Marginalia is a search engine that you should check out

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 31, 2023

Marginalia is not your typical search engine. Major search engines like Google Search or Bing Search are becoming vessels to push advertisement and sites that push advertisement. Yes, that is a generalization, but quality has arguably taken a turn for the worse in the past decade.

Apart from showing lots of ads, major search engines favor certain types of content and publishers. Google Search, for example, favors results from YouTube. One reason for that is that it owns YouTube and that Google profits whenever a user clicks on a YouTube result to watch a video with ads on the platform.

Marginalia's single developer says that the main purpose of the search engine is "to help you find and navigate the non-commercial parts of the Internet". It is an attempt to increase the visibility of this quirkier and less-standard part of the Internet.

In other words: the search engine is designed to find content that you won't find on the major search engines at all, or only after browsing dozens of results pages with content that is more or less identical.

To get started with Marginalia, head over to the project's website. You can type a search term directly in the search field at the top to get results. Before you do that, you may want to check out #the tips paragraph on the page and maybe read about some linked articles about the search engine.

The developer notes that the search engine "is not well equipped to answering queries posed like questions". Instead, users should search for text that matches the intent.

To give you an example. Instead of searching for "why is Google Chrome crashing all the time", you could search for "Google Chrome crash" or specify the symptoms by searching for "Google Chrome YouTube crash".

Marginalia Search

Marginalia Search Engine

Search results look totally different from major search engines. First, there are no ads. Organic results begin right away and each result is listed with its URL first, then title and description.

There is an info link to look up information about the domain, a visualization of where on the page the search terms are found, and warnings about the use of affiliate links or JavaScript. If available, there may also be an age-rating.

Filters on the right are also different from the usual assortment. You can limit results with affiliate or tracking links, and remove sites that require JavaScript.

The standard domains filter is set to popular, but you may set it to small web, blogosphere, academia, forums and several others. There is also an option to disable the filter entirely.

Closing Words

Marginalia is a niche search engine. It works well for certain types of queries, and excels when it comes to finding resources that the major search engines tend to ignore for the most part.

There is an option to donate to the project to keep it up and running.

As a side note, I stumbled upon Marginalia here: How bad are search results? Let's compare Google, Bing, Marginalia, Kagi, Mwmbl, and ChatGPT

It is a long but interesting read.

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

Marginalia is a search engine that you should check out
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Marginalia is a search engine that you should check out
Marginalia is a search engine that focuses on the parts of the Internet that the major search engines tend to ignore.
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  1. Keith said on January 11, 2024 at 2:05 am

    A good article about 11 best Private Search Engines. My 2 favorites from the list are Brave Search and Mojeek.

  2. Sebas said on January 2, 2024 at 6:55 pm

    Why People Should Never Ever Use DuckDuckGo

  3. Sebas said on January 2, 2024 at 11:12 am
  4. Sebas said on January 2, 2024 at 11:06 am

    Thanks Martin, Marginalia is certainly worth a try. Very interesting concept of searching.

    About DuckDuckGo: Why People Should Never Ever Use DuckDuckGo:

    It is an extensive list, I do not know if everything is true. But the first point certainly is:
    “DDG’s founder (Gabriel Weinberg) has a history of privacy abuse, starting with his founding of Names DB, a surveillance capitalist service designed to coerce naive users to submit sensitive information about their friends”. (2006)

  5. Dustyn said on January 2, 2024 at 2:08 am

    “Marginalia” ?

    Sounds like something you scrape across toast.

  6. TelV said on January 1, 2024 at 11:20 am

    I use SearXNG which takes all its results from Google, but without all the associated telemetry crap and ads:

    You can add it to Firefox with this extension by Tom Schuster:

  7. orgone said on January 1, 2024 at 4:20 am

    My default for years was StartPage, whose results were mostly just Google run through a 3rd party for privacy. I say “mostly”, because Google direct still gives slightly better results.

    But I had to abandon SP because it began throwing continuous unfixable “are you a robot?” messages at me. My default is now DDG, which (for me) isn’t as good, results-wise, but it’s good enough, and much less irritating.

    Am I alone in noticing the increasing amount of apparently-AI-generated crap results searches are delivering lately?

  8. Kalmly said on December 31, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    I am glad to have found this article. Will definitely be giving Marginalia a try. My frustration with search engines has always been about results, or rather the lack thereof. The problem has gotten worse over the years. It started back when Google took over the internet. Currently I stick to DDG and StartPage but neither are much more helpful than Google.

  9. VioletMoon said on December 31, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    My first “Marginalia” search only revealed how amateurish and undeveloped the project is: enter a well-known, well-documented, widespread search term–zero results, even with “Academia” or “no” filter mode.

    “Gran Abuelo” (Great-Grandfather) tree in chile

    The same search phrase entered in DDG = numerous articles, one of the first being from the “Smithsonian”:

    Another from “The Guardian”:

    It’s not like articles on the oldest tree on Earth that has witnessed more new years than 100 crores of human rebirths are irrelevant or so mysteriously-mystic that they would be hard to find.

    Another search for major Hindu texts only provided a number of “encyclopedia” type links–nothing noteworthy. I should think the “Ramayana” would have appeared somewhere–nothing.

    Not a search engine for my needs.

  10. Dave said on December 31, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    Another one to check out:

    1. Anonymous said on December 31, 2023 at 3:22 pm

      Read the “Terms” which are enough to put you off from ever using that search engine for life.

      1. Dave said on December 31, 2023 at 5:10 pm

        Thank you

  11. Tom Hawack said on December 31, 2023 at 9:56 am

    I have 12 search engines listed of which 6 “major ones”, and DuckDuckGo is presently the one set as default.

    Brave []
    DuckDuckGo []
    eTools []
    Mojeek []
    Qwant []
    SearXNG : an instance among []

    MetaGer []
    QuackQuackGo []
    Startpage []
    Swisscows []
    Wilby []
    Yep []

    I’m off to discover ‘Marginalia’.

    Happy New Year 2024 to all :)

    1. Vistaus said on December 31, 2023 at 12:43 pm

      I like Kagi the best these days, but DDG is still pretty good too.

      I just tried Marginalia, but it seems to only work with English languages queries at the moment. That’s a bit too restrictive for my use-case, but it does look very promising and I really like the design, so I’m definitely keeping it in mind! :)

      1. Robert said on December 31, 2023 at 4:22 pm

        I signed up for a subscription with Kagi as well. It offers perks like FastGPT which is pretty good. And I downloaded the Kagi plugin and it can summarize any page as well as keep me logged in to my account if I delete all cookies in my browser.

        I used to use Startpage and DuckDuckGo but they both serve adds on their homepage now which turned me off on using them as homepages for my browsers. These engines are free so I get it. But to pay a search engine for an add free experience is the way to go. The search results with Kagi and the perks that come with it makes the subscription well worth it.

        What turns me off using the Marginalia search engine is the fact that the front page is ugly. Who would want to use that for a homepage?

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 31, 2023 at 11:09 am

      Tom, happy new year to you as well (and everyone else). Let me know your thoughts after your exploration of Marginalia ;)

      1. Tom Hawack said on December 31, 2023 at 11:58 am

        Martin, ‘Marginalia Search’ is indeed worth being checked out and, IMO, worth being used.

        As you note it in your article, “The developer notes that the search engine “is not well equipped to answering queries posed like questions”. Instead, users should search for text that matches the intent.”

        This is relevant of the way search queries have changed over time : users increasingly search within what I’d call an AI driven approach, that is questioning the engine rather than searching with text, keywords. Given I personally search the Web in the old fashioned way, no problem here with favoring text to questions!

        Marginalia is fast, you’ll find answers not found elsewhere, several links lead to .htm rather than .html pages and I wonder if this is relevant of some less known sites/pages of older times (not sure of this!).

        As you point it out, the tips displayed on the homepage should be fully read to take full advantage of ‘Marginalia Search’.

        Cosmetics :
        – Results are deployed within infinite scroll, a pleasure
        – Page is not centered, this css allows to fine tune the display:

        // Page width (I like ’em wide!)
        body {min-width:75% !important;}
        // Center the page
        body {margin:0; position:absolute; left:50%; margin-right: -50%; transform: translate(-50%)}
        // Results’ titles colors
        .title {color:#FFDD00 !important; font-size:18px !important;}

        Makes my last day of 2023. Nice find, Martin.
        The page you mention as being the source of your discovery of ‘Marginalia Search’ [} is as well most interesting.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 31, 2023 at 3:23 pm

        Thanks Tom, was almost sure that you would find a liking to it :)

  12. Sampei.Nihira said on December 31, 2023 at 9:31 am

    I use DDG.
    Home page:

    Because it is the most private search engine that returns me correct results with my searches

    1. Harry said on January 1, 2024 at 3:31 am

      It’s cute that you still trust them after everything.

    2. Anonymous said on December 31, 2023 at 3:58 pm

      DDG sucks now. I switched to

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