Search instead of google

What search engines besides Google can be used in school? Find out here which alternative search engines we recommend for the classroom.

"Wait, I'll Google that real quick"
Searching for something online has become synonymous with Googling for many. In the classroom, this especially bothers those teachers who consider online searching to be very important as part of information literacy. That's because reservations about Google in terms of data protection and privacy are justifiably high.

Google is currently the undisputed number one search engine in Germany, with a market share of up to 98 percent. Yet many students use this search service as a matter of course. Not surprisingly, around 80 percent of cell phones run Google's Android operating system. Only recently, the EU Commission sanctioned Google's anti-competitive behavior: Cell phone manufacturers who wanted access to Google's apps store had to pre-set Google search, for example. For this violation of EU antitrust law, the EU imposed a fine - not legally enforceable - of over four billion euros.

Google has shaped what we understand by a good search engine. Nevertheless, there are good alternatives: These can certainly keep up in terms of quality, but above all they stand out for their focus on privacy protection. In some cases, they also include innovative functions that can be put to good use, especially in the classroom.

What are the distinguishing features of alternative search engines?
If you use Bing or Yahoo instead of Google, you haven't landed on a real alternative yet. Good alternative search engines, on the other hand, promise to better protect the privacy of searchers. They are not financed by user data but, for example, by non-personalized advertising, donations, membership fees or public funding.

Recommendations for use in schools

  • QwantThis search engine stands out from other search engines because of its hip look and feel. At the same time, it delivers excellent search results. In addition to the general search engine, Qwant also offers its own music and children's search engine. However, the latter can only be recommended to a limited extent in comparison to The search engine from France is mainly made possible by government support. If you want to use Qwant as a standard search, you have to install an add-on in the browser. For the smartphone, there is an app.
  • StartpageThe Dutch search engine is perhaps still known to some under the name Ixquick. It uses the Google index, but anonymizes the user data. The quality of the search results is very satisfactory. Some privacy settings will even delight computer science teachers, such as server selection. Unfortunately, the image search cannot be filtered by usage rights, which is not helpful for preparing papers or student projects. Through Startpage you can also get to other sites anonymously, as long as they do not exclude this. The source of income of Startpage is non-personalized advertising. To use Startpage as a standard search, an add-on can be installed in the browser and an app on the cell phone.
  • DuckDuckGo: It is probably the best known search engine among the alternatives to Google. Some students already know this search engine from the Darknet. DuckDuckGo's privacy tools are impressive: it shows which of the surfable pages are tracking you or are encrypted. So it's no coincidence that the site is used in the Darknet, where anonymous use of the Internet is an important factor. The site uses its own crawlers, which anonymously access other commercial search engines, such as Yandex or Bing, among others. The search engine is financed by keyword-based advertising, as well as so-called "affiliate advertising" with Amazon and Ebay. DuckDuckGo can be used both as a standard search in the browser and as an app.
  • Swisscows: Created as a project of a Swiss software company, the program impresses with a semantic map. This can help to learn and practice good search terms with students. The search engine is financed by donations. Apps or add-ons are not yet offered, so you have to save them in your own favorites.
  • MetaGerYes, it still exists, the meta search engine! It searches other search engines and shows where its results come from. Other tools that can be exciting in the classroom are a map, a quote search or a search for associations to entered terms. The latter can be useful for language teaching. Meta-Ger is financed by membership fees from an association in Germany. A widget can be downloaded for the browser and an app for the Android phone.

If you try alternative search engines, you learn one thing above all: You need well formulated and thought-out search queries. What sounds simple, has to be learned first. Numerous valuable tips for successful searches can be found in the dossier on "Using search engines cleverly".

Not every image search is suitable for the classroom

It is becoming increasingly important for students to use images and music that can be shared without violating copyright. One option is content that has been licensed under a Creative Commons license. Not all of the featured search engines offer support in this area. However, Swisscows, MetaGer and Qwant provide for an image search in which it is possible to filter for royalty-free images.

The research for this article was done as part of an ÖIAT project funded by the Austrian Chamber of Labor. We would like to thank our partner for this article.

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