Paid search engines: do they work and are they worth it?
February 23, 2024 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to fully extricate myself from the Googlesphere personally. I know engines like DuckDuckGo and Bing (ugh) exist, but does anyone have experience with paid search engines they could share?
posted by Shepherd to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've been using Kagi for a few months now and finding it a big improvement over Duck Duck Go. Ymmv, but there's a free trial you can sign up for up for to see if you find it worth paying for.
posted by Stacey at 7:43 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]

These are free and not American
Brave Search
Maybe check them out?
Also, I have heard some people like VPN services, but I've never tried.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:47 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I've been using the free demo of Kagi for a month or two now and I'm pretty ready to just start paying them. I don't think they necessarily give me the answers I'm looking for, but the results I get are closer to being useful than the SEO optimized bullshit that google regularly feeds me.

I mean, I half suspect I'm still searching for the unsearchable, but at least Kagi's results seem to be getting me in the neighborhood of the right answer?
posted by Kyol at 7:49 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Came to say what Stacey already said, I sometimes switch back and forth to Google but for the most part I'm happier with Kagi.

Less SEO b.s. on kagi (esp when looking for product reviews), but on the other hand if I'm looking for a crowd-sourced answer to something that might be deep in a forum or on reddit somewhere then I tend to use Google. I can't actually swear they serve different quality RESULTS for those types of searches, but Google groups all the reddit or stack overflow responses together in a helpful way.
posted by tiamat at 7:53 AM on February 23

Best answer: I recently came across a website which aims to list all the search engines that maintain their own indexes: It has some measures of quality for each.

I don't have personal experiences to share regarding non-Google search engines, sorry.
posted by snarfois at 8:22 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]

It says this about Kagi:
The most interesting entry in this category, IMO. Like Neeva, it requires an account and limits use without payment. It’s powered by its own Teclis index (Teclis can be used independently; see the non-commercial section below), and claims to also use results from Google and Bing. The result seems somewhat unique: I’m able to recognize some results from the Teclis index mixed in with the mainstream ones. In addition to Teclis, Kagi’s other products include the intelligent answer service and the TinyGem social bookmarking service, both of which play a role in in the present or future. I’m concerned about the company’s biases, as it seems happy to double down on partnering with Brave (allowing blatant homophobia in the comments) and recommending suicide methods.
posted by snarfois at 8:23 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

I'm using and paying for Kagi, I like it - I've been using it exclusively for a while now.

The search results are good, there's no "sponsored" results nor ads, and you can personalize the results by marking which websites you want to hide (never see results from) or promote (shows first in results).
posted by jpeacock at 9:40 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

Kagi is fairly good, but sometimes I need to use google to find things.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:56 AM on February 23

Best answer: I paid for Kagi for a few months, and bounced off it 'cause it seemed like they were doing the whole "semantic model" thing that's part of why other "search" engines, which have stopped actually, you know, searching for words, have declined in usefulness to me.

I was shocked recently to learn that not only is Lycos still a thing, it seams to be actually search-y, and has led to a number of interesting discoveries about technologies I've been working with.

And I'm intrigued by Stract.
posted by straw at 11:34 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Thanks to straw, I've just added both Stract and Lycos to my daily driver Firefox browser.

Stract was straightforward: just visit, notice that the magnifying glass icon in the search box now has a green ⊕ emblem, click it, then click the blue Stract logo that has the same green ⊕ attached to it.

Kagi can be added the same way.

Lycos was trickier because the Lycos site apparently doesn't include support for the OpenSearch standard that Mozilla's instructions depend on and searching for "Lycos" doesn't return any relevant results. So I was forced to resort to the following multi-step process:
  1. Open a new tab and browse to about:config
  2. In the "Search preference name" box, paste browser.urlbar.update2.engineAliasRefresh
  3. Click Boolean, then click the + button on the right hand side of the same line; check that where the Boolean, Number and String choices used to appear on that line, there is now just the word true.
  4. Browse to about:preferences#search
  5. Scroll down to the Search Shortcuts section. As a result of all that about:config foolery there should now be an Add button below the list of existing search engines. Click that.
  6. Type Lycos into the "Search engine name" box, and paste into the "Engine URL" box. Leave the "Alias" box blank and click "Add Engine".
This procedure worked for Firefox 119.0 and with any luck Mozilla will not choose to further dumb down the preferences page to the point where it stops working. I really don't understand why we now have to mess about with adding obscurely named about:config settings just to expose an Add button that I am sure I've seen appear by default in earlier versions.
posted by flabdablet at 6:06 AM on February 24 [8 favorites]

By the way, if your Firefox isn't set up to show separate address and search boxes in the main toolbar, any site that would add the little green ⊕ to the search box's magnifying glass will also give you the option to install its associated search provider if you right-click its URL in the address box.
posted by flabdablet at 6:22 AM on February 24

I've used Kagi everywhere for the past three or four months, at home and work, and like it a lot. It's satisfied my needs completely so far. I haven't regularly used Google search regularly for years, and DDG has been pretty satisfactory, but Kagi is the best. Definitely worth $5 a month, and the free trial is generous enough to get a good feel for it.

They also make the Orion browser for Mac, based on Safari. It's not bad, but it had some quirks that I don't experience in Safari, so I uninstalled it.
posted by lhauser at 10:13 AM on February 24

Btw Neeva is mentioned in a quote above. They are out of business though. I used the paid version while it lasted and liked it a lot. Not that helpful but a general +1 for any search engine that doesn’t load ads and sponsored results all over.
posted by caviar2d2 at 3:31 PM on February 24

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