Tag Archives: Search

A Search Engine That Doesn’t Track your Every Move

What’s This All About?

Well, from time to time I Google, “search engines” just to see what comes up. There are quite a few. More than you might imagine.

Though it may take a while, the influence of mighty companies always wanes. It only takes one new upstart to grab the world’s attention and the market leader starts to make mistakes. Maybe this is Google’s nemesis, maybe not.

What if there were a new search engine that doesn’t harvest my on-line life for commercial gain? One that’s simple, clean, and it doesn’t tell me I’m missing out by not being logged in to my account? Just like Google used to be, in fact.

So What’s New?

Top of my search results was an engine called DuckDuckGo.

That’s impressive too, as it proves Google really does try to give users the best results it can. DuckDuckGo is, after all, Google’s competitor, albeit a small one.

What’s Special About DuckDuckGo?Duck duck go search engine logo

DuckDuckGo’s most obvious feature is that it doesn’t recognise you, remember you, store information about you, nor tailor search results for you. Every user making the same query gets the same results. Google delivers different search results depending on location, device you’re using, and whether you’re logged in to your Google account.

Next is the way it works. DuckDuckGo doesn’t crawl the entire worldwide web in the way other search engines do. Instead, it uses developers’ interfaces to other search engines, along with publicly available information from sites like Wikipedia. Altogether it has around 50 sources, which it filters and sorts using its own algorithms.

It’s a bit simpler than Google and it seems to work quite well.

Read all about DuckDuckGo on Wikipedia.

It’s in the news right now because Apple iOS 8 now offers DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine.

Quick Search Test

To compare its results with Google, I tried a couple of searches. Not a great test, but since I wanted to do these searches anyway it seemed a good idea. I used the Firefox web browser, so they were both on the same footing.

Search 1: Buy a Kettle

Our electric kettle at home has broken and we need a new one. The best buy in Which? is the Dualit 72400, so I searched for that. This product is available worldwide and its has a relatively long lifespan.

Here are the top four results from Google, plus some ads:search results for kettle using google

As you can see, Google displayed three ads at the top this time, then the real search results. It doesn’t display the same ads, nor even the same number, every time. I used google.co.uk, so it knows I want to buy my kettle in the UK, even though I’m not logged into my Google account. It’s just given me UK-based web pages.

Here are the DuckDuckGo results.search results for kettle using duckduckgo

Two ads from DuckDuckGo and then the first result is the same as Google’s. Both also have the Which? website at position four. However, DuckDuckGo included some .com results, which aren’t much use to me.

Google does this quite often, too, which is irritating, and it’s easier to convince DuckDuckGo that you want to search UK sites only.regional search selection on DuckDuckGo

Top right on DuckDuckGo’s search results page is a region selector button. One click sets it. This takes three clicks on Google and it doesn’t always offer the option, so then you’re forced to add “UK” to your search query – too many keystrokes :-(.

How to convince Google you only want to see UK sites.
Click Search tools > Any country > Country: the UK.change region method on google

They used to let you do this before searching. Can’t imagine why they changed it.

Search 2: Local Entertainment

I want to buy some tickets for what promises to be a very entertaining show at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, “Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous”, performed by “Living Spit”. We saw another of their productions in Portishead in June and it was very funny indeed.

This seems a good test because I’m looking for something that is a) local, and b) has a short lifespan. Here are the top four results from Google.

search for show using googleAnd here’s DuckDuckGo’s effort: much the same…show search using duckduckgo

They both have the Tobacco Factory website first and one other in common: Visit Bristol. The other results from both are equally useful.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Fom this very limited test, it looks as though DuckDuckGo may be a usable search engine, despite being relatively new. Its ethos is quite different from Google’s: it’s not out to make lots of money. It’s worthy of further investigation.

I’m going to continue using Google in my Chrome browser, which is permanently logged into my Google account. This always tailors search results specifically for me: it knows my age and gender, where I live, what I search for, my favourite travel destinations, the things I buy, my circle of friends and same things about them. Think how Google can influence my search results – and the way those very results influence what I do.

Interesting! Useful too, until (if ever) that influence is misused.

I use Firefox for development and research and I’m switching to DuckDuckGo for that. And I’ll definitely use it in Avast SafeZone, when I search for websites where I’m going to enter credit card or bank details.

If you’ve tried DuckDuckGo, we’d really like to know what you think of it!

How to Google Yourself

Search meWhy Google Yourself?

Well, your on-line image is important, and it’s easy to lose control of it. If you’re in business, “Yourself” also means “Company.” It’s important to monitor what people see when they Google you.

Google is Clever

The trouble is, Google tries to give you the best result for you. It uses everything it’s got, and bends the results to favour things it thinks you want to see. This is usually fine when you search for a restaurant or another business, but not when you search for yourself.

You need to see what others would see.

Browse Privately

Web browsers these days have a Private Browsing mode. At the end of this post we’ve included some hints on how to turn it on in different browsers.

Private mode means your browser neither uses, nor keeps, a history of the pages you visit. It won’t leave cookies or any other local files, no trace of your presence on the computer you use. Use Private Browsing:

  • when you don’t want to leave a trail on someone else’s computer;
  • for banking transactions;
  • to check your real position in search engine results;
  • to buy your spouse’s birthday present.

Beware: You’re still leaving some sort of trail behind on the search engine’s server, so if you want total privacy you need to look further than we can tell you.

But that’s not the end of the story!

How to Google Yourself

  1. Start your web browser;
  2. Don’t use a mobile device, like your phone or tablet, because they tell search engines too much about you and your location; the search engine will skew your results;
  3. Open a private browsing window (see below for how to do this with your favourite web browser).
  4. Make sure you’re logged out of everything: Facebook, LinkedIn, Trip Advisor, Trade Association – everything;
  5. Especially make sure you log out of all Google apps, like Gmail, YouTube, Picassa…

Almost ready: tell the search engine where want to be for your experiments. In this Google example, it knows I’m in Portishead so it might show me results for this area when I don’t want it to.

google search options showing how to change location
Click “Search tools” (1) and then use the drop-down (2) to choose the location you want. The default location is that of your ISP’s server. Ours is in Guildford, Essex, so it isn’t much use for my local searches anyway.

You can enter a post code, county, city, or UK. Google will tell you if it doesn’t recognise the area you’ve chosen.

Now you’re ready.where to look for Google image search

  1. Search for your name, or the name of your business;
  2. Try common misspellings;
  3. Now do an Image search, and Maps – see right.

Now What?

Did you like what you found? Yes? That’s OK then.

If you didn’t, then it’s time for a chat with your marketing guys!

And finally, don’t forget to Bing yourself, and Yahoo yourself too…

How to Start Private Browsing in Different Web Browsers

Most browsers support the shortcut, Ctrl-Shift-P. Here’s a selection of other ways to start it. They all open a new window or tab.

How to start Firefox private browsing


Click the Firefox button, then Start Private Browsing. If you’re using the menu bar, it’s under Tools.


start in-private browsing in IE



Internet Explorer

Click the Tools icon, then Safety>, InPrivate Browsing. It’s also in the File menu.

How to start Private Brosing in Apple Safari


Apple Safari

Curiously, Apple has it under the Edit menu, though it does just the same as in other browsers.




Opera's method to start Private Browsing


Opera button, Tabs and Windows; now choose New Private Window or Tab.

How to Search Web Pages

Many People Don’t Know this Search Tip

a pair of binoculars useful for searchingIt seems that only 10% of Internet users know this productivity tip.

I can’t believe so many people don’t know about Ctrl_F. However, this blog is all about helping Internet users get the most out of it, so an explanation might be helpful.

Back in November 2011, Google’s usability guru, Dan Russell, provides the evidence, reported in New Scientist report.

His stunning observation: only 10% of Internet users know about every browsers’ Find function, Ctrl-F.  Not just web browsers, actually, it works in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other products, and the free equivalents of Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and its calendar, Lightening. In fact it’s always worth a try – except, sadly, in Microsoft Outlook itself, where it means Forward (an email).

How to Search Web Pages

Want to find a word or phrase in a long web page without reading the whole thing?  Here’s what you do:

  1. Click in the body of the web page you want to search;
  2. Hold down the Control key, labelled Ctrl, bottom left of your keyboard;
  3. Press F, for Find, and type what you’re looking for in the field that appears.

Windows users write this as “Ctrl-F” or “Control-F.”  Mac users write “Command-F” instead.

search box in google chromeHere’s how it looks in Google Chrome.

Note also the “1 of 3” to the  right of the search phrase. This shows that we’ve found the first “Portishead” on the page, and that there are three altogether.  Press the down arrow to the right to go to the next, up arrow to go back.

search field in Mozilla Firefox

In Firefox, the search field appears under the window when you press Ctrl-F.

Firefox doesn’t have a count, like Chrome, but if you click “Highlight all,” they become quite obvious. It also has a “Match case” function.

search field in internet exporer 9

In Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9, the search field appears at the top left of the screen.  It combines the options of Firefox with the count of Chrome.