You’d be hard-pressed to find the cross section of living people who have searched for something on the web and who haven’t ever—never, ever, ever, not even once—used Google. But even if you are among the billions who do, it’s nice to know you have alternatives. Maybe you’re concerned about your privacy. Maybe you’re looking for something pretty specific. Maybe you’re just ready to try something new.
Well, the good news is that there are plenty of search engines to try—some very Google-like, and some going out of their way to act very un-Googley. Here are a few to check out the next time you need something.
1. Don’t quit cold turkey
Newsflash: Google is dominant. Startpage—which bills itself as the world’s most private search engine—knows this and doesn’t try to out-Google the almighty Google. Instead, it leverages Google’s search results but strips out all the tracking, data mining, and personalized results. Your IP address isn’t recorded, none of your personal data is collected, and there’s a single cookie served up that stores your preferences (but it expires if you don’t come back for 90 days).
For private, truly non-Google search, try the venerable DuckDuckGo—which leverages hundreds of sources, including Bing and its own web crawler—or Searx, which can be customized to toggle search results on and off from more than 20 engines (including Google).
2. Do some good
The internet has it all . . . including a search engine that plants trees. Environmentally-minded Ecosia uses servers that run on renewable energy, doesn’t track users or sell data to third parties, and uses profits from text link ads and commissions from its online store to plant trees around the world. Ecosia says that it takes about 45 searches to finance a new tree, so the more curious among us may someday be responsible for entire forests. Actual search results are powered by Microsoft’s Bing technology, and there’s a cool little personal counter that lets you know how many Ecosia searches you’ve made.
3. Search with friends
A self-described “collaborative search engine,” SearchTeam works as its name implies. Someone in your group creates a “SearchSpace” based on a specific topic and then invites others in the group to scour the web for sites and media that further the cause. Saving happens in real time, and there are organization and commenting features that make it easy to keep everyone in the loop. And if SearchTeam’s results aren’t quite extensive enough, you can add links manually, upload documents, and create custom posts to organize additional knowledge.
4. Let your tummy be your guide
Hungry? Picky? Yummly has you covered. This food-finding search engine catalogs more than two million recipes and lets you get very specific about what you’d like to eat, peppering you with questions and qualifiers that you can answer or skip in order to narrow down the results. My search for the perfect grilled-cheese sandwich—no veggies, five or fewer ingredients, 15 minutes or less, cheddar cheese, grilled (not pressed), and easy enough for a culinary Luddite to create—started at 7,137 recipes and ended up at a very-manageable 20 to choose from. Now I need to figure out how to work my stove.
5. Lots and lots of listenables
Podcasts are everywhere—both figuratively in popularity and literally in that they’re scattered around all corners of the web. Confidently billing itself as “the best podcast search engine,” Listen Notes does an admirable job at corralling content, boasting more than 50 million episodes to be found across almost three-quarters of a million podcasts. You can create your own listen-later playlists for individual episodes without having to subscribe to entire podcasts, which can then be slung to your player of choice via RSS (kids, look that up—it was the bee’s knees back in the day). You can even add contributors so that you and your friends can work on the same lists.