As Google’s search results continue to decline in quality and Google continues to make a joke of its former (unofficial) motto, I have been on the look out for a search engine that:
- Does not rely on advertising for its funding.
- Does not view their users’ data as something to exploit.
- That offers new ideas while still providing excellent search results.
Enter Kagi. By this point in my search engine hunt, I have tested a lot of search engines. Kagi is, by far, the best one that I have used. The interface is clean. The results are actually useful, and–in almost every case–superior to Google. They have built out an impressive array of tools (some AI-based, some search-based) that clearly focus on improving the user experience and the value of their results.
Lenses were the real game-changer for me, though. In essence, lenses allow you to search a subset of websites for specific content. Kagi has a few default lenses that focus on academic data, coding support, and even a lens for PDFs. The cool part is that you can also create your own. Is there a specific tool or platform you are developing on or for? You can now add all of the specific sites you would want to search into a defined lens and never have to worry about the results coming from something completely unrelated. It is an amazing search tool.
Best of all, my searches are free of the usual debris that an ad-driven monstrosity has to include to continue to make money. If I do general search on Kagi, my adblocker doesn’t blink. There are no ads to block. On Google, just on an initial search, my adblocker blocks at least 8 different entries. If I scroll, that number quickly grows and within 3-4 scrolls I am at over 100 entries blocked. As Google ramps up its war against adblockers, I grow concerned that I may see more of that garbage on my screen.
Google’s strength isn’t in its platform. Like so many “Big Tech” organizations, it iterates solely on the status quo. Google’s real strength has been protecting its monopoly. In that sense, I also get to support an organization that is tackling a giant. Frankly, I was really tired of relying on a sub-standard, ad-driven, platform that was more interested in profiting off its users’ data than providing decent search results.
Using Kagi means making a choice, though. It means taking that first step in moving from an Internet economy that operates likes a content-engorged slush-pile powered by attention and advertising to one that actually relies on paying platforms and content creators for what they make. It means moving from ad-focused tools to user-focused tools. This is explicitly what the founder of Kagi has in mind. It also means making a conscious decision to pay for something you find useful. Developing effective search algorithms, tools, and systems to enhance our online experience requires effort, skill, time, and energy. I want a platform that sees me as the customer, not the shareholder or an advertiser. Because Kagi is focused on my experience as a customer, I see better and more useful search results. I am happy to pay for a service that does that.
It’s funny that one of my favorite features of Kagi, the fact that it is a paid platform, is probably one of the biggest deal-breakers for many users. My hope is that the ever-spiralling decline of ad-driven platforms will eventually help to break that mindset. I also want to note that I have the capacity and privilege to be able to pay for this service. That shouldn’t be understated. Indeed, this is the real trap of the modern Internet. It is, too often, a two-tiered system that continues to marginalize and disenfranchise. Not only can I afford to pay for tools and platforms that prioritize my experience, I know how to configure ad-block and employ systems and tools to limit my exposure in ways that others can’t. I would hope that as companies like Kagi continue to grow and find profitability, they can develop solutions to provide services for those who cannot afford them in the usual way.
I do get the broader concern that some have expressed in the Discord regarding the privacy of searches tied to an account; although, I would say that is more relevant in comparison to Kagi’s privacy focused competitors rather than Google. Kagi says it doesn’t log search data and provides a pretty detailed overview of what it does and does not collect. Each user will need to decide if the potential risk is worth it, though. It would be great if we could move out from under a Google monopoly where different search engines could, indeed, cater to specific needs at different price points. For me, the value I get from Kagi is worth the fairly negligible risk.
This got long and a little rant-y, but Kagi is a great platform. I strongly suggest trying it out for free and seeing if it is worth the switch for you.