For the past week I’ve been trying out something new and I wanted to share my results with turning my back on the big G. I’m talkin ’bout Google, not God, of course. A bold move by this freelance PHP developer to ignore an industry giant!
Hey Girl, You Using Lycos or Ask Jeeves?
Just kidding, it’s Altavista all the way.
(I’m not even sure those three names are still around?)
Looking at the numbers Google is still far and away the king of search with billions of searchs per month. The next highest ranking engines are Bing and Yahoo, with a fraction of Google’s volume – but certainly nothing to scoff at. So clearly much of the world is relying on them, and in a lot of ways that’s great.
I’m Still Keeping with Google Analytics
One reason I like that other people use Google for their searching is that their searches will show up in my & my clients’ Google Analytics panels. Every freelance PHP developer knows better than to disregard metrics, because you can use these stats to make vital measurements and business decisions.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as watching your keyword traffic, impressions, and clicks grow as you revamp and tweak a website. Billions of folks using Google makes this possible! So I am certainly not trying to dissuade anybody from making them their search engine of choice.
Trackers and Privacy: My Search Switch
Now that Googs owns so many popular services (Analytics, Adwords, Android, Docs, Gmail, Youtube, just to name a few) it can track users with frightening detail.
I have to admit, I use and love many of these services. But occasionally things happen that freak me out a little.
Did you know that Google recently admitted that it tracked location data for users who have selected “Do Not Track Location” on their Android phones? That’s entirely separate from the many apps that quietly send user data back to manufacturers.
Have you ever had a startlingly targeted ad experience? Not long ago I had a conversation about replacing the kitchen faucet. This was the first time in years I’d even uttered the words “fix the kitchen faucet”. Not twenty minutes after that conversation, I turned on the Youtube app on the tv and a Lowes ad played exactly explaining how to go about fixing your kitchen faucet and choosing a new one.
Coincidence? Maybe. Youtube doesn’t normally show me DIY or home improvement ads, so it really stood out.
A few incidents like that one and I really was starting to mull over big data, and how I valued not being tightly targeted.
Privacy is a real concern for myself and my clients. As a freelance PHP developer I make it my mission to build websites and web apps as securely as I can, and with the client’s best interests in mind. So when easy opportunities present themselves, I take them on.
I like to think of this as micro-activism because it doesn’t take much effort. In a small way you’re making it harder on Big Data to hunt you like “an elk with a credit card.” After all, serving you targeted ads that will entice you to break out your wallet is a highly profitable activity.
An Easier Switch Than Ever
For all my search needs I’m now using GoDuckGo, which has so far impressed me. They’ve been around awhile but only now I’m getting used to (and comfortable with) the service, and I think a big part of that is their emulation of Google Search.
The website is laid out very similarly to Google Search and now has tabs for News, Images, Video, and All. These I have been making extensive use of in the past few years, and probably I couldn’t switch without them.
Hands down though the easiest part has been changing out the search bar in my browser. I paused before installing but then went ahead and switched out the usual one (that uses Google) and put this one in its place. Whenever I type a search term into my browser, it’s GDG that pulls up the results for me. I don’t have to ever type their URL or remember to hit a certain link – it’s all automatic.
What more could I ask for in a search engine? Every question I have thrown at it gets highly relevant first page results. The layout is darn near close to the search results I’ve been looking at for years, so there was almost no new interface to learn.
Results are fast, the keyboard shortcuts still work, and you can filter by type of content that you are looking for. Actually some of the filters are even better because finally you can set a time relevancy (This Month? This Year?) on results for general search. This is useful for a freelance php developer because software changes and you want to make sure that you get the right results for troubleshooting.
If we take GoDuckGo at their word that they aren’t tracking us, this is an easy two thumbs up.
Concerned about Privacy?
Here are some other easy upgrades to your browsing to look into if you’d like a little less intrusion on your browsing:
- HTTPS Everywhere, which will serve encrypted sites whenever possible
- uBlock Origin, which will block out third party tracking scripts
And if you’ve got the patience:
- uMatrix, this plugin gives you an interesting interface to restrict what loads with every website.
Lauren Grey is a freelance PHP developer in Scottsdale, AZ who builds websites and occasionally pontificates about freelancing, digital life, women in tech, and solutions to technical problems that she has solved. She is available to consult and work on your business website in Arizona or nationwide.
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