With so many people scouring the web each day looking for helpful, fast, and accurate information, it makes sense that there are plenty of great search engines that can help connect people with the resources they need.
Despite more than a dozen commendable search engines defecting or merging into bigger players over the years, there are some that have continued to withstand the test of time and attract millions of searches every month.
One of those is Startpage, a lesser-known search engine that has been thriving for more than 20 years – and supplying the internet with search results comparable to the leading search engine, Google.
What Is Startpage?
Startpage is a Dutch search engine that is propped up by its strong privacy features, but also proudly stands by the quality of its search results as among the best in the world.
That’s because the search engine literally serves Google Search results to its users (and pays Google an undisclosed amount of cash to do so) while protecting user data and removing all forms of tracking to ensure maximum privacy.
The search engine is classified as a proxy site, since users can use the platform’s Anonymous View to view search results through a proxy server and add even more privacy protection to their experience if they’d like.
What began as a web directory in 2002 would evolve a few different ways over the next few years – including mirroring a site it would eventually merge with, Ixquick – before soon becoming its own unique search engine entity that began strictly serving Google’s search results without the personalization or ad tracking.
Startpage and Ixquick would merge in 2016 under the Startpage name, and, despite some initial privacy concerns surrounding a lack of transparency at the beginning of the merger, Startpage announced the coupling of the companies would not change the brand’s mission to protect user privacy and still deliver high-quality search results.
And being headquartered in the Netherlands has continually allowed Startpage to circumvent any invasive laws that may put users at risk while still serving top-quality search results.
It’s also a multi-language search engine, allowing searches in 82 different languages while also offering multiple verticals for searching specifically for images and videos.
Who Uses Startpage?
While Startpage is available to be used by anyone in the world for free (so long as they use one of the supported languages to search), there are some more-likely users of the search engine, which has emerged as a formidable player over the last seven years.
The first (and probably most obvious) group of people opting to use Startpage regularly are those who are concerned or passionate about privacy.
They may enjoy Google and the experience it provides, but don’t support what can seem overly invasive when it comes to capturing and utilizing user data – something Google admits it does, but allegedly in the name of improving the search experience.
On the other side of that, there are also people who just don’t care if the ads they see are targeted or not. And if they can avoid having their data taken by a company, they do.
One of the most popular reasons others opt out of using Google and look for a different, more obscure search engine to use in their daily lives is they are, more or less, generally not a fan of Google.
This could be because Google is one of the richest companies on the planet, has been known to tip-toe a variety of ethics tightropes, and, as a pioneer of the technology industry, can easily seem more concerned about generating revenue than it does improving humankind.
Whatever the reason is for someone looking for an alternative search engine to use instead of Google, it means an opportunity for all the other platforms in the space.
What Is Startpage Good For?
Startpage is great at doing both of its main objectives as a business.
It’s a search engine. The job of a search engine is to help people find what they are looking for – oftentimes with limited information or direction – quickly, easily, and accurately.
It’s basically recreating the search experience of the most popular search engine in the world – and its top-of-the-line technology and algorithms – without any user personalization.
Startpage has a recipe for success if it can effectively provide something else users want in addition: privacy.
The concept and upholding of privacy is Startpage’s value proposition as a brand, so it must do this well to maintain a respectable reputation.
So, although users may miss out on that more personalized overall search experience at the cost of privacy protection, they are still getting a high-quality experience that is consistent with the quality of other search engines.
Of course, if you add your location to the platform for some increased personalization, you’ll get that even-more-useful search experience and still have very limited data taken and stored.
Is Startpage As Good As Google?
While Startpage is basically a privacy-bound regurgitator of Google Search results, it depends on what criteria you’d use to consider if Startpage is as good – or better than – Google.
The user experience is different in a variety of ways, and since there is no personalization for the results or type of results served to a user, Startpage is potentially missing a part of the equation that has helped Google become the powerful tech company that it is.
Startpage may still serve ads to its users – it is a for-profit company that does generate revenue from search ads – but those ads are served strictly from contextual clues given by a user’s search query, not from historical or behavior data collected by the engine (like Google and other popular search engines).
So it’s really about the quality of ads served on the search engine results pages (SERPs), not just if they exist on those platforms.
Startpage also doesn’t support Google’s Featured Snippet feature – that is, the “scraping” of web pages and content to serve specific excerpts from web pages directly at the top of its SERPs.
Startpage does, however, provide its own informational breakout on the right side of the SERP just like Google does, and it is mostly Wikipedia-generated information that builds out its Knowledge Panel (also just like Google).
Google is an advertising company generating hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
And, while Startpage generates money from advertising too, it is generating far less than Google – closer to 7 to 10 million a year.
Startpage Vs. DuckDuckGo
Startpage isn’t the only popular search engine propping up its privacy protection as a search engine, either.
DuckDuckGo has been doing so since 2010.
This privacy-focused search engine’s biggest difference compared to Startpage is how it generates its search results.
While Startpage taps into Google’s API and offers a similar experience to Google without the personalization, DuckDuckGo offers its own unique search results and platform experience.
In addition to its own proprietary web crawler, DuckDuckGo uses a variety of other sites’ APIs to answer search queries, as well as other search partners like Bing, to ensure it is delivering a favorable experience and good results.
Compared to Startpage, DuckDuckGo has certainly gotten a lot more exposure and growth in popularity over the last decade, but that goes beyond the products and services themselves.
This includes differences in marketing budgets, company sizes, and so much more.
Overall Outlook On Startpage The Search Engine
The idea may not sound groundbreaking or even necessary, but Startpage is an easy, quality search engine offering a safer experience than other platforms while capturing virtual zero user data.
While it won’t be likely that Startpage moves in as a legitimate threat to Google anytime soon, it will be interesting to see how the search engine’s privacy model continues to help it succeed in a competitive space that now very much includes social media platforms, retail sites, and so much more.
For an experience focused on privacy that is also dedicated to delivering quality search results, try Startpage.
It feels a lot like what a search engine should be like: smart but general and not too invasive.
You just may like it.
Featured Image: Luis Molinero/Shutterstock