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Though Google is still considered top dog A Brief History of Search and How Google Came Out on Top A Brief History of Search and How Google Came Out on Top After a half dozen (or more) unsuccessful attempts over the years to find a better alternative, it led me to try and decipher what makes Google better than competitors in this space. Read More in the search engine world, plenty of alternative search providers Pause Google: 8 Alternative Search Engines To Find What Google Can't Pause Google: 8 Alternative Search Engines To Find What Google Can't We probably know all the Google search tricks, but there are still things that Google can't tell us at first glance. Google's a Hercules, but we shouldn't be shortsighted not to spot the midgets. Yes,... Read More vie for your traffic and usage.

Everyone jokes about how Bing is just a Google impostor and that Yahoo! is abandoned, but it’s time to move past the stereotypes and see what these search engines can really do. Let’s compare the features of the biggest ones and see which ones are best for what and for whom.

Google

Google is the search engine many look to for their needs — after all, “Googling” isn’t a verb in the dictionary for nothing — and they offer a great blend of being easy to use while still offering cool advanced tricks 8 Google Search Tips To Keep Handy At All Times 8 Google Search Tips To Keep Handy At All Times Figures don't lie, and the figures suggest that the majority of Internet users choose Google over the rest of the competition. With that in mind it's important to make sure all of those Google users... Read More . It’s also the only place you’ll find tools like reverse image search and voice searching.

Google’s search capabilities are still second to none, and offer personalized results if you’re signed into a Google account. This means, for instance, you can search for “Bob Smith” and Google will show you the contact information for that person from your phone, among other personal searches.

However, it also involves the slightly darker side of Google: tracking you for more personalized results.

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Through your account and what you search for, Google figures out your preferences What Does Google Know About You? Find Out and Manage Your Privacy and Security What Does Google Know About You? Find Out and Manage Your Privacy and Security For the first time, search giant Google is offering a way for you to check the information it has about you, how it is gathering that data, and new tools to start reclaiming your privacy. Read More and tailors your searches based on the profile it has of you. For example, searching for “guns” will bring up quite different results based on your thoughts on gun-related topics.

Or, if you frequently visit MakeUseOf.com, for example, Google is more likely to show you results from MUO when you search for “Spotify Tips”.

Whether you consider this a useful feature or an invasion of privacy depends on your own philosophy, and will have a large impact on whether you want to use Google. You can shut off personalized results How To Turn Off Google's Personal Search Results How To Turn Off Google's Personal Search Results Has your entire life become a frustrating chore since last week, when Google added "Personal Search"? Have you been taking your rage out on innocent squirrels and kittens, most of whom had nothing to do... Read More or refuse to use an account to avoid some of this, but Google really shines when you use all of its services together.

If you’re invested in the Android ecosystem, Google becomes even better. Part of what makes Google so useful is how ubiquitous it is — searches from your phone can be viewed on your desktop, and all of the services interact really well.

Keeping your notes in Google Keep 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos Read More , watching videos on YouTube, having your contacts in Google Contacts, and keeping a Google Calendar means that you have everything all in one place. Plus, it can all be accessed from Google’s main search page.

The Bottom Line

Overall, if you want your search engine to “just work,” need the powerful search operators, or are invested in several Google services Not Just Search: 10+ Google Services You Have to Know About Not Just Search: 10+ Google Services You Have to Know About We all know Google is more than just a search engine: It’s an suite web-based applications and services for everything from email to calendaring, document editing, and file storage. It's even an online media store.... Read More , Google is probably the search engine for you. However, if you’ve been using Google for years and haven’t given any other services a thought, I encourage you to read on and try something different, just for the sake of experience.

Bing

Bing has grown from being joke fodder into a great search engine that everyone should give a second look, especially if you haven’t tried it in a while.

The first big thing that jumps out at you with Bing is how much is on the main screen. While Google adopts a minimalist approach by having only their logo and a search box, Bing features a new background image each day and a strip of trending news along the bottom.

If you find Google a bit Spartan, Bing is worth seeing for this alone.

In terms of search, Bing should be familiar to anyone used to Google. In fact, Microsoft’s Bing It On site claims that most people prefer Bing when they blindly compare the two side-by-side. This will be up to your preference, of course, but it is amazing how closely they’ve gotten Bing to Google.

A search for a single word brings up a box with its definition, related people in a box on the right side, related searches, and images related to the search. If you’re looking for a lot of info about something, Bing gives it to you all at once.

Also, you can’t mention Bing without talking about Bing Rewards, Microsoft’s reward service for using their search engine Get Paid To Search With The Bing Rewards Program Get Paid To Search With The Bing Rewards Program Google is king, but Bing is pushing its case. The Bing Rewards Program helps you earn credits while you discover the Web. It's a simple way earn little rewards for your browsing. Read More . The first 30 searches you do in a day will earn you 15 points (one for every two searches), and there are also daily “recommended searches” that can earn you extra points.

You can also install the Bing app on your mobile device and earn even more points per day.

It takes a while, but Rewards can earn you some nice prizes What's Bing Rewards, How It Works, And What's New? What's Bing Rewards, How It Works, And What's New? The premise of Bing Rewards is that you can earn credits for searching with Bing. Read More . Generally, you need 525 credits to earn a $5 gift card (475 points if you advance to a free Gold account) and gift cards are available for places like Amazon, Starbucks, and even GameStop.

You can also spend credits to enter sweepstakes, buy Xbox Live memberships, or even donate to charity. You won’t be making thousands per month or anything, but it’s a nice bonus for searches you were going to do already.

Bing doesn’t overtake Google in many places, but video searches are one of them. While Google gives you a list of titles, Bing provides a grid of thumbnails that are much easier to browse. In addition, you can watch videos right from the Bing results page, so you don’t have to navigate out to another site. If you watch a lot of videos (especially if you want to search places other than YouTube), Bing video search is definitely for you Bing Video Search Adds Streamlined Navigation & Hi-Res Video Previews Bing Video Search Adds Streamlined Navigation & Hi-Res Video Previews The Bing video search experience gets better this week, with a redesigned interface that brings in high-resolution video previews, more sources, and filters. The changes hopefully will lead to not only a better video searching... Read More .

Bing’s search is just fine for finding common, basic items, but it does pale to Google when looking for specific issues. Many people report poor results when trying to find specific troubleshooting help (especially on forums) on Bing, while Google does a better job of searching through a site’s text and finding the answers to your problems.

Thus, if you want to make the switch, try using Bing as your basic search engine, and pull out Google for in-depth searches when you need something specific.

I’d recommend anyone try Bing, if nothing else just to break away from Google for a bit. The rewards program is a nice bonus, and you might be pleasantly surprised with Bing How Bing Predicts Has Become So Good How Bing Predicts Has Become So Good Time to quit your day job and start gambling via Bing Predictions? Not quite, but let's have a look at how Bing has become just so good at predicting the future. Read More ‘s context boxes for most searches.

The Bottom Line

Google is still the better service, but to be fair, they’ve also had years to learn about what you search for. (Can you remember when you started using Google?) It’s not fair to expect Bing to be as good at tailoring searches to you when you’ve only used it for a few weeks. Given this handicap, Bing is actually pretty decent.

DuckDuckGo

Our own Justin Pot, a huge Google fan, wrote about why he switched to DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Most of us don't remember life before Google search. Try DuckDuckGo. Learn its tricks. There could be nothing you miss about Google. Read More , and he’s not alone. Interest in DuckDuckGo (DDG), the privacy-focused search engine, has sparked recently.

Whether people come for the lack of tracking or the unique features 6 Cool DuckDuckGo Features You Won't Find On Google 6 Cool DuckDuckGo Features You Won't Find On Google In a world ruled by Google, at least where search is concerned, it’s sometimes hard to imagine a worthy alternative. DuckDuckGo is one website that is trying to offer such an alternative. If you’ve been... Read More , DuckDuckGo seems to be the cool new thing. That being said, it isn’t completely unlike Google, as you’ll still find Instant Answers and other familiar features 10 Useful DuckDuckGo Instant Answers That Save You Time & A Few Clicks 10 Useful DuckDuckGo Instant Answers That Save You Time & A Few Clicks Instant Answers is a collection of DuckDuckGo goodies that potentially make your online search life somewhat easier. Here are ten from a huge list you can try out on this alternative search engine. Read More .

Justin talked a lot about what makes DDG great in his article, so I won’t be redundant. One big highlight, however, it that you can use bangs (!w is Wikipedia, !g is Google, for example) to search any website in one line.

So if you want to search Wikipedia for “pizza,” you don’t have to search for “Wikipedia” and then search on the page. Just type “!w pizza” and DDG will search Wikipedia for your term. It saves a ton of time, and once you get used to it you can search anywhere without leaving DuckDuckGo.

Google tries to be everything to everybody. Justin praised DuckDuckGo for instead letting users decide how they want to use it via settings. If you prefer taking some time to learn the tricks of a search engine instead of expecting it to do everything for you, give DDG a try.

The Bottom Line

Those with big concerns about privacy Want To Ditch Big Business And Protect Your Privacy? Here's How Want To Ditch Big Business And Protect Your Privacy? Here's How Read More should definitely use it, since they don’t track your searches or build a profile around you.

Just like Bing, using DuckDuckGo will give you different results, which is a good thing. Escaping the bubble Google puts you in lets you see new sides of the Internet. Try DuckDuckGo for a week and see what you think.

Yahoo!

Yahoo! search has fallen out of favor recently due to a lack of innovation, but it’s still worth a quick look. It’s worth noting that since 2009, Yahoo! search has actually been powered by Bing, meaning that it doesn’t have its own algorithms.

Aside from basically being a wrapper around Bing, Yahoo! search is nothing special. It has a ton of ads compared to Bing that make it feel almost spammy. There’s really no reason to use Yahoo! search over Bing (or Google or DuckDuckGo), but the company does have a few other features What Do Bing And Yahoo Have That Google Doesn't? What Do Bing And Yahoo Have That Google Doesn't? While Google has everything that you might need, it has its shortcomings when pitted against some of the features Bing and Yahoo! have. Google isn't perfect, and I'm here to tell you why. Read More .

If you miss iGoogle Great Personalized Start Pages: 6 Alternatives To iGoogle Great Personalized Start Pages: 6 Alternatives To iGoogle If you’ve not yet heard, Google plans to pull the plug on iGoogle in November 2013 in addition to a few other services like Google Video and Google Mini. Though the company have yet to... Read More , Yahoo! will almost certainly appease you. Yahoo!’s homepage has news, sports info, and links to all of their services that make up almost anything you could want to do online. This works even better if you use Yahoo! for email, but it does mean that you have to change pages to use another search engine.

Yahoo! Answers is still around Yahoo Answers Gets A Refresh And Climbs Out Of Neglect With New Features Yahoo Answers Gets A Refresh And Climbs Out Of Neglect With New Features The new Yahoo Answers is being advertised as better, faster and simpler. After many years of neglect, it looks the part. For now, the new Yahoo Answers is being rolled out in the U.S. Read More . Here you can browse questions dating back several years on a variety of topics, or ask a question to get some help yourself. It’s not a particular reason to use Yahoo! search, though.

The Bottom Line

Overall, there’s really no reason to use Yahoo! search. The site offers a lot, but the search engine is nothing special. If you don’t want Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo as your homepage Yahoo! is worth a try, but don’t even bother with its search. It’s Bing with fewer features and more ads.

Ask

Ask.com, formerly Ask Jeeves, is a search engine that once focused on question-and-answer format work, similar to Yahoo! answers. Its search engine took a huge dive in 2010 due to failing to compete with Google, and is now outsourced to an unknown company.

The main Ask page features a search bar and several categories of questions below. The search, like Yahoo!, is nothing special and is littered with ads. Ask includes basic image, video, and news searches, but they’re nothing compared to the others discussed above.

Even the search results themselves are kind of ugly, with no thumbnails or distinguishing features. The only unique feature of Ask search is the Q&A on the right side of the screen, but it gets questions that are only vaguely related to your search term, so it’s not terribly useful.

The Ask Q&A center is okay; nothing you wouldn’t be able to find somewhere else on the Web. I couldn’t find anywhere to ask new questions, so I assume it’s only meant to be browsed for reference and not used as a forum.

The Bottom Line

Ask is most synonymous these days with the browser-hijacking 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes 3 Essential Steps To Get Rid Of Chrome Hijackers In Minutes Have you ever opened your browser of choice and been greeted with a bizarre-looking start page or an unsightly toolbar glued to the top of the page? Restore your browser to tip-top shape. Read More Ask toolbar (be sure to remove it if it’s still glued to your browser 4 Annoying Browser Toolbars & How To Get Rid Of Them 4 Annoying Browser Toolbars & How To Get Rid Of Them Browser toolbars just don't seem to go away. Let's look at some common nuisances and detail how to remove them. Read More ). Ask search is pretty lame, and like Yahoo!, offers no real reasons to use it. You’re better off with any of Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo than Ask.

Get Searching Now

So the Big Three come out on top, after all. We’ve seen that there’s no good reason to use Yahoo! or Ask, so it comes down to Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. As a general recommendation:

  • Use Google if you want a search that “just works,” want personalized results, need the most advanced features, or are integrated into other Google services.
  • Use Bing if you value the rewards program, want to see what’s outside of Google without going too crazy, search for videos frequently, or like a lot of information about terms you search for.
  • Use DuckDuckGo if you’re concerned about privacy, frequently want to search for terms on other sites, like to cater your search engine to work for you, or want to explore different parts of the Web by breaking out of Google’s bubble.

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the three. Yes, Google is still technically the king of search, but Bing and DDG offer convincing reasons to switch away from Google — maybe even permanently. Try out one of the other two for a week and see what you think; it’s easy to change your default search engine How To Change Your Browser's Default Search Engine How To Change Your Browser's Default Search Engine So, what are you searching with? Bing? Google? You might know how to use any search engine you want on the Internet, but do you know how to change the default search engine for your... Read More !

Want to explore even more? Check out lesser-known search engines 10 Offbeat & Alternative Search Engines You Might Not Have Heard Of 10 Offbeat & Alternative Search Engines You Might Not Have Heard Of These ten alternative search engines are offbeat in two ways – firstly, in the way some of them get to the data, and secondly in the way they display it. You should keep a few... Read More .

Which search engine will you be using? Why do you use the one you’ve chosen? I want to hear your thoughts on the matter, so let me know what you’ve tried!

Image Credits:competitors struggling by Diego Schtutman via Shutterstock

  1. l_mckeon
    February 18, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    You can search a specific site on Google with "site: "

    e.g. site:makeuseof.com twitter

  2. hotdoge3
    December 31, 2015 at 7:04 am

    DuckDuckGo , Ixquick , Startpage , Google.co.nz for new zealand , Bing no good for N.Z

  3. LimboSlam
    December 30, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I use mixture all at once to avoid tracking through my search history. How is this possible you all might ask? Easy! I use add-ons/extensions to get the job done!

    But personally I use Duckduckgo, Startpage and Ecosia. These three combined give me the best worlds of Google and Bing with enhanced and customizable features for videos, images, instant and related searches, appearance, security/privacy (no tracking, no ads) and much more under the hood.

  4. MiTasol
    December 26, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Hi Ben
    Google technically has those features but
    1 - if I type in "P-40 -aircraft" without the quotes the first four responses are all for the P-40 aircraft. It is broken so I will not use it
    2 - google advanced search was very easy to find on the google home page right under/beside the box you type your query into. They have taken it off the page so I presumed they had scrapped it. Obviously they do not want people to use it. I tried it with the same question (find P-40 exclude aircraft) and the first page was 100% the P-40 aircraft. About as much use as a cigar lighter in hell

  5. MiTasol
    December 25, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    You dismiss Yahoo but it is the only search engine left that has advanced search features that allow you to search for a particular exact phrase and to exclude specific words
    Those features make it my favorite because that eliminates a whole lot of garbage results
    DDG is good and I will now have a look at the features you listed because DDG is currently my second choice

  6. Ray Byars
    December 15, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    It's hard to believe Ben that you're writing an article on search engines and didn't know about Startpage. It's been around for years.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      One of the best parts of my job is getting to learn about new things : )

  7. Peter Buyze
    December 12, 2015 at 6:23 am

    I agree with the 2 comments above And every time I try another search engine I end up unsatisfied & going back to using Google via StartPage.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 14, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      I'm really interested to see three people recommend the same page. That means they must be doing something right! Maybe I can make this into an article soon.

  8. Read and Share
    December 12, 2015 at 5:32 am

    Another vote for Startpage! I'v been using it for over a year and quite like it. Google results without the tracking

    • Ben Stegner
      December 14, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      I'll have to look into that more, because that's three recommendations now! Thanks for bringing it up!

  9. makeuseofReader
    December 11, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    I use startpage - a google proxy.

    a) As a google proxy, you get the quality of google search results without the tracking

    b) the search results page has a convenient time filter options on the left nav - past 24 hours, past week, past month, and past year - which is more accessible than google's own search result page.

    c) Unlike duckduckgo, you don't have to preface your search with "!g".

    d) I just tried using duckduckgo's "!g" feature and it redirected the search to google. In doing that, did it just unmask who I am to google - losing the anonymity benefit?

    • Ben Stegner
      December 14, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      I've never heard of Startpage, but it looks pretty cool. Thanks for letting me know about it!

      I think when DuckDuckGo does that, it sends you to "encrypted.google.com" which doesn't save info about your search. I could be wrong, and it probably isn't full protection, but that's my best guess.

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