It may be time to switch to DuckDuckGo or Startpage for web search

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 14, 2013
Internet, Search

News about the government surveillance system PRISM broke only a couple of days ago even though it appears to have been in use for years. Major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Apple have reportedly been involved in the program. While it is not clear how each company is involved, newspapers like The Guardian report that the NSA had access to email, chat messages, video conferencing or file transfers.

The three companies that control a large part of the search engine traffic in most regions of the world are all involved, and while that makes up just a small part of online activities of most users, it is nevertheless an important one.

I mentioned yesterday that DuckDuckGo's traffic surged in the wake of PRISM and that other privacy focused search engines such as Startpage are likely seeing an uptick in user requests due to the revelation.

The creators of Startpage have published a PRISM related page on their domain that assures users that it was never a part of PRISM, and that it never send a single byte of traffic to the US government in its 14 years of existence.

It highlights how Startpage, and Ixquick, another search engine operated by the company, is different from US companies associated with PRISM:

  • They do not store user data like the IP address and searches, and do not use tracking cookies.
  • Startpage uses encrypted connections by default.
  • The company is based in the Netherlands and not US.
  • Stronger privacy rights in Europe.

The quality of search is important as well. A privacy-minded search engine that does not provide you with great or even good search results would not really be an alternative after all.

Startpage unlike DuckDuckGo uses Google's search results but filters them through a proxy so that you are not put in a bubble or receive personalized search results based on that. Basically, you get Google's search quality without the negative aspects of it.

What both search engines have in common is that they value the privacy of their users. I suggest you give both a try to see which one you like better. Or maybe, you will end up using both, who knows.

Adding the search engine to your web browser

Some Startpage specific features

  • You can view results using a proxy instead of making a direct connection to the website. This is great if the site is blocked, and also if you do not want to reveal your identity to the site you are connecting to.
  • Preferences can be saved as a cookie or as a specially generated url to avoid using cookies.
  • You can enable anonymous video and images searching in the preferences.

As I said earlier, search is just a small part of the equation, with email, chat, social networking sites and other forms of communication more in the focus than user searches. One has to start somewhere to make a difference though and search is definitely one of the easier things to change.


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  1. Db said on November 10, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Startpage is owned by google.
    I have it but I don’t believe for one second its private.
    The add could read “Startpage The spy that never spies on you” we promise.
    my data base must look completely boring.
    It all just a pile of nonsense.
    Here is a poem for the google nerd

    “keep last weeks dinner why throw it away?
    you obviously are attracted to the rot and decay.
    “go look in the bin just like the bugs.
    “dive in again and again your now one up on me smelling of aftershave dustbin odour”
    Reverse the clock its time to mock
    linear time is not possible for you.
    But at least I don’t smell like a dustbin that’s my failing..

    1. Dan said on November 10, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      “Startpage is owned by google.”

      This is stupid wrong. It’s owned by Ixquick, a dutch company. No need to read the rest of your post. It’s just uninformed idiocy.

  2. Al said on June 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The first thing I see is a Google Custom Search Engine on top of ‘EVERY’ page of this website…err….

    Are you going to change that to Startpage or DuckDuckGo? doubt it..
    Regards, Alan

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 15, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Did not know they make one available, will check it out.

  3. Seabat said on June 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Don’t forget Ixquick,com

  4. Gennaro Prota said on June 15, 2013 at 5:50 am

    I’m not sure whether you have mentioned this list:


    in your latest posts. Yesterday, I wanted to share it on Google+ but my connection was malfunctioning.

  5. GiddyUpGo said on June 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    I have been using Ixquick for a long time. I understand that Ixquick is the owner of Startpage.
    What is the difference between these two? Should I be using Startpage in place of Ixquick?

    1. ilev said on June 15, 2013 at 2:39 am

      …The difference between Ixquick and Startpage is that Ixquick makes use of the search results from a multitude of search engines whereas Startpage relies on the results from one search engine; both, without forwarding personal data. …

  6. wayfarer said on June 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm


    In the UK we have a Home Secretary intent on 100% public surveillance ‘to keep us safe’ (presumably from everyone except a lying warmongering government.)

    But perhaps the most serious misconception among politicians (and one missed in most media articles I’ve read) is that THEY will wield the power afforded by surveillance, when in fact the power is held by those who actually control that surveillance – whose loyalties are often unknown and suspect. In fact politicians that don’t toe the line (a line drawn by non-accountable security directorates) might find themselves worse off than the rest of us.

    The politicians aren’t just wrong – if they think they’ve anything to gain, they’re crazy.

    My late father used to put it best – “Son – if democracy actually worked, they wouldn’t allow it!”

    1. Crodol said on June 15, 2013 at 4:26 am

      Great quote and you are right that politicians are not winning here but unfortunately most of them are clueless!

    2. emegeve said on June 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      > My late father used to put it best – “Son – if democracy actually worked, they wouldn’t allow it!”

      Great quote. Your father was a wise man.

      I believe there are no democracies left in the world. In it’s current form it’s just a scam.

  7. Dan said on June 14, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I use Blekko.

  8. GodHatesFigs said on June 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Hey folks it’s ok,what’s the problem,it’s only part of the totalitarian marxist chicago style politics of that lying anti-American bastard in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  9. Oxa said on June 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I switched to StartPage a year or two ago, primarily because Google irritated the hell out of me – autocomplete that was wrong 99% of the time; popup previews that I didn’t need and consumed bandwidth; fiddling with the menu every other day; and various other dysfunctional, but glitzy, changes. StatrPage uses the Google search engine, so I get the results I need without all the irritation.

    1. Terry B. said on August 10, 2013 at 5:26 am

      An interesting alternative to iGoogle is also Startific. It displays icons and widgets, connects all your favorite links and all your bookmarks, etc and organize them into a pretty nice interface, like you probably haven’t seen in a quite while, check it if you want at

    2. clas said on June 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

      yes, i also switched about a year ago..must have been something
      then that rattled my cage. but startpage is absolutely fine and not
      a problem.

      1. JohnJ said on June 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm

        Me too. I installed the FF DDG and SP searches in the drop-down and deleted the others. I’ve found the two more than satisfactory.

  10. BobbyPhoenix said on June 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    @Coyote I agree especially with the last sentence. You can capture all my searches if you want. I don’t care. I do nothing illegal, but I don’t know how useful “Funny cat videos” is going to be though. :p

  11. Coyote said on June 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    What hasn’t been mentioned much is that PRISM and most of the NSA’s work is contracted. Meaning it’s actually corporations and private sector companies collecting this information. Much as Google and Apple already do, I won’t be surprised to learn that all this information is traded and sold among all the big boys. What’s worse is the amount of time and money spent on collecting data that has no real use.

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