If you can live without personalisation there are plenty of alternatives
Qwant bucks the general fashion for minimalistic search gateways by featuring news and trends on its homepage. In this, it reminds us of the older-style search portals like Yahoo which seek to be a destination in their own right rather than simply a hopping-off point. It's also unusual in that users can create an account to save personal settings and bookmarks.
The company is VC-funded, with investors including the publisher Axel-Springer. It makes money from context- and location-based adverts through the Bing ad network although it says it has plans to develop its own ad serving systems. No personal information captured or transmitted to advertisers, Qwant claims. Like other search engines listed here, Qwant makes a play of not only privacy but also lessening the echo chamber effect that can result from being served content based on personal profiling.
"Our sorting algorithms are applied equally everywhere and for every user, without trying to put websites forward or to hide others based on commercial, political or moral interests," the Paris-based company says on its website. The flipside of the depersonalisation coin, of course, is that results may require more refining before you for what you're looking for.
Search results are a combination of the efforts of the company's own crawlers and those of Bing. As well as news, video and image search, the social tab trawls through results from Twitter, and there's music courtesy of iTunes. There's a shopping tab too but that wasn't working when we tried. The maps service is courtesy of the excellent OpenStreetMap. Qwant has an optional feature called Qoz which automatically donates money to good causes as you search. There's a junior version providing safe searching and information for children.
Apps are available for Android and Apple.
Pros: Colourful well-designed UI, music browser, can personalise by creating an account, good results and filtering options
Cons: None that spring to mind
As well as growing its user-base Berlin-headqartered Ecosia seeks to increase tree cover, with 80 per cent of its ad income going into planting projects around the globe. One tree is planted for every 45 searches too, and the search page features a ticker so you can track your contribution. The company says its operations are ‘more than carbon neutral', by planting trees and running on 100 per cent renewable energy. That said, search is based on Bing and Microsoft is far from carbon neutral, despite making a few nods in that direction.
Privacy-wise, the company states that it encrypts all searches, eschews third-party analytics tools, does not sell your data and honours browsers' ‘do not track' option. There is a checkbox under settings where you can opt out of ‘personalised search'. Personalised search sends an identifier to Bing, although it's automatically disabled if ‘do not track' is set in the browser.
The search is basically Bing plus contributions from its own crawler, with tabs including image, video and news via Microsoft although the maps service offers a choice of Google or Bing. There's a travel service in beta which promises to plant 25 trees for each booking made through it. Ecosia offers iOS and Android apps. Source code is hosted on GitHub.
Ecosia is a great Bing replacement provided you're happy with Microsoft's results (they are pretty much identical in our experience), and it's hard to argue with the company's mission. Privacy is not its prime USP yet it provides enough controls to minimise data leakage.
Pros: Transparency, mission
Cons: Needs tweaking to optimise privacy