It’s easy to get into habits, and by doing so, failing to discover better alternatives.
Take search engines, for example.
I’ve been using Google since it was a cluster of Linux/Free-BSD boxes in the late-90′s. In those days, Google was a scrappy challenger to then-dominant Yahoo, and when I told people that I’d switched to it, I was met mostly with snickers.
Alas, history is repeating itself, as it wants to.
Google was superior to Yahoo because its algorithm was right for the times. Whereas Yahoo merely counted the number of times a search term appeared on a page, Google counted the number of links to a website to calculate its importance.
Unfortunately, in the last 15 years, Google’s linking algorithm has been exploited so many times, that it no longer returns anything even close to the most relevant pages for a web search. At least not for me, and at least not most of the time. Instead, what I usually find when I perform a search on Google, is 50 sites all with the exact same cut-and-pasted content … followed somewhere in the back by everything else.
The last decade has seen Google’s search results morph into little more than a popularity contest, a paradigm which flies in the face of my own personal motto which is “It’s better to be right than popular”.
In addition, Google search results at least seem to be highly weighted with pages which make Google money. I once owned a domain on which I put Adsense ads. This domain had a Page Rank of 5.
One day, I decided that I no longer wanted the ads to run, and I yanked them off. Within one month’s time, that website dropped to a PR 2, even though very little content had changed, while traffic had increased.
Unfortunately, there weren’t many alternatives. The other major search engines were equally dodgy and spam-filled.
Finally, about 6 months ago, I began testing out other search engines, and began putting them all through their paces. Finally, I found a new one, and much like Google, it has a silly name … DuckDuckGo. While I’m not a huge fan of the name, I am a fan of their search results.
DDG omits most content mills from its search results, such as eHow.com, Answers.com, and the litany of other sites which exist solely to rank well in search engines. This in and of itself is huge, because especially in the past couple of years, these content mills (not to mention social media sites) have completely overrun Google’s search results.
As if this weren’t compelling enough, DuckDuckGo does not log user information, therefore, they really don’t have much of your information to give away. This is the search engine to use if you care about privacy.
There are actually quite a few advanced features that DDG offers, but they would mean nothing without good search results, and after several months of testing, I’ve been quite impressed. As a Perl fan, it also doesn’t hurt that DuckDuckGo’s search engine runs on Perl, on Linux & Free BSD.
In any event, if the whole “Google sells me out” thing really does bother you, there’s finally a viable alternative. Given the big G’s ubiquity, they’re going to have a long, uphill climb before grabbing any appreciable market share, but they’ve got to start somewhere.
First, I pulled my 200+ videos from YouTube, then, I deleted all of my Gmail, now, I’ve switched search engines … I’m slowly but surely extricating myself from the corporate ogre that is Google and I’ve got to tell you …
It’s much easier than I thought it would be.