Is Google holding you back ?


Many people online are trapped inside the Googlenet, trapped by the weighted, personalised and censored list.
Mostly they are trapped by using the word “Google” instead of “Search“, and from not remembering a time before Google bought its way to the top.

In the “before-time” there were many search engines with different pros and cons. Possibly the greatest was AltaVista (1996)https://wikipedia.org/wiki/AltaVista which also brought us the first online translator “Babel Fish”.
Bought and buried by the once equally mighty Yahoo, it is now just a bitter sweet memory for ageing nerds around the globe.

We used to use powerful software based spiders/crawlers such as Copernic Agent, and curated directories such as DMOZ ODP, which is still going under the new name Curlie.
Now we use web search engines which mix submitted results with automated crawling of the web.

There are still useful alternative search engines and alternative ways to use Google, though with modern browsers you can often bypass the search engines and install the search feature from most sites you use.

Many years ago when Google was still just another search engine Original site in 1998
I used to use a search engine called Dogpile Original site in 1996
I still fetch my results from www.dogpile.com
Dogpile is not as useful as it was then because it no longer has much good competition.
How does that make sense you may ask.
Dogpile is not like regular search engines because it is a meta search engine.
This means it searches other search engines and shows the combined results from all, giving you a wider spread and less censorship problems.
Today it only searches Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex, but this is enough most of the time.

Are you getting bad Google results ?
You may not be if you seem to be browsing from a different country. Try a proxy or VPN.
Too much clutter and noise in the results ?
Try using a minus in front of words to make sure it does not show results containing those, -just -like -this.
Try “putting your search in quotes”, or adding+a+plus+between+words if you want to find exactly that phrase.
Try the advanced search options.

Perhaps you need more technical or educational search results.
You should be using scholar.google.com
If you have access to University facilities, you can add your credentials and have it include those results.

Do you often need results specific to a set of sites you visit, or that share a theme or common use ?
In this case you should use Google Custom Search Engine www.google.com/cse/
You can make multiple collections of custom searches with different sites being indexed in each.
This is intended mostly for use on web sites to provide searches on that site, but you can use it with a special link you should bookmark.
I will use one of my own custom searches as an example.
As I am a fan of and a community moderator for the game Unreal Tournament, I made a custom search including all the UT sites and sites with UT sections that I found most useful.
This gives me very concise results and no filler.
You may find it useful to have a collection of news sources, art, history, or science and technology sites.
If you want to live in a perfect bubble you could add only the news sources you agree with, so your searches always match your view point.

Using other search engines is not so painful.
You can use Startpage for a private way to search Google. This removes personalisation and so any “bubble” you may have created with your previous searches and activities online.
It also offers a handy proxy for times when you are blocked from a site.

Bing is a lot better than you think, especially as most people think Google is the internet, so only ask Google to hide or remove results.
It also has a similar custom search engine system that you can abuse… err, I mean use www.customsearch.ai

DuckDuckGo is a privacy focused search engine and works like Dogpile, by aggregating the results from Bing, Yahoo and Yandex into 1 set of results.

Qwant like Startpage and DuckDuckGo are focused on user privacy, but use their own database

Yippy is a general search engine, and has a very useful way of grouping your results based on relative categories and topics.

Webopedia is an online dictionary and Internet search engine for information technology and computing definitions.

Yahoo and Ask Jeeves are still… sites you can visit… if you want ?
Moving on…
Yandex is the Russian equivalent of Google and also picks up many more results from eastern parts of the world you are ignoring if you live in Europe or America.
It is clean and fast, has a very easy to use advanced search, and is available in English.
You may find yourself using it often.

There are many more you may find useful wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_engine

Instant browser searching
Many sites have their own search function, such as forums, Facebook, Wikipedia, Youtube, IMDB, app-stores, music sites, dictionaries and thesaurus, etc.
You may find it useful to have instant search of any of these resources, especially if it is something not visible to the non-member public.
Most modern web browsers such as Vivaldi let you add these search functions to the default searches, so you can choose it in the search bar or when right-clicking on selected text.
To add a new search function in your browser you normally right-click in the (empty) search box in the site you want to use, and if the site has not done any funky weird clever coding, you should see a new menu item to add or save it as a search engine.
If you normally have to login to the site to read it’s contents, you will have to make sure you allowed the site to remember you, and that you did not eat the cookie it saved.
No cookie, no auto login.
If you use CCleaner make sure you get it to keep your login cookies for that site. Bad cookie monster.

My own search collection is mostly nerdy things like security related sites, so I can quickly test another site or link for a variety of functionality or security problems.
As I write poetry I have etymology, a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus available for any words I select in the browser or type in the search bar.
If you use the same browser on multiple devices, you should be able to synchronise your account and have the same searches available everywhere.

Ageing techno-hippy armed with a radio show and not afraid to use it.

8 comments Write a comment

  1. Thank you for taking the time to remind us what we once use to do to obtain closer result to our needs. You are also correct, we have allowed Google to absorb us into thinking their engine is the only good one. However, Google fails to remind us, if you need technical info they have available filters for it.
    I like the Startpage option of Google Search.

    • Dr.Flay™

      I am glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the topic.
      It is funny but Google even asked people to stop using the word Google for Search, as it always has a damaging effect on brands eventually because we eventually have no brand loyalty if it is the default word we use for any of its competitors.
      eg. If asked to go and buy some Sellotape we would never bother to specifically look for that brand of tape when any clear sticky tape will do, or in America where all Petroleum is known by the 1 brand name Gasoline or “Gas” so the Gasoline company do not benefit, and could even not exist anymore but people would still use the name (even though Gas is something else entirely).

      It is as much the fault of the public as it is Google, as Google never asked us to use the word in the wrong way, but forget that is how Americans tend to speak and due to lazy typing and speech online it spreads quickly.
      It is simply quicker to say “Google it” than “search Google”. When options for shortening words or speech are there, we will take them.

  2. Thanks for a great article. I don’t use google anything. I have an Android phone, but I have put an open-source ROM on it with no GApps present. I use F-Droid as my “app store”, I use OpenStreetmap and ZANavi for navigation/maps, Forecastie for weather, K-9 Mail connecting via IMAP to non-google e-mail services, etc. It is all relatively painless and required virtually no learning curve.

    I had forgotten dogpile existed, but I do remember needing to compare various search engines back in the day – to get reliable results, you’d often have to run the same search across a few of them. Yahoo, Dogpile, Metacrawler, Ask Jeeves, Lycos, and everybody’s number-one go-to of the day, AltaVista. I also remember a couple of Easter-eggs hidden in the Ask Jeeves search engine. If you entered a specific request for Jeeves to perform a lewd act on you, it would respond with “wouldn’t you rather take a nice cold shower?” followed by a kind of interactive slide-show/game where you got dressed and went to work. You could also switch the theme to “Evil Jeeves”, by entering the search term “Does Jeeves have an evil twin?”.

    Regarding search, I tend to make use of a few different search engines, depending on my mood and how obscure the search terms are. I think another search engine you’ve not mentioned (searx.me), is also worth a noble mention (see below). Here are my general preferences:

    -Qwant lite (i.e. Qwant without the news articles and other distractions) as it has reasonable quality results, the page is very light (like google in the late 90s), and it is privacy-respecting.
    -Startpage because it provides un-bubbled, private google results.
    -Duckduckgo because it provides high quality unbubbled results with less filtering than google. It’s sometimes good if you want a different perspective.
    -searx.me – I find it a little harder to get relevant results with this, but it’s worth a noble mention because I like the idea behind it. It is open-source, potentially decentralised, and anyone can run their own instance of it.

    I can’t stress enough how much we need to wean ourselves off “services” such as google and facebook. We are not the users, we are the useds.

  3. Dr.Flay™

    Thanks for recommending searx. It looks very flexible, but I can see it would not suit people that just click-n-go.
    Many nerds will look at the prefs before using the search to gauge how powerful it is, so will spot the awesomeness (I really am in awe).
    Shame it does not add to the browser with a right-click. I added it manually (https://searx.me/?q=%s) and it should be fine if I use a cookie.

    I am also a big fan of F-Droid and promote its use as a more trusted source of apps than Google. By not allowing adverts and in-app adverts they do not attract the greedy people that simply want money for showing ads, so only attract useful software that fills a genuine need.
    My droid tools pages always have the F-Droid links in preference to google play. Even then I tend to use a link to the apps in the AppBrain site so more useful info is revealed.

    Thankyou for your informative comments and a few more reminders of how easy it is to do without Google.

  4. greybeard

    For us North Americans, we seem to leave everything at the default settings.
    As if that is good enough! No way.
    Most Privacy oriented searches have options. Let’s use them and ensure they are supported by our favourite browser, Vivaldi.
    My usual search engine is Bing. As you say it is not as bad as it is made out to be. In fact over the years I have found it to provide me with more ***relevant*** search results than that “g” thing.
    My other “Go To” search engines are Startpage/Ixquick. In its settings it allows the user to search Fastest Servers/EU servers/US servers; the DDG, again with custom settings.
    I have couple of these for various searches and have them bookmarked for easy reference.
    Unfortunately Startpage’s preference often get lost…

    • Dr.Flay™

      I was a big fan of ixquick. It was my default until it merged with Startpage and dropped searching multiple engines.
      If you are losing the startpage prefs often it could be the cookie being deleted by something doing a cleanup.
      I can tell CCleaner to ignore cookies for certain sites. I use Auslogics defrag and when it clears the temp data it also seems to eat cookies.
      Omnomnomnomnom. . . . .

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