The default address bar search engine in the Firefox web browser is Google Search. This means that any search phrase that the user enters directly into the Firefox address bar may result in a search on Google instead of a website that is opened directly in Firefox.
To be precise: any text that the user types in the location bar that cannot be mapped to a domain name is searched on Google Search.
Update: Please note that Mozilla changed the feature described below in Firefox 23. All versions from this point onwards don't support the keyword.url parameter anymore. You can restore it however with the help of a browser extension as described in this article.
Some Internet users may prefer to have a different search engine as the default in Firefox, for instance if their favorite search engine is Bing or another search engine that is not Google. This can be done easily in the advanced configuration of Firefox.
To do that type about:config in the Firefox address bar. First time users need to verify that they are carefully from this point on, everyone else will see the configuration parameters right away.
Enter keyword.url in the filter field, this should return one result:
The value of the parameter should display a Google Search url as the default value. This can easily be changed to another search provider by double-clicking the line and entering a new url that points to a search provider in the form that opens up.
Note that this is completely independent of the browser's search bar that may be displayed to the right of the location bar in the interface.
You can't just add the url that you would enter to visit the search engine there, e.g. yahoo.com or wikipedia.com because the search - normally - uses special parameters. The best way to discover the correct url would be to perform a search at your search engine of choice and copy / paste that url after modifying it a bit. If you search at Yahoo you discover lots of irrelevant option parameters that do not need to be added.
Here is a selection of alternative search engines that can be added as the default search engine:
Other search engines can be added as easily. All it usually takes is to perform a search on the search engine of your choice and copy the url without the search phrase into the value field in Firefox.
Update: You can also check out the Mycroft Project which offers a big list of different search providers. The list includes popular providers like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Bing or Wikipedia plus a lot of lesser known search providers that may be more specialize than the ones mentioned.
On a side note: I decided to switch to Bing. Why? Well it mainly has something to do with the current update of Google's search engine ranking algorithm which does not rank my sites on top if I perform a title search but scraper sites (sites that copy contents from my site). Something has gone terribly wrong here.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.