Fleeing the Hellscape of Google Search with Qwant

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

We at NC have no particular love for Google: They’ve downranked us, because we’re small (i.e., not “authoritative”), but also presumably because our links aggregation features compete with their pathetic and poorly sourced News feature[1]. And Yasha Levine asks a good question: “If the Internet is truly such a revolutionary break from the past, why are companies like Google in bed with cops and spies?” Nevertheless, blogging — just to lift the curtain a little, here — is all about production, and so if Google is the best for production, well, not everybody’s hands are always clean. But as Google search became increasingly crapified — losing its memory, and refusing to find material I am 100% sure exists, because I wrote it, without coaxing — and Google’s UI/UX became increasingly ugly and instrusive, a tipping point was bound to come, where Google was no longer the best, at least for me. I think that tipping point has now arrived.

So I am shifting to a European search engine called Qwant, on grounds of user experience, freedom from Google’s algorithm, and most importantly, privacy (I know we have a lot of DuckDuckGo (DDG) users here, and I’ll discuss that platform briefly in context as we go along.) A little bit about Qwant the company:

Qwant is a European web search engine, launched in July 2013 and operated from Paris. It’s the only EU-based search engine with its own indexing engine. It claims not to employ user tracking and doesn’t personalize search results in order to avoid trapping users in a filter bubble…. The website processes well over 10 million search requests per day and over 50 million individual users a month worldwide… As of March 2019, Qwant is the 41st most visited website in France and the 879th most visited website in the world.

Qwant’s business model:

Like Google, Qwant monetizes searches by serving ads alongside results. But unlike Google these are contextual ads, meaning they are based on general location plus the substance of the search itself; rather than targeted ads which entail persistent tracking and profiling of Internet users in order to inform the choice of ad (hence feeling like ads are stalking you around the Internet).

Serving contextual ads is a choice that lets Qwant offer a credible privacy pledge that Mountain View simply can’t match.

Yet up until 2006 Google also served contextual ads, as [Tristan Nitot, VP of advocacy]points out, before its slide into privacy-hostile microtargeting. “It’s a good old idea,” he argues of contextual ads. “We’re using it. We think it really is a valuable idea.”

There’s a lot about today’s Internet that we could roll back, and further back than 2006, too. With that, let’s look at the platform.

User Experience

Let’s start with the results page. Here’s Google:

Notice that my search results — Google thinks I’m in the Netherlands because of my VPN, which I am not turning off — aren’t even visible at the top of the page, which is taken up links that assume, in essence, that I’m at Google because it’s a shopping site, followed by a bunch of useless questions that I’d ask for myself if I wanted answers to them. Contrast Qwant:

Look! My search results! (Plus, that link to Indian Affairs at bottom right is really neat; maybe if Google weren’t trying so hard to sell me, it would give me a similar result.) Now, DDG has a clear results page too, even if it does have an ad on the top driving down the real results, but here is a feature Qwant has that nobody else has:

See that “ncl”, and the URL for NC as a dropdown? I have a use case, that I perform literally hundreds of times a day, where I need to search NC to avoid duplicate content (here, a post or link on “liquid cats”). It gets really, really old typing in the NC URL over and over again (or copying and pasting it from somewhere), so it’s really great that Qwant’s search box allows me to use the Mac’s text macro facility, where typing “ncl” expands to the URL. Blogging is production, remember>> I can’t do that in Google (or DDG either):

Google hijacks the search box for its stupid auto-completion dropdown.

European Privacy Law

In the United States, privacy law is a dead letter. Not so in Europe:

Qwant is a French search engine. As such it is governed by the European privacy law GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation). This regulation puts users in control of their data and how it’s used.

From Qwant’s Privacy page:

We don’t use any cookie nor any tracking device that may allow us to track your browsing habits or to establish your profile. You are of course entitled to the rights provided by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), but we also forbid ourselves from collecting an important amount of data that others collect, which are useless to provide you with the services you need.

When you use Qwant as a search engine, we don’t put any cookie on your browser that may allow us or others to recognize you or to follow you everywhere on the Internet. We don’t use any tracking device (pixel, fingerprinting…). We don’t collect and we don’t store any history or your searches. When you search, your query is instantly anonymized by being dissociated from your IP address, in accordance with what the French data controller advices. Long story short, what you are doing with Qwant is part of your privacy and we don’t want to know.

What the GDPR can do:

Qwant is governed by the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which grants specific rights related to your personal data when processed by Qwant:

  • right to access, rectify, delete data under the conditions set forth by the regulation;
  • right the oppose the processing under the conditions set forth by the regulation;
  • right to limit the processing of personal data under the conditions set forth by the regulation;
  • right to data portability;
  • right to make a claim before a control authority;

This is an advantage over DDG, located as it is in the United States[2]. Qwant has also released its source code:

To be transparent, Qwant has released its source code so third-parties, like the French National Data Protection Body (CNIL), can certify its non-tracking policies and see it’s not collecting data it’s also shared their code with white-hat hackers for security reviews. This year, the company hope to open source its algorithms to ensure anyone can verify its privacy practices.

I’d like to see Google do that!

No Filter Bubble

In an interview, Eli Pariser of MoveOn describes a “filter bubble” (the interviewer: “Did you know that Google takes into account 57 individual data points before serving you the results you searched for?”) Pariser:

Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. Facebook contributes things to read and friends’ status updates, Google personally tailors your search queries, and Yahoo News and Google News tailor your news. It’s a comfortable place, the filter bubble — by definition, it’s populated by the things that most compel you to click. But it’s also a real problem: the set of things we’re likely to click on (sex, gossip, things that are highly personally relevant) isn’t the same as the set of things we need to know.

[T]here’s not much need for a better mousetrap, because the standard trap does incredibly well, killing mice 90% of the time.

The reason is simple: Mice always run the same route, often several times a day. Put a trap along that route, and it’s very likely that the mouse will find it and become ensnared.

(Note that Google’s filter bubble applies to logged-out and incognito users.) Obviously, if Qwant doesn’t build a profile on me, it can’t put a filter bubble round me, so I get organic search results instead of whatever brain parasites Google has in mind for me.

Conclusion

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a software review! If Qwant doesn’t work out for me, I’ll come back and do a post mortem!

APPENDIX: Support for Qwant

Most browsers make you select your default search engine from a dropdown. Safari does not support Qwant. Opera (which I use for its VPN) does not, although here is a workaround I installed sucessfully. I tested Firefox, Brave, and Vivaldi: They support Qwant. I don’t know about Chrome, naturally.

NOTES

[1] Hilariously, Google News is “fact-checked” by the organs of state security:

Polygraph.info “is a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA)​ and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.”

[2] I read the GDPR definition of “data subject” as applying to me, even though I’m not located in the EU or an EU citizen: “A data subject is any person whose personal data is being collected, held or processed.” I would welcome clarification from an experts on EU privacy law in the commentariat. Regardless, I would rather work with a platform designed for GDPR compliance, than one that is not.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

90 comments

  1. Louis Fyne

    You can change the default search engine in Chrome: settings > manage search engine > then under “other search engines” enter the query string for Qwant, ie https://www.qwant.com/?q=%s

    “%s” is the wildcard.

    Should be similar for Safari, but don’t know firsthand

    Reply
  2. drumlin woodchuckles

    I have tried this quant and it seems to do exactly what you say for finding sites on the subject you want.

    So far it does not seem to be able to find and aggregate images the way the other search engines do. So I suspect what I will start doing is using quant more and more for written matter sites on my subject of inquiry, and use the others ( Yahoo-AllTheWeb most of all) for aggregated bunches of pictures of my subject of inquiry.

    Reply
      1. samhill

        All the kids search images first and the kid’s are alright, this type of favoritism must be skewing or improving results towards images, or at least images young people search – keeps you young. Sometimes very useful to use image search as a filter, it gets rid of things that might give you too many useless hits on text search. e.g, looking for music on blogs best search by images using artist/title but cover art as a filter. Thanks for heads up on Qwant, figured it was just some half-assed euro thing :-) yes Google is crapified. You can’t make Qwant default in safari, just set it as homepage, sadly. Maybe there’s an app or a script out there.

        Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        I have found that using Google, that with some searches that you can use images as a filter. After your search results come back, you click on ‘Images’. When you see an image that matches what you are really looking for, you click on it to see it on the original page which most times I have found it to be what I am looking for. Too often with Google, it will bring back too many junk results that you have to go through, sometimes for several pages.

        Reply
        1. RMO

          I wonder if Google is taking advantage of this somehow – when I do this I usually scan the images, expand ones that seem promising so I can see them better and see the url and then if it’s what I really want opening the link. Seems like they could log and mine this for correlations in a few ways that I can think of.

          I’ve been using DDG for quite a while now. Every now and then I use Google to see if the results differ in any useful way (which they do, rarely). Even several years ago prior to much crapification I found Google would not be able to find certain websites which I knew existed. I have Firefox set to delete history and clear cookies whenever it’s closed, which I do quite often. I doubt if this preserves my privacy but it does keep the ads and irrelevant content down.

          Reply
    1. diptherio

      Images are the one thing I still use Google search for. I haven’t found anywhere else that lets you filter results by license, so I can have it only show me CC images. Super handy for someone like me who requires at least one CC image a day to maintain his sanity…and his website. I really wish DDG would add this functionality…or Qwant, which I will surely be experimenting with.

      Reply
      1. Jack

        Try flickr.com. You can search based on licensing (creative common). I use it for my website as well as it has a lot of commercial use allowed photos.

        Reply
  3. fdr-fan

    Interesting inside info about targeted advertising. I didn’t know the distinction.

    Since I’ve been looking up old French technology lately, gave Qwant a quick try with some of those terms. Beautiful. It also surpasses Google on British tech of the same period. The way Qwant displays each item is less cluttered than Google, and it catches the meaning of the phrase better than DDG or Bing.

    I’m sold!

    Reply
    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Minitel.

      They had it all, way before the web. Book train tickets, post classifieds, personals, jobs, news

      Then of course they held onto it waaay too long after packet switching and TCP/IP and HTML and browsers arrived

      Reply
  4. Tom Bradford

    I ditched Google’s search engine for DDG years ago and am reasonably happy tho’ I will have a look at Qwant.

    But another example of Google’s sickness is the crapification of YouTube. A couple of 5 second ads before the clip runs is justifiable as YouTube does cost money to run. Even the irritating banner ads that pop up are a minor irritant I will tolerate in exchange for an otherwise free service. But I once settled down for a performance of “Messiah” and abandoned it twenty minutes in after two full 6-second ads were run that actually interrupted the performance. And not even between movements but actually breaking into the middle of them.

    It’s banal. It’s utterly inexcusable. It’s vandalism. It’s sticking an advertising poster for viagra on Rodan’s ‘The Kiss’. It’s painting a billboard for lipstick and eye-shadow into the landscape behind ‘Mona Lisa.’ It reduces some of mankind’s finest artistic achievements into crass commercialism purely aimed at getting me to subscribe to avoid it. It’s blackmail. Nothing matters but the money.

    Pathetically the opening minutes of ‘Messiah’ were also spoiled by a repeating banner ad for something called guardian-angel.com offering to put me in touch with my guardian angel, presumably a result of some algorithm that decided that because I did a search for “Messiah” I’m going to believe in guardian angels.

    I get round this crap re concert pieces, plays &tc by using a YouTube downloader to download the clip onto my drive and replaying it from there, and I also make it a principle never, ever, to make use of any service or product advertised on YouTube, not that 99% of them would ever be of any interest to me in the first place.

    Reply
    1. cnchal

      YouTube said “Got it” in the little blue box under the sign in button, and I thought, got what? I make it a principle to never use Google for search (haven’t for at least a decade) and never click on anything on the rare occasion I look at YouTube. Tech is a wasteland.

      Reply
    2. Bugs Bunny

      There are ad blocking extensions for YouTube out there. Some work really well. I recommend doing a Quant search for one.

      (btw, why are all my comments being sent to moderation?)

      Reply
      1. Johan Telstad

        Also, the built-in ad-blocker in Opera works on Youtube. Opera is really pretty good, it has a built in VPN and a very handy video pop-out feature, which allows you to open any video in a popout-window so you can watch while browsing other pages.

        Reply
        1. Jason Boxman

          +1 for Opera. I like their CTRL-Tab feature that lets me search titles for open tabs; I usually have 20-50 tabs open, and this feature makes it easier to find what I’m looking for if it’s already open. Most sites detect ad blockers, so I usually have to turn off the Opera ad blocker anyway.

          Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Pathetically the opening minutes of ‘Messiah’ were also spoiled by a repeating banner ad for something called guardian-angel.com offering to put me in touch with my guardian angel, presumably a result of some algorithm that decided that because I did a search for “Messiah” I’m going to believe in guardian angels.

      That’s a great idea. I think public libraries should do this. I don’t know why the recording industry hasn’t picked up on it. You could have an AI figure out the crescendo, and then insert advertising just before that. Or maybe that’s what YouTube did?

      Reply
      1. RMO

        That’s the root of my distrust with streaming media too. Even if they offer it right now I’ve seen things disappear too often to have any faith any particular item will be available if I need/want it in the future.

        I can deal with ads on Youtube up to a point. Getting an ad which is twice the length of the video I want to watch would be a (not uncommon) example of crossing that line.

        Reply
  5. Joe Well

    LOL that there’s a VoA fact-checking website called Polygraph, when polygraphs have been declared junk science by the American Psychological Association, among others.

    Reply
    1. Robert Hahl

      In law school, a polygraph expert told our class that the process does not work at all. It is merely an interrogation, usually without the lawyer present. And any pearranged questions don’t include the follow-up questions.

      Reply
      1. RMO

        Apparently they say Putin approves of Wagner. Why wouldn’t he? I approve of Lindsay Wagner too. Or maybe they mean Robert Wagner… or they misspelled Lyle Waggoners last name… or that company that makes paint sprayers.

        Reply
  6. grayslady

    I tried Qwant, but I thought its search results were too skewed to Europe. It’s still an option for me, however, since I recently installed Waterfox (in addition to my beloved older version of Firefox) and Qwant is one of the dropdown search options. In addition to DDG, I have started using Swisscows for secure, privacy-centered search and have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of results. Google finally creeped me out by following me around the web, even though I have anti-tracking and privacy features and add-ons enabled.

    For those who are equally privacy and security obsessed, over the weekend I came upon a fantastic website called Restore Privacy. It’s run by a European who provides recommendations on everything from browsers to email to VPNs. He gives you the pros and cons on all his recommendations and also answers reader questions. IMO, it’s one of the better security sites I’ve come across.

    Reply
  7. Bruce F

    There are complaints from the one star reviews at the Firefox add on page that Qwant automatically changes your home page and doesn’t let you change it back.

    Right after installing it changes my homepage setting in Firefox – without any question and without ability to revert. The only way to restore homepage was to disable the extension… This “feature” makes the whole extension useless.

    Not sure how valid that is but don’t see any reason to change from DDG when it’s not “broke”.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      You don’t “install” Quant, so this sounds fabricated….it’s just a friggin’site, not an app. But interesting that someone or multiple someones are so invested in discouraging the use of Qwant as to post at the very best really strained complaints.

      I have used Quant on FF and Safari and never had that happen. Moreover, Quant is not a dropdown option for search (you can’t set it as your default for browsing) and I don’t see how a site could change your default page. Honestly, this does not sound organic.

      Reply
      1. grayslady

        Bruce F is quasi-correct. You don’t actually lose your home page unless you set Qwant as the default search engine; but Qwant works by providing a full-page pop-up screen that overlays the home page. Both my pre-Quantum version of Firefox and my latest version of Waterfox include Qwant in the Search drop-down menu. You can also set Qwant as the default search. Unlike other search engine options, Qwant doesn’t present you with the first page of search results if you select Qwant in the drop-down(at least in Firefox or Waterfox)–it presents you with a new page that includes the Qwant search box. Consequently, when I tried Qwant for awhile, I simply placed it in my speed dial as a thumbnail quick option, knowing how it was going to behave.

        Reply
      2. Greg Taylor

        If you install Quant as a Firefox “extension” then it does change your homepage to Quant. Firefox notifies you of this change and unhelpfully offers to disable or uninstall the extension if you don’t like it. I was able to change my homepage back to the original without disabling the extension by dragging the homepage’s url to the homepage icon. Reloading the browser kept the desired homepage…so far.

        Reply
          1. Bugs Bunny

            There are extensions that allow you to keep various privacy invading code and parts of pages from loading. There are also extensions that allow you to select a word or phrase and use it for a search term on another site, like Wikipedia, or even NC :) for example. Some of these can be a bit fiddlely to set up so Ymmv.

            Reply
      3. Greg Taylor

        You can make Qwant your default Firefox browser without installing the extension by navigating to the Qwant site. Clicking the search box icon will allow you to add Qwant as a search engine and make it the default if you like.

        Reply
    2. foglight

      The official Qwant add-on to Firefox states that it will change the homepage to Qwant. However there is an alternative, non-official add-on that can be installed and can be used to set Qwant as the default search engine in the options tab. It has about one thousand downloads and a 5* review (3 reviewes to date…). Works fine on my firefox browser, but it is not a verified add-on, so at your own risk.
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-CA/firefox/addon/qwant-search-engine-adder/

      Reply
        1. Briny

          Even “curiouser.” Responded to a complaint about an Add-On in the Firefox Add-Ons library. Just wow. Customer support: What’s the world coming to?

          [Reminds me of the time a guy complained in a random tweet-thread that his SanDisk uSD card had failed. Didn’t even @SanDisk. Couple of minutes later someone SanDisk wants his contaft info to send him a new card. Scary level of monitoring, +100 customer support.]

          Reply
  8. Brooklin Bridge

    On the subject of privacy only, and apologies to those who already know this, It’s important to remember that regardless of what search engine you use, tracking protection is only good for the search and result set. Once you click on a url from a result set, the site you go to can see your IP and any other information your search engine can see and can put cookies turds on your machine as permitted by your web browser/settings and your file system (cookies are now usually all put in one file).

    To place a baffle on that kind of personal information once you land on a site, you have to use either a proxy server, a VPN, or a series of obscuring servers as in the ONION (the latter two also use encryption). Just to thwart targeted ads, some browsers, such as FireFox, provide “private windows” that put some level of restraint (usually optional) on visited sites, but I’m finding this no longer works as well as it used to.

    None of this obviates the other advantages of (DGG, Quant, etc., in particular, the absence of profile bubble and the quality of the search and results.

    Note that DDG uses Google’s web crawler data (indexes) whereas Quant claims to generate it’s own*. This is a massive and very expensive undertaking so it would be interesting to know more.

    * From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qwant

    In June 2019, Qwant announced a partnership with Microsoft to power its own crawlers and algorithms using the Microsoft Azure cloud services while preserving the user’s privacy[6]. Microsoft said that Qwant “masters its technology, including its algorithm, its index and its client infrastructure, without collecing personal data, to better secure the respect for privacy its users and the confidentiality of their searches”[30].

    While respecting privacy, the terms of service state that these may be changed at any time:[31]

    Reply
    1. Mark Alexander

      Note that DDG uses Google’s web crawler data (indexes)

      I’m fairly sure this is not true of DDG. My understanding is that it uses Bing and Yahoo for traditional searches, along with some other sources. Some more information about this here:

      https://help.duckduckgo.com/results/sources/?redir=1

      Startpage does use Google results, but in my experience these results are not always as complete as using Google directly. This page explains why:

      https://support.startpage.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/184/0/why-do-i-get-different-results-with-startpagecom-than-google

      Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Startpage is Google’s algo but supposedly private. The problem is not just Google’s spying but Google’s terribleness. I tried Startpage and quickly abandoned it.

      Reply
  9. Carey

    FWIW, I’ve tried most of the presently-available search engines, including Quant, and the one I’ve been least dissatisfied with is Ecosia (Bing™ based). For now (for now!) it seems the least bubble-ish. YMMV.

    Reply
  10. Carolinian

    I like DuckDuckGo and don’t seem to miss Google at all. But most of my searches are plain vanilla queries for information so it’s not a very tough test. Google has come to dominate via brand recognition but at one time they took over by always having better results than their competitors. Now it seems, from limited sampling, that all search engines are on the same page. So why surrender your privacy to a company that picked a stupid name like Alphabet?

    Reply
    1. Carey

      >So why surrender your privacy to a company that picked a stupid name like Alphabet?

      ..or “Yahoo”, or “DuckDuckGo”, or “Twitter”, or…

      I see forced infantilization at work here; YMMV.

      Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t want anything at all to do with Google’s algo. If they reverted to the original PageRank, we’d have a search engine that actually found stuff.

            I would also speculate that PageRank, being old — i.e., proven and well understood — is also an algorithm that Google competitors* can use. I mean, if Google wants to be a shopping site, well and good, let them do that, but surely there’s a market for what “Original Google” did?

            * The employment figures for DDG and Qwant are both at least an order of magnitude less than Google, so one might imagine that Google is investing most of its intellectual firepower inventing and maintaining non-search functions. And it shows.

            Reply
    2. show_me

      I use duckduckgo for general queries. But I must reluctantly admit that I use Google for really obscure technical questions and they almost always deliver (if often in inscrutable languages). Presumably it has something to do with their humungously vast resources.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Nothing to be sold on searches like that, so maybe the query falls through to something approaching the original functionality. I mean, what would the filter bubble for “rm -rf” look like…

        Reply
  11. Delver Rootnose

    Article 3(2) of the GDPR by its text applies to living natural persons in the European Union (expanded a bit to the European Economic Area, as Norway, Switzerland, and a couple other countries I can’t recall off the top of my head have either adopted it or adopted privacy laws which are compatible with it). Article 3(1) should apply to the activities of data controllers or processors (Qwant is a controller w/r/t your data) which are within the European Union (again, expanded a bit to the EEA).

    Leaving aside that the GDPR purports to regulate global activity outside of of the EU based on the interaction of its citizens with companies outside of its borders, which is an interesting assertion of extraterritoriality, it should definitely control Qwant’s activities because Qwant is in the EU. Also, unless a data controller is really very very large, it’s prohibitively expensive to set up more than one set of data handling processes. So most smaller companies just set up one set of processes which match the most restrictive regulatory regime to which they’re subject. So even if Qwant could technically process your data under US law, they’re not likely to do so, because it’s a PITA. Contrast Facebook, which had ROW data stored in Ireland until the GDPR, then they moved all data except for the EU data to their US servers.

    [I’m a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer, this is not legal advice.]

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > unless a data controller is really very very large, it’s prohibitively expensive to set up more than one set of data handling processes. So most smaller companies just set up one set of processes which match the most restrictive regulatory regime to which they’re subject. S

      Thank you very much. I was thinking that business reasons would tend to enforce uniform treatment (another bad outcome of Google’s monopoly rents.

      * * *

      I can tell you’re a real lawyer because you read the footnote!

      Reply
  12. scarn

    Allowing for that text alias is a great feature. Personally, I usually use duckduckgo. But how to use google stuff when you feel like you need to?

    Startpage.com uses google results with anonymization. This is particularly useful for searches around technology which I think google is very good at compared to it’s competitors. I have kids. Kids want youtube (and, well, so do I). So what to do? Burner account on protonmail as google account contact + vpn to Russia or Brazil + no mobile recovery + payment thru prepaid visas. Can’t track my kids.

    When I must use google services without anonymization or pseudo-selfness (which is all the time), I do my best to run it through accounts attached to google services for business that I actually pay for. The “legit” traffic is thru that domain account.

    Finally, I have my own google account, not on vpn, which I use fairly often with total intention of being watched, but when I prefer not to be watched through the gapps account.

    Reply
  13. none

    I will give Qwant a try, but have been mostly satisfied with DDG. Google is better but creepier than DDG so I resort to Google if DDG doesn’t find what I want. DDG usually suffices for me though.

    Reply
  14. skippy

    Moved to Qwant basically after “hearing” about it and looking into it, not that it can’t be crapified once it gets market share thingy …

    Reply
      1. Mark Alexander

        That’s interesting. It’s different from the full-featured Qwant in that links in the search results don’t go directly to the target, but are redirected through lite.qwant.com. I’m not sure why they do this. It does mean that I can’t tell from the color of the links in the results whether I’ve previously looked at a page or not, unless I got to that page via lite.qwant.com.

        Reply
  15. Pat

    In my curmudgeon “damn these youngsters” mode let me say that I miss Alta Vista.

    But thanks for the alternative, can’t wait to check it out.

    Reply
  16. PlutoniumKun

    I just did a test on google, DDG and Qwant to find a number of old half forgotten blogs I’d done a few years ago. One was a blog I did called ‘Down the Great Divide’ (searched ‘down the great divide blog’). Qwant found it immediately on page 1, DDG and Google didn’t. I also searched for a moderately popular blog post I did a few years ago ‘Cycling Dublin to Cork’. Google and Qwant found it, DDG didn’t. Of course my searches might be skewed by cookies on my home pc. Oddly enough, all three highlighted the third page (entry) of this blog.

    I use DDG at home and Google at work. Unfortunately, when hunting for Irish technical and regulatory papers I find google far better than DDG – mostly because it knows where I am, so it doesn’t insist on sending me links to papers with similar names/search terms from places like Dublin, Ohio, etc. I’ll try Qwant at work, I’ve not used it before, it does look good.

    What I find weird is that so far as I know no European public sector body insists on the use of something like Qwant – there must be a vast amount of information available to Google and its *ahem* sponsor from cookies on public sector pc’s. I know from a friend who works in at a fairly high level in IT consulting to various public sector bodies in the UK and Ireland that there is little attention paid to cookies and other forms of low level intrusion/invasion.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > no European public sector body insists on the use of something like Qwant – there must be a vast amount of information available to Google and its *ahem* sponsor from cookies on public sector

      The French government has mandated Qwant for internal use. Yay industrial policy!

      Reply
    2. fajensen

      In Denmark, the suckers ‘in charge’ will happily run ‘Google Analytics’ on login-protected public service homepages, like where the uniquely-identified clients (because of the login) discuss f.ex. their medication, depression, child support issues or alcohol problems!

      The authority supposed to be dealing with enforcing ‘digital law’, ‘Datatilsynet’, has very tight budget for a few admin people and a Golden Retriever (The retriever is there as a foot-warmer and to lick the stamps of the strongly-worded letters they send to offenders).

      The actual data and data services is hosted by ‘DXC’ formerly ‘CSC’ (provider of last resort). Which is American Owned, with all that that entails for the data security & privacy of us non-American, therefore non-people, who doesn’t even deserve the Patriot Act!

      I.O.W.: Denmark is totally beholden to the digital overlords!

      Reply
    3. PlutoniumKun

      I just did some random tests on my work pc to find a variety of technical and regulatory papers of the type that Google generally finds quickly, but DDG does not – its surprisingly good, even if the search isn’t geographically local.

      Reply
  17. The Rev Kev

    Many years ago Coca-Cola tried to dump their famous drink in favour of a sickly sweet alternative called “New Coke” but people demanded that they back down. After three long months Coca-Cola relented by bringing back their original drink and branding it “Coca-Cola Classic”. Do you think that it possible that Google, if faced with a boycott, could bring back a “Google-Search Classic”?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke

    Reply
    1. skippy

      It was still not classic, bottle size or ingredients, noted on this blog Mexico is the closest thing.

      Hence when the mood suits I go a Jarritos.

      Reply
    2. D. Fuller

      Getting Dr Pepper can be hard sometimes. I frequently find it sold out in big-store aisles and convenience stores. Coca-Cola? Not so much. Always available even in the local convenience stores who have limited deliveries. Curiously enough, a convenience chain-store removed 1L bottles of Dr Pepper (and ONLY Dr Pepper) because the Dr Pepper always sold out rather quickly. I can surmise that the reason for the removal of the 1L Dr Pepper bottles was to force people to buy the other brands that were not selling as well.

      As for myself, Coca-Cola does not taste the same even from a few years ago. If I need my “coffee”? Coca-Cola is next-to-last on the list, after Pepsi.

      With inflation being concealed by smaller portions after 2008 GFC? Cheaper ingredients and less-expensive processing resulting in worse food.

      I spent five years overseas in various countries. After returning home to America, I found that eating was difficult and the food was even worse than from before. In addition, I was afflicted with various GI ailments and a skin condition. After consulting a physician, I was informed by my physician that what I was experiencing was quite common for Americans who spend too much time overseas. It’s been seven years now and eating is still difficult, though the various ailments are lessened in effect.

      America! Taste the crapification!

      Reply
  18. Darius

    I think I’m sold. I searched for some obscure hardwood products, which google would just dumb down and give you nine junk results for each relevant one. Usually on the second page. Qwant just gave all relevant results right from the start.

    Reply
  19. Amongst the Billionaires

    Interesting discussion on Bunga Cast last recently, in which the guest pointed out that filter bubbles don’t actually exist. According to him there’s no scientific basis for the them, just some coinage of the term in a soft piece years ago that caught like wildfire and took off. I haven’t had time to read further into it since then as I’ve been migrating a datacenter, but it’s on my todo, and I figure it’s worth mentioning considering the heavy context of the term in this article.

    Reply
  20. Brian L.

    Just a note: DDG has these things called “bangs” which are shortcuts to search individual sites. They control them so you would have to suggest they add one for NC by filling out a form.

    Requirements are:

    “This bang does not link to illegal content.
    This bang does not link to sexually explicit content.
    This bang would be useful to more than around 500 people.
    This bang doesn’t go against the terms of use of the website it links to.”

    Reply
  21. Jeremy

    Good recommendations here. I’ve been so annoyed with Google Search lately, especially as I’ve been forced in to some kind of UI beta test for the last 3 months. URLs aren’t even green anymore and I’ve spent two bloody decades training my brain to read green URLs.

    I tried Qwant and Ecosia and they’re quite good but I can’t find a real custom date search feature. All they have is a reddit-style ‘last day, last week, last month’ option.

    Funny enough this post has inspired me to move to Bing. I’m still in the “data blob” so I’m sure it sucks for privacy, but at this point I think the design is just better, and Microsoft seems a little less in love with their own algorithm – results seem more directly tied to what I typed rather than Skynet’s predictions of what I actually want.

    Reply
  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    I don’t use search engines as any part of my work. My use of computers at the workplace is for strictly the very oldest-fashioned data entry and data-retrieval for data look-see or data do-this-and-that. I don’t have to “be digital” to do the things I have to do on the workplace computers.

    So I use search engines for my time off-the-clock for having fun on computers. Either reading things or finding out about stuff or etc. So search engine functionality is a matter of fun or no-fun for me, not a matter of life-and-death work-task survival.

    So part of what I like about image aggregation is that I can look at the URLs the images came from, and look at any URL I never heard of if it seems interesting. I have found some interesting URL-sites by picture-diving that I would never have found by conventional word-based or phrase-based search-engine searching.

    I will give a couple of examples in some “self-replies” so they will hopefully go through without choking the comment function.

    Reply
  23. drumlin woodchuckles

    For example, one day I just felt like looking at pictures of Cherokee white flour corn. So I typed the phrase “Cherokee white flour corn images” into the Yahoo- All The Web search engine, because they present pictures in the prettiest way and give each URL with each picture more visibly than any other picture aggregator I have tried. Typing in the phrase “Cherokee white flour corn images” brought me the aggregation of images findable at this link:
    https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrE1xgPit9dv2IAeW5XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=cherokee+white+flour+corn&fr=sfp

    Reply
  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    I clicked on that link I offered just up above and began looking at pictures of Cherokee white flour corn.
    The third picture came with the URL . . . ” http://www.marysheirloomseeds.com” . . . which I clicked That allowed me to click on the actual offering-for-sale of small packs of this corn.
    https://www.marysheirloomseeds.com/products/cherokee-white-flour-corn
    I don’t know how true this seed is or how high-quality. I know it is an obscure source which I would have had a little trouble finding by brute-force word-and-phrase searching.

    Picture number 4 led me to “Appalachian Heirloom Plant Farm” which appears to be another outlet for the exact same source of this corn.

    Picture number 6 led me to a very obscure URL-site put up by a single person ( maybe with family) living in-around the Nantahala Mountains region of North Carolina. She offers vacation rental-space on her land and also sells some Cherokee white flour corn seed which she claims to come from a different “purer” source. Here is the URL which I clicked . . . http://www.nantahala-farm.com/
    (She is actually not listing any corn seed for sale right now, but she may again in the future. And if I were ever to want a very isolated peaceful vacation getaway for a little while, this seems like a possibly interesting place to do it at.) And once again I would not likely have found this by brute-force word-and-phrase text-based searching.

    Picture number 14 led me to this URL for “Mosby’s Secret Sidehill Farm” . . . ” http://www.mosbys.org ” . . .
    which took me here . . . http://www.mosbys.org/store/p1/Cherokee_White_Flour_Corn.html . . . to a place which strongly appears to be selling Cherokee white flour corn for $25 a pound for grinding up in your own home for your own use. But IF the corn is viable seed, you can get a lot of corn-plants planted from a pound of corn seed. And this is one more place I might not have found by brute-force text-searching.
    ( Though I admit I haven’t tried. Because why bother, when I can find these places by clicking the interesting URLs for interesting pictures?)

    Reply
  25. drumlin woodchuckles

    And here’s another rambling picture-search just to show what can be done with picture-searching. I typed in ” potato plant relatives image results” and got this . . .
    https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7KHrkt9de5sA8HRXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=potato+plant+relatives&fr=sfp&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9zZWFyY2gueWFob28uY29tL3NlYXJjaDtfeWx0PUF3ckUxOVQ0aWQ5ZEEyY0FWQXBERFdWSDtfeWxjPVgxTURNVEU1Tnpnd05EZzJOd1JmY2dNeUJHWnlBd1JuY0hKcFpBTldkRE5EWW5CNVgxTmpSMUJRWWs5YVQzbEhRMjFCQkc1ZmNuTnNkQU13Qkc1ZmMzVm5ad013Qkc5eWFXZHBiZ056WldGeVkyZ3VlV0ZvYjI4dVkyOXRCSEJ2Y3dNd0JIQnhjM1J5QXdSd2NYTjBjbXdEQkhGemRISnNBek0zQkhGMVpYSjVBM0J2ZEdGMGJ5VXlNSEJzWVc1MEpUSXdjbVZzWVhScGRtVnpKVEl3Y0dsamRIVnlaWE1FZEY5emRHMXdBekUxTnpRNU16TXlNamMtP2ZyMj1zYi10b3Atc2VhcmNoJnA9cG90YXRvK3BsYW50K3JlbGF0aXZlcytwaWN0dXJlcyZmcj1zZnAmaXNjcXJ5PQ&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAH8s784jpNmtTtO7S7Sc1luEkOwBfuj4UUt5GD8UrvIYlfy05iUe5Boh0dDSRfceHcX1qer7ECbWEFJ4Arv-OifiEW9_A_olBh-BU4TF17TkERtSl2hnKRC9fxVbds6M15m-at6cVNFSSIUHbDiEG7NMbRIKDTaPt-owRBDeXvMC

    Reply
  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    Clicking that link in the comment just above this one, and looking at the pictures, picture number 72 was called ” Chinese potato plant — Hausa — Plectranthus rotundifolius “. That seemed interesting, so I clicked the URL fragment . . . ” jet.com ” . . . and got this . . .
    https://jet.com/product/Chinese-Potato-Plant-Hausa-Plectranthus-rotundifolius-IndoorsOut-4-Pot/f33fbe87b52340aaa44ea8c40b55f6b3
    A description of what “Chinese potatoes” are and how to grow them and use them, and also this same place claims to sell them. So if I ever wanted to try this “potatoform” NON-potato in my garden, now I can. And before this picture-search, I had never even heard of “Chinese potato”.

    Now, on a different such picture-search also related to wild potatoes, I found my way to The Survival Gardener. I couldn’t find it this time in my sample picture-search, but luckily I remembered it from past lucky picture-searches. And here it is. http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/ It is Florida-centric but may have interesting thoughts and info for northeastern/midwestern gardeners.

    Reply
  27. arte

    There was a time in the late 90s when I switched from Google to Northern Light (the auto-classification feature was brilliant and helped in finding things I did not even know what I was looking for). Northern Light got worse and disappeared after a couple of years. For me personally, that was the last time Google had any real competition as the preferred search provider.

    But recently it has become quite difficult to discover new things via Google, perhaps because of the 50-something profile keys thing (despite never logging in, clearing cookies on closing the browser etc). So thank you for reminding me of Qwant – I am willing to give new search engines a real chance again after 20 years.

    Reply

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