Programs that respect your privacy

Requirements for a Search Engine to Be Included

Some people might be interested to know what the requirements are to be included as a search engine in Privacy Browser.

  1. The search engine must work with Privacy Browser’s default settings, like having JavaScript and cookies disabled.
  2. The search engine must produce usable results, including image results.

Some search engines allow users to alter the default functionality, like the theme or pornography filtration levels, which usually requires cookies. This behavior seem reasonable to me, but default functionality of the website, like advancing pages in the search results, must work without cookies.

The current list of search engines is as follows.

  • Mojeek
  • Monocles
  • MetaGer
  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo

Mojeek is the current default search engine, although their search results are not as robust as I would like, and I would be happy to switch if I could find something better.

Monocles is a newcomer to the list, and is quite good. I would like to make it the default search engine. My biggest concern is that, as a (highly) customized Searx instance, it will fall prey to the same rate limiting issues that have dogged other Searx instances.

MetaGer is quite good, but with default settings on Privacy Browser it includes ads that use a URL redirect to track users. I don’t mind looking at ads, but I do mind when they look back at me. I would be very reticent to make a search engine the default if it returns results that use tracking URL redirects when I have at least one option that does not do so.

Oh, no you don’t!

Google, Bing, and Yahoo are included because, despite none of those companies caring about your privacy, they all meet the two requirements above. Even though they would like to, they can’t do much spying with JavaScript disabled beyond tracking which links you tap.

DuckDuckGo used to be the default search engine, but it was supplanted when their privacy chops started going down hill. It was removed in Privacy Browser 3.10 because it was no longer possible to do an image search without enabling JavaScript.

Searx was removed from the list because it couldn’t consistently produce usable results. Qwant was also removed from the list because they also couldn’t consistently produce usable results.

Startpage was removed entirely when they decided to require JavaScript.

Users can add whatever search engine they like using the custom option.

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11 responses to “Requirements for a Search Engine to Be Included”

  1. Soren, have you considered adding etools private search or MetaGer to your search list albeit that I don’t imagine you would think either could replace Startpage?
    Both work on your browser with the full range of blocklists in operation.

    I have etools as a bookmark on Privacy Browser. It seems you must allow first party cookies in order to get beyond page one of the results. I use the mobile site on my phone but I see the desktop version has quite a lot of search information. There’s no specific image search though.

    As it happens I have MetaGer as my home site on Privacy Browser. The approach you reported from Startpage confirmed me in this choice. The English language site primarily uses Bing and something called Scopia.

    Incidentally, both etools and MetaGer have apps which require choice of browser to open the link. Etools is only about 150KB but not FOSS and only on Play Store or via Aurora. MetaGer has recently appeared on F-droid.

    I also mention the apps because they would make setting preferences such as safe search easier. Direct on Privacy Browser you would have the issue of losing preferences if you delete cookies on exit.

    MetaGer offers an anonymous proxy and I find it works better than the Startpage version or the old one on the original Searx. Out of interest do you think use of a proxy is worthwhile for increasing privacy?


    • I haven’t anticipated that a search engine would require cookies just to perform basic functionality. I would consider that to be disqualifying just like requiring JavaScript. As such, I would not consider to be a viable candidate. I have updated to original post to specifically require basic features of search engines to work without cookies.

      MetaGer looks very interesting to me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I will test it for awhile and intend to add it to the list of search engines for the next release.

  2. You might want to try Whoogle. It’s a Google scrapper similar to, but can be self-hosted.

    • Whoogle suffers from the same rate limiting problems that Searx does, which causes it to not consistently return good results if a lot of people are using it, because Google doesn’t like Whoogle scraping their search results, so if it receives too many requests from a Whoogle instance it rate limits them.

  3. […] will never monetize the default search engine. I have also publicly explained the criteria for including a search engine in the default list in Privacy Browser. Those criteria may change over time to reflect changing realities in the search engine offerings, […]