AI focused on academic PDFs, with a couple hundred million papers indexed. Discovered in my access logs.
Bonzamate
A search engine specifically for Australian websites. Boyter wrote an interesting blog post about Bonzamate.
searchcode
A code-search engine by the developer of Bonzamate. Searches a hand-picked list of code forges for source code, supporting many search operators.

Other languages

I’m unable to evaluate these engines properly since I don’t speak the necessary languages. English searches on these are a hit-or-miss. I might have made a few mistakes in this category.

Big indexes

  • Baidu: Chinese. Very large index; it’s a major engine alongside GBY. Offers webmaster tools for site submission.

  • Qihoo 360: Chinese. I’m not sure how independent this one is.

  • Toutiao: Chinese. Not sure how independent this one is either.

  • Sogou: Chinese

  • Yisou: Chinese

  • Naver: Korean. Allows submitting sitemaps and feeds. Discovered via some Searx metasearch instances.

  • Daum: Korean. Also unsure about this one’s independence.

  • Seznam: Czech, seems relatively privacy-friendly. Discovered in the seirdy.one access logs. It allows site submission with webmaster tools.

  • Cốc Cốc: Vietnamese

  • go.mail.ru: Russian

Smaller indexes

Almost qualified

These engines come close enough to passing my inclusion criteria that I felt I had to mention them. They all display original organic results that you can’t find on other engines, and maintain their own indexes. Unfortunately, they don’t quite pass.

wiby.me
wiby.org
I love this one. It focuses on smaller independent sites that capture the spirit of the “early” web. It’s more focused on “discovering” new interesting pages that match a set of keywords than finding a specific resources. I like to think of Wiby as an engine for surfing, not searching. Runnaroo occasionally features a hit from Wiby. If you have a small site or blog that isn’t very “commercial”, consider submitting it to the index. Does not qualify because it seems to be powered only by user-submitted sites; it doesn’t try to “crawl the Web”.
Mwmbl
Like YaCy, it’s an open-source engine whose crawling is community-driven. Users can install a Firefox addon to crawl pages in its backlog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t qualify because it only crawls pages linked by hand-picked sites (e.g. Wikipedia, GitHub, domains that rank well on Hacker News). The crawl-depth is “1”, so it doesn’t crawl the whole Web (yet).
Search My Site
Similar to Marginalia and Teclis, but only indexes user-submitted personal and independent sites. It optionally supports IndieAuth. Its API powers this site’s search results; try it out using the search bar at the bottom of this page. Does not qualify because it’s limited to user-submitted and/or hand-picked sites.

Misc

Ask.com
The site is back. They claim to outsource search results. The results seem similar to Google, Bing, and Yandex; however, I can’t pinpoint exactly where their results are coming from. Also, several sites from the “ask.com network” such as directhit.com, info.com, and kensaq.com have uniqe-looking results.
Infinity Search
Partially evaluated. Young, small index. It recently split into a paid offering with the main index and Infinity Decentralized, the latter of which allows users to select from community-hosted crawlers. I managed to try it out before it became a paid offering, and it seemed decent; however, I wasn’t able to run the tests listed in the “Methodology” section. Allows submitting URLs and sitemaps into a text box, no other work required.

Search engines without a web interface

Some search engines are integrated into other appliances, but don’t have a web portal.

  • Apple’s search engine is usable in the form of “Siri Suggested Websites”. Its index is built from the Applebot web crawler. If Apple already has working search engine, it’s not much of a stretch to say that they’ll make a web interface for it someday.

  • Amazon bought Alexa Internet (a web traffic analysis company, at the time unrelated to the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant) and discontinued its website ranking product. Amazon still runs the relevant crawlers, and also have a bot called “Amazonbot”. While Applebot powers the Siri personal assistant, Amazonbot powers the Alexa personal assistant to answer even more questions for customers. Crawling the web to answer questions is the basis of a search engine.

Graveyard

These engines were originally included in the article, but have since been discontinued.

wbsrch
In addition to its generalist search, it also had many other utilities related to domain name statistics. Failed multiple tests. Its index was a bit dated; it had an old backlog of sites it hadn’t finished indexing. It also had several dedicated per-language indexes.
Gowiki
Very young, small index, but showed promise. I discovered this in the seirdy.one access logs. It was only available in the US. Seems down as of early 2022.
Meorca
A UK-based search engine that claims not to “index pornography or illegal content websites”. It also features an optional social network (“blog”). Discovered in the seirdy.one access logs.
Ninfex
A “people-powered” search engine that combines aspects of link aggregators and search. It lets users vote on submissions and it also displays links to forums about submissions.

Exclusions

Two engines were excluded from this list for having a far-right focus.

One engine was excluded because it seems to be built using cryptocurrency in a way I’d rather not support.

Some fascinating little engines seem like hobbyist proofs-of-concept. I decided not to include them in this list, but watch them with interest to see if they can become something viable.

Rationale

Why bother using non-mainstream search engines?

Conflicts of interest

Google, Microsoft (the company behind Bing), and Yandex aren’t just search engine companies; they’re content and ad companies as well. For example, Google hosts video content on YouTube and Microsoft hosts social media content on LinkedIn. This gives these companies a powerful incentive to prioritize their own content. They are able to do so even if they claim that they treat their own content the same as any other: since they have complete access to their search engines’ inner workings, they can tailor their content pages to better fit their algorithms and tailor their algorithms to work well on their own content. They can also index their own content without limitations but throttle indexing for other crawlers.note 10

One way to avoid this conflict of interest is to use search engines that aren’t linked to major content providers; i.e., use engines with their own independent indexes.

Information diversity

There’s also a practical, less-ideological reason to try other engines: different providers have different results. Websites that are hard to find on one search engine might be easy to find on another, so using more indexes and ranking algorithms results in access to more content.

No search engine is truly unbiased. Most engines’ ranking algorithms incorporate a method similar to PageRank, which biases them towards sites with many backlinks. Search engines have to deal with unwanted results occupying the confusing overlap between SEO spam, shock content, and duplicate content. When this content’s manipulation of ranking algos causes it to rank high, engines have to address it through manual action or algorithm refinement. Choosing to address it through either option, or choosing to leave it there for popular queries after receiving user reports, reflects bias. The best solution is to mix different ranking algorithms and indexes instead of using one engine for everything.

Method­ology

Discovery

I find new engines by:

  • Monitoring certain web directories for changes in their search engine listings.
  • Checking other curated lists of “good/bad bots” to spot search engines.
  • Using search engines to discover search engines: searching for the names of less-popular engines often pulls up similar lists.
  • Receiving suggestions from readers
  • Compiling a list of regular expressions for user-agent strings I’m familiar with. Before I delete my server access logs, I extract user-agents that don’t match that list along with the pages they request.
  • Checking the Searx and Searxng projects for new integrations.

Criteria for inclusion

Engines in this list should have their own indexes powered by by web crawlers. Original results should not be limited to a set of websites hand-picked by the engine creators; indexes should be built from sites from across the Web. An engine should discover new interesting places around the Web.

Here’s an oversimplified example to illustrate what I’m looking for: imagine somone self-hosts their own personal or interest-specific website and happens to get some recognition. Could they get automatically discovered by your crawler, indexed, and included in the first page of results for a certain query?

I’m willing to make two exceptions:

  1. Engines in the “semi-independent” section may mix results that do meet the aforementioned criteria with results that do not.
  2. Engines in the “almost qualified” section may use indexes primarily made of user-submitted or hand-picked sites, rather than focusing primarily on sites discovered organically through crawling.

The reason the second exception exists is that while user submissions don’t represent automatic crawling, they do at least inform the engine of new interesting websites that it had not previously discovered; these websites can then be shown to other users. That’s fundamentally what an alternative web index needs to achieve.

I’m not usually willing to budge on my “no hand-picked websites” rule. Hand-picked sites will be ignored, whether your engine fetches content through their APIs or crawls and scrapes their content. It’s fine to use hand-picked websites as starting points for your crawler (Wikipedia is a popular option).

I only consider search engines that focus on link results for webpages. Image search engines are out of scope, though I might consider some other engines for non-generalist search (e.g., Semantic Scholar finds PDFs rather than webpages).

Evaluation

I focused almost entirely on “organic results” (the classic link results), and didn’t focus too much on (often glaring) privacy issues, “enhanced” or “instant” results (e.g. Wikipedia sidebars, related searches, Stack Exchange answers), or other elements.

I compared results for esoteric queries side-by-side; if the first 20 results were (nearly) identical to another engine’s results (though perhaps in a slightly different order), they were likely sourced externally and not from an independent index.

I tried to pick queries that should have a good number of results and show variance between search engines. An incomplete selection of queries I tested:

  • “vim”, “emacs”, “neovim”, and “nvimrc”: Search engines with relevant results for “nvimrc” typically have a big index. Finding relevant results for the text editors “vim” and “emacs” instead of other topics that share the name is a challenging task.

  • “vim cleaner”: should return results related to a line of cleaning products rather than the Correct Text Editor.

  • “Seirdy”: My site is relatively low-traffic, but my nickname is pretty unique and visible on several of the highest-traffic sites out there.

  • “Project London”: a small movie made with volunteers and FLOSS without much advertising. If links related to the movie show up, the engine’s really good.

  • “oppenheimer”: a name that could refer to many things. Without context, it should refer to the physicist who worked on the atomic bomb in Los Alamos. Other historical queries: “magna carta” (intermediate), “the prince” (very hard).

Some less-mainstream engines have noticed this article, which is great! I’ve had excellent discussions with people who work on several of these engines. Unfortunately, this article’s visibility also incentivizes some engines to optimize specifically for any methodology I describe. I’ve addressed this by keeping a long list of test queries to myself. The simple queries above are a decent starting point for simple quick evaluations, but I also test for common search operators, keyword length, and types of domain-specific jargon. I also use queries designed to pull up specific pages with varying levels of popularity and recency to gauge the size, scope, and growth of an index.

Professional critics often work anonymously because personalization can damage the integrity of their reviews. For similar reasons, I attempt to try each engine anonymously at least once by using a VPN and/or my standard anonymous setup: an amnesiac Whonix VM with the Tor Browser. I also often test using a fresh profile when travelling, or via a Searx instance if it supports a given engine. When avoiding personalization, I use “varied” queries that I don’t repeat verbatim across search engines; this reduces the likelihood of identifying me. I also attempt to spread these tests out over time so admins won’t notice an unusual uptick in unpredictable and esoteric searches. This might seem overkill, but I already regularly employ similar methods for a variety of different scenarios.

Caveats

I didn’t try to avoid personalization when testing engines that require account creation. Entries in the “hit-and-miss” and “unusable” sections got less attention: I didn’t spend a lot of effort tracking results over time to see how new entries got added to them.

I avoided “natural language” queries like questions, focusing instead on keyword searches and search operators. I also mostly ignored infoboxes (also known as “instant answers”).

Findings

What I learned by building this list has profoundly changed how I surf.

Using one engine for everything ignores the fact that different engines have different strengths. For example: while Google is focused on being an “answer engine”, other engines are better than Google at discovering new websites related to a broad topic. Fortunately, browsers like Chromium and Firefox make it easy to add many search engine shortcuts for easy switching.

When talking to search engine founders, I found that the biggest obstacle to growing an index is getting blocked by sites. Cloudflare is one of the worst offenders. Too many sites block perfectly well-behaved crawlers, only allowing major players like Googlebot, BingBot, and TwitterBot; this cements the current duopoly over English search and is harmful to the health of the Web as a whole.

Too many people optimize sites specifically for Google without considering the long-term consequences of their actions. One of many examples is how Google’s JavaScript support rendered the practice of testing a website without JavaScript or images “obsolete”: almost no non-GBY engines on this list are JavaScript-aware.

When building webpages, authors need to consider the barriers to entry for a new search engine. The best engines we can build today shouldn’t replace Google. They should try to be different. We want to see the Web that Google won’t show us, and search engine diversity is an important step in that direction.

Try a “bad” engine from lower in the list. It might show you utter crap. But every garbage heap has an undiscovered treasure. I’m sure that some hidden gems you’ll find will be worth your while. Let’s add some serendipity to the SEO-filled Web.

Acknow­ledgements

Some of this content came from the Search Engine Map and Search Engine Party. A few web directories also proved useful.

from also gave me some helpful information about GBY which I included in the “Rationale” section. He’s written more about big tech in the Gigablast blog.

by is a great post on alternative search engines. He also gave me some useful details about Seznam, Naver, Baidu, and Goo.


Notes

  1. Yes, “indexes” is an acceptable plural form of the word “index”. The word “indices” sounds weird to me outside a math class. 

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  2. DuckDuckGo has a crawler called DuckDuckBot. This crawler doesn’t impact the linked results displayed; it just grabs favicons and scrapes data for a few instant answers. DuckDuckGo’s help pages claim that the engine uses over 400 sources; my interpretation is that at least 398 sources don’t impact organic results. I don’t think DuckDuckGo is transparent enough about the fact that their organic results are proxied. Compare DuckDuckGo side-by-side with Bing and Yandex and you’ll see it’s sourcing organic results from one of them (probably Bing). Update, March 2022: DuckDuckGo has the ability to downrank results on its own; it was previously working with Bing to get Bing to remove misinformation and spam. 

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  3. Qwant claims to also use its own crawler for results, but it’s still mostly Bing in my experience. See the “semi-independent” section. 

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  4. Disconnect Search allows users to have results proxied from Bing or Yahoo, but Yahoo sources its results from Bing. 

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  5. Yippy claims to be powered by a certain IBM brand (a brand that could correspond to any number of products) and annotates results with the phrase “Yippy Index”, but a side-by-side comparison with Bing and other Bing-based engines revealed results to be nearly identical. 

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  6. I’m in the process of re-evaluating You.com. It claims to operate a crawler and index. It seems very much like DuckDuckGonote 3 to me: organic results look like they’re from Bing, while infoboxes (“apps”) seem to be scraped or queried from hand-picked websites. I’m not currently seeing results from “around the web” like the other engines that do pass my inclusion criteria. I might be wrong! I’m re-evaluating it to see if this isn’t actually the case. 

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  7. This is based on a statement Right Dao made in on Reddit (archived). 

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  8. More information can be found in this HN subthread and some posts on the Cliqz tech blog (one, two). 

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  9. Some search engines support the site: search operator to limit searches to subpages or subdomains of a single site or TLD. site:.one, for instance, limits searches to websites with the “.one” TLD. 

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  10. Matt from Gigablast told me that indexing YouTube or LinkedIn will get you blocked if you aren’t Google or Microsoft. I imagine that you could do so by getting special permission if you’re a megacorporation. 

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I added some new search engines to the directory here.  What makes these worth listing is they all have their own index.  This makes them unique even though the index may currently be small.GoWiki – Small, growing, privacy.Petal Search – New commercial search engine from Huawei.  I think their index is fairly large.  I don’t know if they are using another search engine (maybe Yandex?) for backfill. Assume it is not private.Plumb One – Index is small, growing.  Plumb uses Bing to …

Siete stanchi delle solite ricerche e state cercando delle alternative a Google Search? La quantità di tracker e la capacità di profilazione di Google potrebbe allarmare molti anche perché oltre ad un evidente problema etico e morale nell’essere costantemente seguiti e profilati c’è anche il problema della cosiddetta ‘bolla culturale’. In breve significa che conoscendovi così bene Google vi proporrà principalmente cose che, secondo lui, a voi interessano evitandovi così di ampl…

Rohan Kumar has a list of search engines with their own index. It’s a really useful list and it breaks it into several categories. Such as: Engines with their own crawling and indexing.A list of engines that leverage other engines’ indexes. A list of engines that have their own smaller indexes.Big and small indexes for other languages. These lists are hard to put together. It’s challenging to unwind what’s happening behind the scenes, but this document covers a lot of groun…

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Bookmarked: Here is a good rundown of search engines that have their own index, including some new ones to me. seirdy.one/2021/03/1…

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For completeness, at Neeva we're also investing heavily to build out our web index and search capabilities. Beyond the public web we already index connected accounts like Dropbox to safely search across personal docs in one place. Keep an eye out for NeevaBot and more if you're a webmaster. ;)

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It's interesting, somehow I (exclusively qualitatively) perceive that Qwant gives me better results than Bing/DDG, but after reading this I put them side by side and it looks like they are similar than I thought! I guess I feel more comfortable using a search engine that's based out of the US though.

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@odd I would really like for Apple to develop a search engine. It might take a few years for them to make it really work but I think it would be good for the web. Same here, I really like DuckDuckGo and Mojeek.com and use those two almost exclusively.

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This is a really good look at alternative search engines. Something I have been meaning to write for a while but never got around to doing. seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

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This is a good read. Im noticing changes on my search results. A look at search engines with their own indexes - Seirdy seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

Search engines work by building a database of what pages exist on the web (which it does by sending out “spiders” to “crawl” pages, following all the links they find to other pages), analysing them in some way, and using an algorithm to produce what it thinks are the most relevant results for any search term you type in. For English-language sites, the two biggest search engines, which have the resources to do their own crawling, are Google and Microsoft’s Bing. These seem to be the…

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Much more than a cursory review: seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

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This comment may have major formatting errors that could impact screen reader comprehension.

Surely it's possible to make a search engine that's only biased towards relevant content.

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This comment may have major formatting errors that could impact screen reader comprehension.

Excellent read by @Seirdy A look at search engines with their own indexes: https://seirdy.one/2021/03/10/search-engines-with-own-indexes.htmlMake sure to take a moment to read through some of the references too A look at search engines with their own indexes

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A look at search engines with their own indexes: seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

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Search engine survey: Comprehensively broad collection of search engines. There's only really 3 for English: Google, Bing, and Yandex. seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea… google bing search via:lobsters tootme

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March 2022 is no more. I’m starting to feel the same time anxiousness that Winnie Lim wrote about: it feels like yesterday writing “February 2022 is no more”, while this month has three more days than the previous one! Looking back at the March blog posts, they were mostly about music: creating your own streaming server, choosing the right codec, an introduction to hip-hop. I recently extended my self-hosted Docker images with Gitea (and moved a few low-impact and private repositories o…

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Did you know @Bing's index helps power these search engines? Yahoo! (& One­Search) DuckDuck­Go AOL Qwant (partial) Ecosia Ekoru Privado Findx Disconnect Search PrivacyWall Lilo Search­Scene Peekier Oscobo Million Short Yippy search Lycos Givero & more... seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

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I have added quite a few new listings.  Some are submissions and some are editorial adds. Also added are some new categories:Amtrak: under Recreation > Travel  I added some useful guides for traveling on Amtrak rail.  Because we have to decrease our use of cars and airplanes for travel so be need to start figuring out how we can use Amtrak.Europe: under News  I found these useful and not overly commercial. I also added a couple of search engines to the existing category. Source for the…

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Using one Search Engine (SE) for everything ignores the fact that different engines have different strengths. This report offers a comprehensive overview of various SEs and the algorithms that power them. #OSINT #SearchEngines #OnlineSearch seirdy.one/2021/03/10/sea…

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This comment may have major formatting errors that could impact screen reader comprehension.

A large overview of search projects that build their own indexes..https://seirdy.one/2021/03/10/search-engines-with-own-indexes.html A look at search engines with their own indexes

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A whole review of search engines seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

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Reply to how would html.duckduckgo.com fit into this? by @penryn@www.librepunk.club I was referring to crawlers that build indexes for search engines to use. DuckDuckGo does have a crawler—DuckDuckBot—but it’s only used for fetching favicons and scraping certain sites for infoboxes (“instant answers”, the fancy widgets next to/above the classic link results). DuckDuckGo and other engines that use Bing’s commercial API have contractual arrangements that typically inc…

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if this is the workaround that Neeva had to come up with that took them an inordinate amount of time and resources, they might need to hire all new engineers 😆> This forces startups to spend inordinate amounts of time and resources coming up with workarounds. For example, Neeva implements a policy of “crawling a site so long as the robots.txt allows GoogleBot and does not specifically disallow Neevabot.”

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Not that Google would go for this, but maybe instead of search neutrality we need collective crawling? One co-op crawling body with neutral access terms for that data.And perhaps this could be coupled with a push model instead of a pull model. Websites that want to be included in search can submit new or changed URLs once a day for the crawler to pick up.Then search engines can optimize access to their pool of data without burdening sites.This has been my daily thonk. :thonking:

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Starts off being a review of search engines, ends up almost a thesis. seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

Tomáš Jakl this
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看到「A look at search engines with their own indexes」這篇在介紹各個搜尋引擎,作者設計了一套方法測試,另外在文章裡面也給了很多主觀的意見,算是很有參考價值的,可以試看看裡面提出來的建議。 另外在 Hacker News 上也有討論可以參考:「A look at search engines with their own indexes (2021) (seirdy.one)」。 在文章開頭的「General indexing search-engines」這個章節,先列出三大搜尋引擎 GBY (Google�…

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本文作者 Rohan Kumar 發現,搜尋引擎使用的索引很集中,以英語世界來說,大多來自「GBY」(Google, Bing 和 Yandex),他試圖整理各家搜尋引擎和索引,按照自行設計的研究方法去分類。 seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

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Un article terriblement complet sur les moteurs de recherche actuellement existants. Ca donne un petit vertige ... seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

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Different search engines and their primary searching index. - Good to be aware of different search indexes that exist. - Having diff search engines is helpful to discover different results on different criteria. seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

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The elves that build search engines are really kicking into high gear, and I’m loving it.  If you have been following my writings for awhile you know that I want a Web with 5 to 8 major search engines and bunches of smaller search engines and hundreds of directories.  The Web is being harmed by having a Google and Bing duopoly controlling the gateways to the Web.  So I’m rooting for all search engines with their own indexes and crawlers and I’m always on the lookout for new contender…

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“What I learned by building this list has profoundly changed how I surf. “Using one engine for everything ignores the fact that different engines have different strengths.” seirdy.one/posts/2021/03/…

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I still want at least 8 major English language web search engines with their own indexes. At least there are contenders forming now. Seirdy has the best rundown.

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Bookmark: A look at search engines with their own indexes by Seirdy.   The three dominant English search engines with their own indexesnote 1 are Google, Bing, and Yandex (GBY). Many alternatives to GBY exist, but almost none of them have their own results; instead, they just source their results from GBY. With that in mind, I decided to test and catalog all the different indexing search engines I could find. I prioritized breadth over depth, and encourage readers to try the engines out th…

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