Alternative search engines - What they can do and how they put pressure on tech giants
While Google is the number one search engine with over 4.3 billion users worldwide, which translates to a market share of 92.24%, the digital powerhouse seems to be losing its charm day by day. Since 2020, the search engine has hovered between 64% and 78% with alternative search engines slowly but surely stepping into the spotlight, putting pressure on tech giants.
But why go beyond Google to “google” your way to new knowledge? What can alternative search engines do? And what are the benefits of ditching Google despite its mind-blowing popularity and impressive stats?
In reality, there are many underlying issues with Google that are currently fuelling this mass exodus.
Why are users switching from Google to alternative search engines?
The environmental impact of data centers
It’s no secret that big data centers are extremely damaging to the environment. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google account for half of all major hyper-scale data centers. That’s hardly a surprise, given that each individual search query consumes 0.0003 kilowatts. These facilities use multiple different batteries that require mining heavy metals like lead, nickel, cobalt, and lithium.
On top of that, data centers heavily pollute the environment through the use of diesel generators, not to mention e-waste. Then, there is the issue of powering servers and cooling systems. Some well-known cooling systems use toxic coolants that are cheaper and easier to obtain, contrary to eco-friendly options such as GRC.
The social impact of Google
Giant tech corporations like Google are no stranger to human rights violations and an overall lack of social consciousness. A recent report by Amnesty International encouraged users to stop accepting the status quo and start seeing it for what it really is, "a violation of our human rights “on an unprecedented scale” perpetrated by two American companies, Facebook and Google. The primary human right threatened by the two companies is the right to privacy.
Privacy concerns regarding Google
In 2022, people are widely aware of the numerous ways Google tracks and uses their personal data to attract advertisers. Google needs those precious data to build individual profiles with demographics and interests. Then, advertisers can target specific groups of people based on their individual traits and online activity to perfect their marketing campaigns.
Google Analytics monitors and reports website activity, including session duration, pages per session, information on the source of the traffic, etc. This practice alone has been the root cause of many scandals. So, it’s safe to say that privacy concerns are a big reason why users are on the lookout for more private alternative search engines.
SEO, small business & Google
Additionally, many small business owners who want to put themselves on the digital map are growing frustrated with how hard it really is to “beat” the algorithm and not get lost in the trillions of results. This makes sense if you consider that Google is just a profit-making enterprise, so consequently, high placement in its search engine is not guaranteed unless you “feed” the system. That’s one of the main reasons why the first page is dominated by affiliate websites, even if the user search intent is strictly transactional and not informational.
Luckily, there are many alternative types of alternative search engines equipped with their own web-crawling site indexes that can offer great opportunities for businesses and users alike through unbiased results and guaranteed privacy.
The different types of alternative search engines
Mainstream search engines, like Google Bing or Yahoo, are heavily supported by online advertising and thus, they use pretty much the same strategy to crawl, index, and rank content. However, they have all faced certain security issues in the past, such as hackers getting hold of more than a billion Yahoo accounts and stealing poorly encrypted passwords.
Private search engines have become Google’s biggest rival over the past few years due to people’s growing frustration with privacy concerts. Contrary to the mainstream search engines, DuckDuckGo, for example, is still ad-supported yet anonymous. In the case of Neeve, users can enjoy an ad-free and completely private browsing experience.
Now on to the great part! Unlike Google or Bing, alternative search engines serve different purposes based on your own personal preferences that go beyond simply navigating the whole wide web. From planting trees in environmentally sensitive areas, searching by emotions, or even being completely decentralized Websites (Web3-Sites).
What can alternative search engines do?
Alternative search engines actively help the environment: Ecosia
Alternative search engines require smaller data centers that consume less energy and natural resources, with significantly fewer kilowatts per search. Driven by social and environmental concerns, many search engines go as far as offsetting the carbon footprint left by your online activities. Alternative search engines like Ecosia have planted more than 147 million trees to date.
The engine offers the ad revenue from your searches to plant trees where they are needed the most. The process is pretty simple; the average search generates around 0.005 € of revenue. It costs roughly 0.25 € to plant a tree. So Ecosia can plant one tree every 50 searches. However, you do not have to “create personal profiles of you based on your search history" and they also anonymize all searches within one week. It also offers integrations with Wikipedia, Amazon, and other services.
The search results are powered by Microsoft Bing's algorithm. The company built their own solar plants, so they can supply enough clean energy to power our searches.
Alternative search engines join the fight against plastic pollution: Ocean Hero
The Ocean Hero is another fantastic example of how sustainable alternative search engines can help the environment instead of damaging it even more. So basically, with every search, users can make a positive contribution. Their search engine is powered by Microsoft Bing. Every time users open a new tab or answer a few quick questions, they earn digital "shells". And for every 100 shells collected, they help recover one ocean-bound plastic bottle.
Alternative search engines ensuring privacy: Swisscows
Swisscows delivers a VPN along with a private messaging app, and private email to users who value privacy. On top of not using any suspicious trackers whatsoever, they frequently donate to worthy causes.
Alternative search engines stepping into web3 technology: Presearch
In the case of Presearch, rewards come in the form of cryptocurrency. The owners were on a mission to create a decentralized, Web3 search site where your queries are completely anonymous. The engine allows users to customize their search provider options and opt for Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Google, which is pretty great.
As you can see, those alternatives help to easily increase their user’s positive impact on the planet, but what does this mean for the well-known tech giants?
How alternative search engines put pressure on tech giants
Putting pressure on tech giants for a more sustainable web future
As alternative search engines’ popularity increases, big tech players are forced to come up with sustainable practices. The pressure from small players seems to be working given that Google has already changed its CSR efforts to environmental and social concerns, including taking action to prevent their energy-consuming data centers, opting for renewable energy, and helping some of Google buildings achieve green certification status.
That’s not surprising if we consider how fast alternative search engines that heavily focus on sustainability, like Ecosia, are becoming more and more popular by the day. In fact, Chrome, the world's most popular browser, has added Ecosia as an official search engine option around the world! This means that the latest Chrome update can now plant trees while using Ecosia in the browser across all devices. The green search engine is also seeing rapid growth among a younger audience, the same demographic that mainstream tech corporations try to appeal to.
The universal demand for privacy has a negative impact
As the Big Tech giants appear before Congress, the users’ demand for transparency is now bigger than ever. The tech elites are dominating Facebook, YouTube, and other popular websites, tracking information and presenting tailored ads to feen into the mindset of excessive consumerism, but their plans seem to be facing a great backlash.
StopHateForProfit.org, a campaign organized by civil rights organizations has managed to shift the minds of 1,100+ marketers who decide to stop using FB as an advertising tool. Years after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the regulations have already caused a significant loss in profit.
Safety, privacy, competition, sustainability, and honesty are the top 5 demands and since the tech giants aren’t quite ready to adhere to these requests, people are turning towards alternative search engines that are gaining momentum.
Last year, despite generating $19 billion in revenue, Google Cloud lost more than $3 billion. And the unit lost more than $17.6 billion over the past four years. As for Yahoo, the series of poor business choices has ultimately led to the company's demise and Bing is now losing a spectacular $3 billion a year.
While the mainstream search engines are still vastly popular among all ages, more and more people are turning towards alternative search engines in an effort to maintain their online privacy and reinforce their sustainability pledge. This collective shift is no surprise given that Google is known for tracking user data both for its own and third-party use, as well as consuming dangerous amounts of energy and natural resources. As sustainability-focused search engines, like Ecosia and Ocean Hero, are gaining momentum, giant tech corps are forced to change their ways and adopt eco-conscious practices.
So, are you ready to make the switch to an alternative search engine, like Ecosia?
If you want to find more helpful solutions, on how easily implement sustainability measures in your daily life, check out the Tips & Tricks section in your Clime account.