Zeekly: another privacy based search engine

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 28, 2013
Internet, Search

Privacy based search engines like DuckDuckGo or Startpage have doubled or even tripled their daily visits ever since the Prism story broke on the Internet. While the daily visits they get is a drop in the bucket for the omnipresent Google or even Bing, it shows that more users are looking for solutions that promise better user privacy.

Most privacy-based search engines have in common that they tap right into the results of one of the big search engines. DuckDuckGo uses Bing results, while Startpage taps into Google results. While they do use the data, they are not recording user IP addresses, a user's search history, or other identifiable data.

Zeekly was mentioned in another article here on the site and I made the decision to take it for a test ride to see what it is all about.

The front page displays the search form, which can be used to search the whole web or local (country-based) websites. It also provides us with information about the search engine, and how it differs from other privacy based search services on the Internet.


Zeekly uses data from various sources, Google, Bing, Amazon or YouTube are mentioned, to power the search engine. This is similar to how Ixquick handles search, as it is also using different sources to compile the results listing. What is different is that Zeekly is also using its own spider technology on top of that.

This means that the search engine is not relying solely on third party sources, but also using its own spider to improve or verify search results.

I cannot say anything about the ratio though between third party results and spider results. The website uses https on all its pages, which is another plus.

It is rather difficult to rate the quality of results. I'm always happy when I see my site listed in the search results on test queries, and think that this is a good thing. Your results may differ highly though, and I think the best way to find out more about it is to check it out for yourself.

I'd like to point out a couple of features and concerns that I have.

First, the good stuff

When you search Zeekly you will notice a quick look feature that the developers have integrated into search. It displays a preview of the website using JavaScript right on the Zeekly search results page.

Search results are not tagged, which is something that Google has been criticized for.

An advanced search feature is available, but it is limited in comparison to Google's or Bing's. You can search by domain and exclude domains or words, but that is about it.

You get the option to add Zeekly as a search plugin to Firefox, which is useful if you want to use it as your primary or a secondary search engine in the browser.

Results have been good for the test searches that I ran on the site. One search that I'm always running to test a search engine's quality is for "firefox xx.x changelog" with xx.x being a development version of the browser, e.g. Firefox 24.0 changelog. If the first result points to the correct changelog on Mozilla, it is well done.

Not so good

There are three things that are cause for concern. First, the service is hosted in the United States, or at least the domain is registered to an US address. Some users prefer not to use US-services anymore because of their legal obligation to comply with requests from the US government.

Second, it is displaying only partial urls for some search results. The aforementioned changelog points to the right page on Mozilla, while the displayed url on the Zeekly website only displays the main domain name and nothing else.

Third, and this is probably the biggest issue of them all, it is using Google ads on the website. If you want your searches to remain private, you probably do not want your search engine to run code from companies that have been linked to PRISM.

Closing Words

If you are not bothered by the "not so good" part of the review, then you may want to give it a try. Note that you can mitigate the "ad issue" by running an ad blocker or other extension that prevents the ads from being loaded in first place.


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  1. bob said on October 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    So, http://whois.domaintools.com/ also points to Microsoft…

    Zeekly = Microsoft?

    1. Jeffrey Sisk said on October 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      Bob.. Zeekly is a privately owned company in Florida. When you go to our site, our SSL confirms this (we have a “green browser bar” certificate), and you can also look up Zeekly, Inc. in the state of Florida corporations database.

  2. Shane Lee said on September 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I recently started using Zeekly and it’s helping me a lot. But Google gives more appropriate results and better than any search engine. Bing is creating hype but still it needs to work hard. It will take time for Bing and IE to cross Google but I don’t think so It will happen ever. Good luck with Zeekly.

  3. meh said on August 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm
  4. beachbouy said on August 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    What’s in a name? In my view, a lot.

    My point about Zeekly is that I think it won’t go far with that name. ‘Google’ became part of our common vernacular, in part, because of it’s name. It sounded cool to say, “Google it.” Is anyone going to say, “Zeekly it?” I seriously don’t think so. The name ‘Google’ has become synonymous with “Web search.”

    That’s the problem all other search engines will face, no matter how good they are at what they do. To give Google a run for their money, an alternative search engine not only has to give great search results and protect your privacy (in ways Google doesn’t), but it has to have a name that is unique and has the potential to become part of our common vernacular.

    The term ‘Google’ allowed us to shorten our sentences. Instead of saying,”Look it up on a search engine,” we could just say “Google it.” It reduced a 7 word sentence down to 3 syllables. What other search engine did that?

    Duckduckgo, Startpage, Ixquick, Ask, Dogpile, Yahoo… none of these names have the potential to become part of our vernacular in the same way that Google did. Bing, I would say, has moderate potential. But, that’s mostly due to it’s association with Microsoft. Bing is not as easy to enunciate, nor has the cool sound of “google.”

    Duckduckgo and Dogpile and kinda fun, but they don’t fit well into a sentence the way Google does.

    So, just being a good search engine may not be enough to ensure it’s success. Where do they come up with these awful names, anyway?

  5. beachbouy said on August 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    What has happened to this site? My comments are disappearing faster than I can write them.

  6. beachbouy said on August 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    With a name like Zeekly, I doubt it will go far. How would you use that name in a sentence, suggesting someone go do a search on that site? Go zeekly it? I don’t think so.

  7. beachbouy said on August 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    What these alternative search engines fail to do, in every instance I’ve seen, is to give the site a name that has the potential to become part of society’s common vernacular. When suggesting to someone to look something up on the Internet, we say, “google it.” That is a big part of why Google gained so quickly in popularity, and remains popular. A simple, catchy, two syllable word that rolls easily off the tongue, sounds catchy, and has become the international symbol for looking something up on the Internet.

    You would never say, “duckduckgo it,” nor, “go zeekly it.” Not it a million years would you say, “go Ixquick it,” or “Startpage it.” They just don’t work when it comes to sounding cool, techie or hip. It doesn’t sound like a natural part of an intelligent conversation. Rather, it would sound ultra geeky, and not in a good way.

    I conclude that you can build the greatest search engine on the planet, but it you don’t have the freakin’ good sense to think about how the site’s name sounds to others, or how it would be used in the course of conversation, or how the name contributes to the success of the product, it will never be another Google. Say goodbye to Zeekly. Enjoy it while you can.

  8. Jeffrey Sisk said on August 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I check the web routinely several times a day looking for that day’s media coverage of Zeekly (I am Zeekly’s CEO). I thought I’d pop in and say hello.

    First, a special thanks to Martin for taking the time to truly do a more thorough review of our site. I found it very helpful, and some of it will make us a better company.

    Regarding the date filters.. We are having these added along with being able to set the number of results per page. Zeekly is in beta, and we are improving it literally every day in some way.

    Martin had 3 cons that were very helpful for me. Here are my thoughts on them: The displayed URL- I never thought about this one, but I will look into having the system show the entire link. It was done that way to format a nicer looking page, but I can see where someone might want to see it. Maybe we can do it as a mousover (popup shows the entire link). Regarding the U.S. location – Even if we get a FISA court order, we aren’t storing the metadata. So we could truthfully tell them “we don’t have it”. We programmed it this way on purpose out of our genuine desire to provide private search, and this wins out at our company over providing a better experience for advertisers (which is why the others do it.. it’s about ad revenues). So we are safe there even with our location. However, we want to launch email, and that’s problematic. We’re working on how to do that without having issues (maybe servers overseas for that service). Lastly, google ads. We struggled with this one, but we are obviously trying to support the site. This was a “grass roots” sort of start up where we saw a need and decided to address it. We are looking at other ad streams until we have our own advertiser base. Keep in mind though on any search engine, when you click a link you are then gone to whereever that takes you whether it’s a hyperlink in search results or an ad. It’s probably pretty harmless clicking an ad from google from fedex or something. What you don’t want is to do all your searching on their site, and have them storing your data (which goes straight to the NSA according to the Guardian).

    Reviews and feedback like this are very helpful, and we will always be listening and improving our site. Thank you guys for checking us out, and go “Zeekly It” (yes we’re going to redefine “google it”)!

    Regards… Jeffrey Sisk
    Zeekly, Inc.

  9. Ajay said on August 29, 2013 at 7:41 am

    What i like about zeekly is it provides different different tab options like audio, forum, wiki, sports. My favorite one is forum button which helps me in finding the forum related to my keywords.

  10. yoav said on August 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I tried it out a bit. The layout is easy on the eyes which is a plus, but there is no way to sort searches by date, which for me is very important. Many searches are meaningless without this parameter. Is it that hard to implement? Bing removed it, so only Google search and DDG still allow you to sort by date.
    The site also only loads 5-10 results a page, which means constant, unnecessary clicking.

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