Even though a compromise seems to be emerging, Australian media is still abuzz with the possibility (or threat) that Google will block our country from using their search engine. Now, if you’re a small business currently relying on Google to refer customers to you, I could see that being a real but short-term problem (until you figure out how to optimise your ranking in whatever search engines Australians move to). However, if you’re just a person who uses search engines, this is far from the apocalypse.

For quite a while now, I’ve been using DuckDuckGo(external link) as my default search engine. They’re pretty privacy-conscious, they allow you to block their ads, and for simple searches (as in, actually, nearly all my searches) they work just as well.

Another feature of DuckDuckGo is its “bang searches(external link)”. What this means practically, for me, is that if I can’t find any useful results, I can just scroll up and add a “bang” to my search term (e.g. !b for Bing), and be directed to the search results for that term on a different search engine. (Bangs also exist for searching many specific sites, like !w for Wikipedia or !imdb for IMDB – not just for other search engines.) Until recently, my “second choice” search engine was Google, because, well, if what I needed was better results than DuckDuckGo’s, what options were there?

But then. Then, I discovered StartPage(external link). It’s also pretty privacy-conscious, but unlike DuckDuckGo, they use Google as the basis of their search results. That is, you can effectively do a Google search, without actually using Google. Useful for limiting the amount of data you send to that company, or also, you know, for if Google pulls out of your country. And I can use StartPage as my “second choice” search engine just as easily as I used to use Google, by using the bang !s instead of !g. So now, I don’t need to turn to Google Search at all.

Here’s a good, detailed comparison of DuckDuckGo and StartPage(external link), from a privacy perspective as well as a usability/quality-of-results one, albeit one a few years old now. Each of them have their merits! For now I’ll be keeping DuckDuckGo as my default, if only because its bangs make it so easy to switch to searching the other whenever I need. But for me it’s clear: as an internet user I don’t need Google, and I don’t have a reason to worry about this “Google vs right-wing commercial media” stoush.