Oscobo, a new privacy focused search engine

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 7, 2016
Updated • Sep 5, 2019
Internet, Search

Ever since the Snowden relevations, privacy search engines and privacy in general has been a boom on the Internet.

Search engines focused on privacy have seen a rise in daily searches. While they are still nowhere near popular as Google Search or Bing, the two main search services in most parts of the world, they have shown that there is a market for these kind of services.

Oscobo is a new privacy focused search engine that shares similarities with established players such as Startpage or DuckDuckGo.

The creators of the search engine promise that they don't track users and don't set cookies on user computer systems, and that users are not profiled in any shape or form.

Oscobo review

The search engine's current address is https://oscobo.co.uk/ which highlights one of the limitations in place currently as it is focused on users from the UK at the moment.

The site does not set cookies which you can verify by opening the Developer Tools of the web browser you are using and checking the resources of the site.

While that is the case, results include English pages outside the UK as well. The results page looks like any other search engine for the most part but displays results from Twitter next to the actual results which can be interesting as these results are usually not as old (but may be more spammy).

oscobo search

The top lists options to switch from Web searches to videos, images or news, and you may find advertisement listed on the results page as well.

The only information used to determine which advertisement to display are the search term and the user's locations (using the IP address), and both are not recorded by the search engine.

It is quite difficult to spot the ad as it uses the same format as organic results. Only the small "ad"  link underneath the description field indicates advertisement.

Like DuckDuckGo, search results are taken from Bing/Yahoo. Using data from one or multiple of the big search engines out there appears to be the only financially viable solution for privacy focused search companies.

It will be interesting to see how Oscobo will fare when they enter non-English markets, as localized Bing results are usually not that good.

Users who like the search engine can make it the default search engine for their browser, add it to their browser, or install the extension. The options are displayed on the homepage, but only if the browser used is supported.

The extension seems to be only available for Chrome-based browsers right now for instance.

Closing Words

Oscobo or DuckDuckGo? The two search engines are very similar in many regards: both use Bing to power their results, both don't track or profile users, and both use advertisement for revenue generation.

If you look closer, you find distinguishing factors. DuckDuckGo concentrates on the US market, while Oscobo on UK (and in the future other European markets). DuckDuckGo certainly has the edge when it comes to features, its !bang syntax is excellent for instance and Oscobo does not support a feature like the zero-click information that DuckDuckGo may display on top of the results.

If you are in the UK, you may want to give this a try and see how this performs for you.

Now You: Which search engine is your favorite and why?

Oscobo, a new privacy focused search engine
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Oscobo, a new privacy focused search engine
Oscobo is a new privacy-focused search engine that promises not to track or profile users who use it.
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  1. The Phenomenon said on January 20, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    As someone previously said:
    “this so called “privacy” search engine is run by the same guys (domain registered used same email) that run motherpipe.com and motherpipe.net which is comprehensive suite of search monetisation solutions for web publishers etc etc.”
    Visiting those links leads us to https://becovi.com/ and when you see what Becovi is you know you’re in trouble. Duplicating your website with different names and domains should be a characteristic of fraud, as I once saw an online shop that appeared on many domains too with similar design and content across them, that didn’t justify the “spam” of having so many names for the same thing.
    I even question Ghacks for keeping this article like this.

  2. Don Gateley said on January 9, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    How does one exclude a site from a search with this.

  3. Bryce said on January 9, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I notice the search terms are contained in the web address, defeating at least one method of preserving privacy. I’m not impressed compared to Ixquick. DDG also leaves the search terms in view to your ISP.

    1. Hy said on January 9, 2016 at 11:06 am

      I never knew that Duck Duck Go did that. Thank you for pointing that out!

      1. Hy said on January 9, 2016 at 11:45 am

        When I tested DDG in Waterfox and Opera, DDG did leave the search terms visible in the web address.

        When I tested DDG in Cyberfox it didn’t leave the search terms visible in the web address.

        Not sure what to make of this, except that Cyberfox is the most fully-locked-down of my browsers–maybe one of the privacy/security tweaks/add-ons prevented it from showing up. Interesting!

      2. The Phenomenon said on January 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm

        Cyberfox is of terrible quality. Its developer doesn’t know what he’s doing. Cyberfox is nothing but Firefox ESR with the add-on Classic Theme Restorer installed by default. So have you tried that? Try the portable version for example.

  4. Liandri said on January 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Self-hosted Search instance.

  5. ozar said on January 7, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Thus far, Oscobo has no appeal at all for me, so I’m still using StartPage, Ixquick, and DuckGo. If something truly better should come along, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it go and switch to it permanently after it has proven itself.

  6. Mike said on January 7, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Hello All,
    I use qwant for 6 months and really happy.

    https://www.qwant.fr, and more accurately this URL https://lite.qwant.com

    there is too a release for children : https://www.qwantjunior.com/

    It’s possible to add, as a default search engine, in firefox or chrome

    Rarely now, I use another search engine !


    1. juju said on January 8, 2016 at 6:34 am

      Considering that this qwant project is so called “startup” financed by European Investment Bank (25 Million Euros) you can right away put it in a pile marked as “rainbow money funneling” until proven otherwise.

  7. juju said on January 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    considering that this so called “privacy” search engine is run by the same guys (domain registered used same email) that run motherpipe.com and motherpipe.net which is comprehensive suite of search monetisation solutions for web publishers etc etc. it probably means only that you will not be tracked in a way that entry in the database next to your name will be marked with “dumbass who thinks he is not tracked”.

    1. Hy said on January 8, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Thanks for that crucial information, juju. As I was reading the article, I immediately wondered who was behind this new “private” search engine, and what we knew about them. Just seeing that they were UK-based had me dubious at the outset, I’m sorry to say, just as anything US-based would raise suspicions for me as well. Outfits in those countries can often be compromised and/or compelled to violate privacy. Whomever we trust for a search engine is hugely important for anyone concerned about privacy, and just like when choosing email, browser, vpn, etc., needs to be carefully investigated and thoroughly vetted.

      I use StartPage and StartPage Classic as default 90-95% of the time, and Disconnect as the secondary search engine the other 5-10% of the time. Both StartPage and Disconnect are excellent all-around, and both have a 9.0/10 encryption rating by Ssleuth, and 100% rating on Calomel. Oscobo rated 7.8/10 on Ssleuth.

      I’ve always felt better trusting the Dutch for things like StartPage and StartMail, and the news I saw today, below, reinforces that. I see time and again what appears to be a genuine concern for privacy coming out of the Netherlands. The Dutch are the only Western country I know of right now taking such a bold, strong stand for encryption and privacy.


      1. Gregorius said on January 8, 2016 at 6:07 am

        You clearly misunderstood Hy’s post, and brought in a lot of other outré stuff in your’s. Still, thanks for the note in your initial post about Oscobo’s provenance.

      2. juju said on January 8, 2016 at 5:17 am

        you shouldn’t use such words like “trust”, “privacy”, “vetted” on anything that is internet related. If someone claims any such words about internet related products or businesses you can right away put them in the pile marked as “con artists”. If internet related product is marked with some sort of “nationality” or “national pride” issues you can right away put claimants in a pile marked as “money laundering” and “rainbow lispy unicorns”. When is the next pride parade in Netherlands?

    2. gh said on January 7, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      What is the value proposition? Who profits?
      My kneejerk impression was “honeypot”, as in — provide another false choice to privacy-conscious people, let ’em self-select… then sell the BigData to players who are interested in knowing “which people, and searching for whatall” are attracted to the honeypot. In this case, the overlap in domain registrants certainly reinforces the “who’s in bed with whom?” suspicion.

      Lie to me, tell me I’m beautiful.
      thanks. your scobo site is teh bestest thinly veiled bing search mashup and i specially like how xbox is on sale this week and you always help me find free cialis coupons

    3. Jason said on January 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Good find.

  8. Tom Hawack said on January 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Just had a look at ths Oscobo search engine. First impression is that it doesn’t seem to offer more than other comparable search engines. Moreover I dislike the Twitter column as I dislike an ad mixed with the search results, even if it is pointed out as such with a little “ad” label.

    I use DuckDuckGo (default), Ixquick, Startpage, and Qwant search engines. Qwant is worth it IMO, has its specificity.
    Should I jump to Google Search I’d use Google Encrypted only. DuckDuckGo lacks time filters, but if needed Startpage does the job with Google results, and Ixquick with other search engines except Google.

  9. stilofilos said on January 7, 2016 at 9:40 am

    I am a happy user of Ixquick for many years, since long before Snowden anyway, and rather out of a dismay of that Google’s junk ads and shameless attacks on people’s privacy.
    No such irritation on Ixquick. I probably am a weird extraterrestrian, but besides my newspapers I only look for scientific and technological info, and never feel any need to buy anything on the www, when I want to buy something I go to the marketplace and have competent people inform me about things that matter.

    As I understand, it uses all major search engines, not just the ones you named in relation to the mentioned engines. Never had any issues with it, and results are mostly quite to the point, definitely far ‘cleaner’ than all the nonsense that Google throws in between real results.
    You can also set some parameters, among which a family filter, and save your settings either as a cookie or as a webpage that you set as your homepage for everyday use.
    It does not save any history of your surfing, so ‘authorities’ don’t even have to ‘ask’ for them…
    And you can use it as a proxy.
    Its sister site StartPage only uses Google as engine.

    1. Tom Hawack said on January 7, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Indeed stilofilos : Startpage mentions in its Knowledgebase pages :

      “What is the difference between StartPage and Ixquick?
      The difference between our two search engines is that StartPage returns Google results, while Ixquick returns results from other search engines, but not Google.
      Both are equally private.”

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