Best Search Engines for Private Eyes: A Comprehensive Guide

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List of the best search engines
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

This article provides an overview of search engines and a list of the best search engines. An internet search engine is a searchable online database of internet resources, websites, and information. A typical web search engine has several primary components:

  • Search engine software
  • Spider and index software
  • An index (the database)
  • A relevancy algorithm (rules for evaluating and ranking content)

Search engines are also known as web search engines, internet search engines, search websites, search directories, etc.

Search Engine Use

Each day, search engines process billions of queries from millions of people worldwide. People use their computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices to submit keyword queries to their preferred search tools. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Siri submit queries based on user voice commands.

The results in response to keyword queries depend on the device used. In most cases, such as computers and mobile devices, the results are provided on a page in a list format, with the most closely matched content listed first.

Most lookup tools provide a hyperlink to the website and a brief description or blurb of text to describe the result. Results can be viewed in different categories: web pages, images, videos, news, podcasts, and other files.

In some cases, as with Google’s results, the answer is provided on the results page itself, saving the user the extra step of clicking through to the website. When questions are submitted to AI devices, the response comes back in a spoken format. Unlike web directories, which human editors maintain, search engines operate using an algorithm or are a mixture of algorithmic and human input.

List of the Best Search Engines

The following is a list of the search engines and directories on the internet. The list is in alphabetical order and is not intended to be a ranking.

AOL Search, part of AOL (America Online), is a web search engine providing internet search services since the mid-1990s. Initially, AOL was a key player in the early days of the internet, offering users a portal for web browsing, email, and, later, search capabilities. AOL Search integrates with various content from AOL’s extensive network, offering news, entertainment, sports, and other information directly within its search results. While it never reached the dominance of Google or Bing, AOL Search has maintained a user base, particularly among those loyal to the AOL brand. Its search results are powered by Bing, reflecting a partnership between AOL and Microsoft to enhance its search capabilities and ad revenue.

Ask.com, originally known as Ask Jeeves, was launched in 1996 as a question-answering-focused search engine where users could get answers to queries posed in natural language. It featured a gentleman butler named Jeeves, symbolizing the idea of fetching answers to any question. Over the years, Ask.com transitioned from its question-answering service to a more traditional search engine model, removing Jeeves from its branding. Despite this shift, Ask.com struggled to compete with search giants like Google and Bing. It now primarily functions as a question-and-answer portal, where users can find answers to previously asked questions or submit new ones, leveraging its large repository of user-generated content.

Baidu, founded in 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu in Beijing, China, is the leading Chinese search engine, dominating the local market with a significant share. Designed to provide search services tailored for Chinese language users, it offers an array of functionalities, including web, image, video, and map searches, similar to its global counterparts. Baidu has been instrumental in adapting search technologies to understand and process the complexities of the Chinese language. Beyond search, it has expanded into AI, cloud services, and autonomous driving technologies. Baidu also provides advertising services, allowing businesses to reach a vast audience in China’s heavily internet-integrated society. Its dominance is attributed to its deep understanding of local user preferences and strict adherence to China’s internet regulations.

Bing, developed by Microsoft, is a web search engine launched in 2009. It was introduced as a rebranding of MSN Search and Windows Live Search, aiming to compete more directly with Google, the market leader. Bing incorporates a variety of search services, including web, video, image, and map search capabilities. It uses proprietary algorithms to deliver relevant search results, emphasizing user experience with a visually appealing interface. Bing also integrates with Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, and offers features like Bing Rewards, encouraging users to adopt it as their primary search tool. Over the years, Bing has evolved, focusing on AI and search personalization to improve its service and capture more market share.

DuckDuckGo, launched in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg, distinguishes itself from other search engines with its strong privacy policy, promising not to track users or their search history. It aims to provide a more secure and private search experience, addressing growing concerns over internet privacy. DuckDuckGo generates search results from over 400 sources, including its crawler (DuckDuckBot), crowd-sourced sites (like Wikipedia), and other search engines. It offers a clean, straightforward interface and useful features like !bang commands for direct searching on other sites. Despite its smaller market share, DuckDuckGo has gained a loyal user base, appealing to those wary of online privacy.

Google Search, developed by Google LLC, is the dominant global web search engine. It was launched in 1997 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Its PageRank algorithm has revolutionized information retrieval, prioritizing results based on relevance and authority. Google processes billions of queries daily, offering services beyond basic search, including image, video, news, and map searches. Its clean interface and fast, accurate results have made it a primary tool for internet users. Google continuously updates its algorithms to combat spam and improve user experience. It also personalizes search results based on user data, enhancing relevancy but raising privacy concerns. Google’s dominance extends its influence on web development and online advertising.

See Google Search Commands to learn how to find the information you need.

WolframAlpha, launched in 2009 by Stephen Wolfram, is a computational knowledge engine distinct from traditional search engines. Instead of listing web pages in response to queries, it computes answers using structured data and a vast repository of algorithms and knowledge across various domains. WolframAlpha is particularly strong in mathematics, science, and data analysis, providing precise answers and generating reports for questions ranging from simple arithmetic to complex equations, statistical data, and historical information. It’s a valuable resource for students, educators, and professionals seeking factual, numerical answers. WolframAlpha represents a different approach to information retrieval, emphasizing computation and knowledge synthesis over conventional search.

Yahoo Search, part of Yahoo’s broader range of Internet services, was established in 1995. It became one of the early web’s most popular search engines, allowing users to find online information through a simple, user-friendly interface. Over the years, Yahoo Search has seen various transformations, including partnerships and integrations with other search technologies. In 2009, Yahoo signed a deal with Microsoft to use Bing as the search engine powering Yahoo Search, with Yahoo focusing on the user interface and experience. Despite stiff competition from Google and others, Yahoo Search remains a significant player, particularly valued for its integrated Yahoo services like Yahoo Mail, News, and Finance.

Other Search Engines

DogpileDogpile searches multiple search engines at once.

IX QuickIxquick is a metasearch engine: when you search Ixquick, you search many popular engines simultaneously. IXquick bills itself as the world’s most private search engine.

LycosLycos, established in 1995, is one of the world’s oldest and most widely known Internet brands, evolving from one of the original search engines on the web into a comprehensive network of sites that foster online communities. The Lycos Network provides web search and navigation, homepage building and web hosting services, web-based e-mail, online games, and cutting-edge video platforms. Lycos’s products and services include tools for blogging, web publishing and hosting, video sharing, social networking, games, e-mail, and search. InfoSpace Holdings, LLC owns Lycos.

Reference.ComReference.com is a multi-source encyclopedia search service produced by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC, a leading online provider of language reference products and services.

Search Com – Search.com is a metasearch engine that searches Google, Ask.com, LookSmart, and other leading search engines for the best results. CBS Interactive, Inc. currently owns the service.

WebCrawlerWebCrawler® brings users search results from Google, Yahoo!, Windows Live, Ask, and other popular search engines. WebCrawler provides multimedia results, including images, audio, video, news, and local information. WebCrawler is a registered trademark of InfoSpace, Inc.

List of Retired Search Engines

Following is a list of search engines, web directories, and metacrawlers that were once popular but are now shut down. In some cases, another, more popular company acquired the engine or the technology behind the scenes.

  • All The Web – AlltheWeb (owned by Yahoo!) combines indices with powerful search features to help users search the web. AlltheWeb’s index included billions of web pages and tens of millions of PDF and MS Word® files.
  • AltaVista – AltaVista was a web search engine owned by Yahoo! AltaVista used to be one of the most popular search engines. Still, its popularity declined with the rise of Google’s search engine.
  • GenieKnows – GenieKnows.com narrowed the field of organic search results by developing niche-specific portals tailored for distinct searching communities and also empowers a broad distribution network for advertisers by conveying meaningful, revenue-generating search results.
  • Mamma – Mamma.com provides relevant results from the best search engines on the Internet.
  • Metacrawler – Now owned by DogPile, used innovative metasearch technology to search the Internet’s top search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN Search, Ask Jeeves, About, MIVA, LookSmart, and more. MetaCrawler searched results from the combined pool of the world’s leading search engines instead of results from only one single search index.
  • Northern Light – Northern Light no longer provides search services. They do provide licensed news content to businesses on a confidential basis.

A Private Investigator’s Best Friend

Search engines are useful to private investigators because they provide a quick and easy way to retrieve information on various topics. Sometimes, missing person search cases can be resolved using nothing more than a search engine and a telephone.

Remember to use a variety of search engines, as each company indexes content in a slightly different way and has different rules for ranking and sorting their results.

If you have any questions about the list of the best search engines, please post a comment below. Also, check out my list of Open Source Intelligence Tools, which includes several helpful search tools.

Searching for Someone? We recommend a powerful online database search using BeenVerified.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. This was a very informative piece. Thank you for sharing!

    I’m a fan of DuckDuckGo. If you are as well, then you might want to give Petey Vid a try. It’s a video search engine that focuses on privacy and diversity. We offer multi-lingual videos from 4,000+ sources from around the world – without collecting, saving, or selling our user’s information.

    Keep up the great work!

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