Do you remember the world before Google?

I do, and then again, I don’t. Googling has become such an integral part of everyday existence that we aren’t really aware of it anymore. We take it for granted that when we type stuff into a search field we get results. And Google does deliver the goods. Rarely do we need to browse through pages 2-3-4, etc.

But apart from getting good results (and learning how to get there) there’s another side to Google, a company that is increasingly mining our lives for data.

Escape Being Tracked

Have you ever noticed that when you google for something a lot, you’ll see advertising for it all over the web?

Each time you do a search on Google, your queries are tracked and connected to advertisers.

It’s no secret that Google doesn’t even shy away from looking through personal emails, either, all in the name of presenting you with “custom tailored product offers”, in other words: ads, ads, ads.

Now, you could say: What do I care? I use an ad-blocker anyway, and never see any ads.

So do I. But, just like with Facebook, there’s a looming sense of never quite knowing anymore what kind of information this company has acquired about you over the years.

In other words, Google builds a profile about us consisting of our (gmail) emails, our searches, our friends (on G+), the videos we watch on YouTube and so on and so forth.

When Google Glass becomes a reality, there’s a chance that everything we see 24/7 will get logged and archived in HD, ready to be bombarded with ads, requested by state officials, nosy employees or rampant hackers. In that case, running against a lamp pole won’t be the biggest problem.

Breaking Out Of The Filter Bubble

The “Filter Bubble” is a concept referring to the phenomenon that when you google for certain things, you’ll get more of them and less of everything else.

Trying to satisfy searchers, Google’s search results are increasingly personalized. When two people google the same term, they can get radically different results:

Each person has his own Google, so to speak, his bubble. If you don’t log out, delete your cookies, etc, this bubble will influence everything you put into the search giant.

And sometimes you have to wonder whether’s that’s really helpful and enabling people to find what they’re looking for quicker or just  a trick to keep people clicking on more ads.

Personally, I use a lot of Google products, but recently, taking all of the above into consideration, I replaced my gateway drug into the Google universe with something else.

Yes, I’m talking about the Google search engine. There is an alternative!

Friendly Ducks Instead Of Bubbles And Advertisments

It was a few months ago that I first stumbled across duckduckgo, a search engine that promises to be everything that Google is not, while still delivering excellent search results.

It…

  • doesn’t have advertising
  • doesn’t save search queries
  • doesn’t bubble its users

At first I was sceptical. I was so accustomed to Google that it seemed impossible to switch. But a few days ago I finally replaced my standard search engine with duckduckgo.

What seems like a silly name for a serious search engine is actually a lot of fun.

In a way it feels like re-discovering the Internet anew. And the technology? It delivers great results, and very quickly. This is no hastily pieced together geekatron engine. This thing has wings, and it soars.

And, best of all, using “The Duck” (as my wife and I like to call it) doesn’t bar you from using other engines, too. When you aren’t happy with its results, you can use still use Google or Bing as secondary choices.

But it’s a great feeling not to be dependent on Google. (Almost as good as quitting Facebook)

img: bubble AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by JMMarkiewicz