As I’ve indicated, I’ve been steadily making my web browsing footprint lighter and checking out alternatives to Google search — which, as well as trailing us all, spectacularly broke trust with users by circumnavigating (read: disobeying) explicit instructions in preferences to ‘block third party cookies’ by ‘unfair and deceptive‘ means (see Another Google privacy FAIL (grrr).
As a result, on OSX I’ve enabled the ‘Do not Track http header’ in Safari (for all the good that will do against liars) and installed Glims which enables me to appoint a new default search engine and easily switch between a range of them. I’ve selected DuckDuckGo — largely based on their promise (read this) not to track and not to ‘fliter bubble‘ me.
I’ve never enabled Google ‘web history’,1 and in the past routinely avoided searching when ‘logged in’ to Google. I also regularly clean out cookies using CCleaner and Flush. I don’t mind routinely logging back in to sites I use like Amazon etc using 1Password. Very convenient. (None of these links are affiliate links. They’re what I use.)
It can be far better, in my experience, to get an unfiltered response to a search query — which is what DuckDuckGo promises. Not to mention the fact that you’re seeing what other searchers without your ‘profile’ are seeing. How can you check ranking if the search engine ‘personalizes’ your results?
Discussing this with a geek friend, she declared she often wanted localised results for searches. Yeah, that’s cool, search using more specific terms, or it’s very easy from a DuckDuckGo result to flick to another search service.
On iOS, my choices are more limited, but to avoid Google search I’ve selected Bing. Last night my teenage daughter used my iPad for search and asked me, in typical teenager accusatory tones: ‘Why are you using Bing? Google is better.’ (Where ‘better’ means ‘more familiar to me’.)
So it’s interesting today to read Danny Sullivan, a writer I respect at SearchEngineLand.com say this in his article ‘Why Apple Is Going “Containment” Not “Thermonuclear” Against Google In iOS 6‘ …
There’s an excellent chance that if Apple switched the default search in Safari on iOS to Bing, people would freak out asking where Google was. Sure, they could change the default. But it would still put Apple in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why it chose not the best search engine to use as a default but rather one based on competition issues. That’s not something you want to do, when you’re a company known for creating great products that keep the user in mind.
That’s not to say that Google is the best search engine out there. We don’t have independent metrics that assess relevancy like this. Instead, it’s widespread consumer perception that Google is the best that Apple has to contend with (and that Bing currently struggles with). Making Bing the default would raise the issue in ways I think Apple wouldn’t like. Moreover, if search quality wasn’t as good, Apple would face some blame.
Sullivan, perhaps more that anyone else I’ve read, has been at the forefront of intelligently highlighting ‘issues’ that Google’s search service faces … and reporting vociferous questioning of their, well, ethics as they became the 300 pound gorilla of web search. And not just Google. Read this excellent piece No one likes a fanboy. How about more perspective about tech? he wrote for cnet.
Sullivan makes the point so well: people will, sometimes brainlessly, tribally, trash-talk the ‘opposition’ — whether it’s sports, tech, business or politics (see my post Ambition, self-selection and brainless tribalism. Bleurgh!).
From my own experience, and driven by my own ‘issues’ as discussed, I’m finding life without Google search as a default a different experience. It’s interesting being confronted with different interfaces … but then, to be fair, look how much Google has changed/copied its own interfaces in response to Bing etc.
Trust. That’s what Google has lost, from my point of view. I still use some of their other services (Analytics, Reader, gmail – a little bit). But seriously, without trying to sound like a fanboy, the combination of their untrustworthiness with cookies/tracking, their scanning every email and webpage to deliver ‘relevant’ ads (blocked in my case) … and most of all their filtering of my search results to either ‘localize’ them or show me the ‘most relevant’ results based on their dubiously-acquired knowledge of my interests … I just don’t trust them.
Lucky for me their are alternatives. Like everyone else, I want an online ‘life’ and to use the web. So a certain amount of this is unavoidable.
1 from the Electronic Frontier Foundation website:
Note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement.
With Web History enabled, Google will keep these records indefinitely; with it disabled, they will be partially anonymized after 18 months, and certain kinds of uses, including sending you customized search results, will be prevented.