A Month Without Google
Data breaches and individual privacy dominated the headlines of 2018 and 2019, and public trust in Silicon Valley tech companies was and still is at an all time low. Google is one of the most dominant if not the dominant tech company in the United States. As a result, all Americans engage with some of their products. I wanted to run a small experiment of what life would be like without Google Search. I removed as much of Google’s presence in terms of search from my personal and work life as I could. I do manage Google Ads accounts and use an Android phone so my acceptable use of Google was limited to necessary work activities and any Android function that I could not find another app to replace.
What Will I Use Instead of Google?
For three consecutive months I will use DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and Bing as my primary desktop and mobile search while changing as little else as possible about my routine. I started with DuckDuckGo over the entirety of February. I used Google Chrome as do most Americans and was able to easily change the default search through the settings area on both desktop and mobile applications.
For a small detour I did try and remove Google Maps from my search pattern as well. Instead of Waze, a Google property, I used HereWeGo since Apple Maps is not available on Android. That did not go so well as HereWeGo needed constant data to function as a GPS, and when I lost service my navigation ended. As a result, I decided it was not a functional app for what I needed and decided to do any searches I needed through text searches and Google Maps as my GPS.
February was the month of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that prides itself on not retaining any user data, a direct assault on Google and other companies who gather everything they can from you to make a profit. This means that DuckDuckGo is a bit more limited.
I started using search engines in the late 90s and early 2000s when Yahoo and Alta Vista were more popular than Google. I learned how to conduct a search of specific sites, and the use of quotation marks to use key phrases. As a result, I still do many searches this way. This is important because I feel like it made the transition to DuckDuckGo much easier. People now utilize location features and conduct searches like “restaurants near me.” This will work in Google, but DuckDuckGo will need more information from you. A search of “restaurants in Bethel,” might also not work for you as Bethel is a common name for towns across the country. “Restaurants in Bethel CT,” will give you the results that you are looking for. Again, I do not use the “near me” when searching and never have so this style was easily adaptable.
The DuckDuckGo SERP
Throughout the month I conducted personal, work, and mobile searches without feeling frustrated at the results. There were ads but I was not assaulted by them, unlike Google, where you scroll before you get to what you really need. However, the interface has news cards and information cards just like Google. The image search is responsive and feels much more like Google image search from the 2007 era. When searching for videos the majority are on YouTube, but unlike Google you will get results from sites like Vimeo as well, possibly giving you a better, less narrow view of the videos you are looking for. I did have to refine searches from time to time but I did this on Google as well. For directions, DuckDuckGo utilizes Apple Maps as its map provider.
DuckDuckGo vs. Google
Overall DuckDuckGo for me was a seamless transition that did not have a noticeable impact on my daily life for a month. I certainly did not miss the ads and having the search results higher up was a pleasant change of pace. If you are the type of person that tends to use vague language, or “near me” in your searches you might have a harder time making the transition. As a giant of a company Google does have considerable power and being deep into their ecosystem does have value. If you are a person who values privacy, DuckDuckGo is probably the way to go for you. With a smooth, familiar, simple interface and a week or less of adjustment time I did not find any reason to use Google in the month of February.
Moving forward in March I will deeply dive into the oldest player, Yahoo. In doing this I will use a Yahoo account and have their home page set up with flowing news and content as Yahoo is the only of the big three to be actively publishing and curating content. I will be conducting an experiment like this at the end of every month to go through my experiences and thoughts on each, and at the very end give my opinions to see if any of them will take me away from Google. Right now, DuckDuckGo should certainly be considered. Give it a try and let us know if you found using DuckDuckGo to be as pleasant and easy an experience as I did.