Microsoft’s search engine is the obvious alternative, working across the most platforms and offering familiar native options like searching with your voice or an image upload. Frequently changing photographic backgrounds also make Bing the most pleasant homepage of the lot.
It’s not as good as Google when it comes to packaging relevant information at the top of results. It found the cafe and offered information from Zomato, but focused more heavily on a Canadian historical figure with a similar name. The offered directions from Bing Maps were fine. It also baffled me with general COVID information and news, whereas Google was more succinct and relevant.
Bing nailed the conversions just as well as Google, corrected the misspelled word while offering definitions and synonyms, and knew who I was. In some arbitrary searches its images and news results were also very good. It’s a clear second best.
If you remember the internet before Google’s dominance you probably know Yahoo! was once a real competitor in the search engine game. These days, in Australia at least, it’s a joint venture with Seven Network and makes for a strange web destination. Its search functionality is based on Bing.
Yahoo seemed to have no idea I was searching for a cafe, but a few links in the first 10 results could take me to relevant sites for details and reviews. While it was nice and succinct on COVID it offered an even wider geographic spread than Bing: two news stories from NSW and one from Kansas. Adding “Victoria” in the search helped, but recent official information was still hard to find.
Currency, measurements and spelling suggestions were all quick and easy. Image results were identical to Bing, but news offerings were strangely American. It knew who I was but paired the information with a photo of a UK businessman who shares my name. Not strong overall.
As part of a suite of tools designed to protect your privacy and data, DuckDuckGo’s search engine operates without collecting or selling any information about you. It still makes money from advertising, but strictly matches the words you type in to ads in its inventory.
It did a great job with the cafe, offering details and reviews from TripAdvisor, though it still hedged its bets with a breakout box on the Canadian guy. It also did well with COVID, listing out the official resources from each state government before offering news stories; it’s clearly the only one so far without a news algorithm to feed. Conversions were fine as long as I watched my phrasing.
It corrected the word but did not offer definitions, just links. It returned a mix of people with my name, but I wasn’t hard to find. Image results imitate Google as closely as possible and do a good job, while decent maps and directions are supplied by Apple. Pretty good, all things considered.
Devoted to a different kind of social good, Ecosia is a solar-powered search engine that uses its ad profits to plant trees around the world. On average it says every 45 searches equals one tree, and it keeps track of how many searches you’ve performed so you can feel good about it.
Like Yahoo, Ecosia is powered by Bing, but what you get is a list of matching links without much curation. It didn’t try to extract an address, reviews or any pictures about the cafe, and a Maps button merely sends you to Google or Bing. It was better than Yahoo at COVID information, displaying Australian news stories as well as the official NSW and Victorian government sites.
No conversions; you’ll want to bookmark relevant sites. It corrected the misspelling but didn’t offer definitions, and provided a mix of people with my name. Images and news are straight from Bing, which is good. Overall you’re giving up convenience versus Bing, in order to get some trees planted.
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Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.