Searx.ME: A Privacy-Focused Metasearch Engine

Searx.ME: A Privacy-Focused Metasearch Engine

You all know what search engines are. Really, it’s hard to imagine surfing online without a search engine. Chances are, you used one to land on this very article. However, have you ever heard of something called a metasearch engine?

Metasearch engines are online information retrieval tools that use search engine data to produce their own results. Metasearch engines allow online users to get more comprehensive search results from different search engines. All while keeping their personal information safe.

One of the most popular (and completely free) metasearch engines out there is Searx.ME.

Want to learn more about this thriving startup? Let’s get started!

The Limitations of Conventional Search Engines

Search engines are powerful answer machines. Their spiders crawl hundreds of billions of web pages. When a user looks up a keyword, a search engine scans its index of pages to provide relevant content. A search engine thus creates a search engine results page (SERP), with listings ranked by relevance.

And while search engines are an integral part of our everyday lives, they have certain limitations. 

Each search engine has different indexing practices, crawlers, and algorithms. So, when conducting a search via a single search engine, you may miss a highly relevant resource. Just because the search engine did not rank it high enough for you to notice it! (And let’s be honest – we rarely even go to the second page.)

On the other hand, nobody wants to be making manual searches via multiple search engines. That is far too time-consuming and complicated.

Metasearch engines, such as Searx.ME, strive to overcome this challenge.

The Inception Of Searx.ME

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Searx.ME proves this well-known proverb true. 

Searx.ME’s founder, Adam Tauber, came up with the idea during a camp organized by a hackerspace in Hungary. He was worried about his inability to perform secure and private online searches without investing in a VPN or installing a bunch of browser add-ons.

“During a discussion around the campfire, we realized that we don’t really have any option to search privately on the web without tons of browser add ons/operating system hardening/VPN tunnels/etc,” Tauber explained in an interview.

Searx.ME was officially launched in January 2014.

Collecting Search Results From Multiple Search Engines

Written in Python, Searx.ME is a free online metasearch engine that submits queries to more than 80 search services. It then aggregates them into a comprehensive list. 

Searx.ME is highly customizable. Users can change the theme, as well as set search and privacy settings. The user interface is available in 30 languages, meeting the needs of users from all around the world.

This metasearch engine easily integrates with more than 80 search engines. Therefore, when a searcher enters a keyword, Searx.ME takes it and gathers results from various search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. 

Simply put, you do not receive online content from a single channel. You receive content from dozens of channels. That way, you get richer, highly diversified search results and gain the opportunity to analyze the desired topic from multiple perspectives. 

The results can be classified in multiple ways, such as by subject or by relevance. An online searcher determines which results meet their search criteria the best.

A Metasearch Engine That Prioritizes User Privacy

Does your boss know that you are on the lookout for a new job?

Are you planning a surprise birthday party for your best friend?

Looking for a new physical activity to take up? 

Have you talked to your family about your mental health issues? 

The primary goal of Searx.ME is to keep searchers’ data safe and private. 

No matter how hard we try to keep some things secret, Google knows everything about them.

“Most users search Google while signed in, so all of the information on their online life is available: YouTube searches, emails, and past search history,” says Adam Tauber.

The primary goal of Searx.ME is to keep searchers’ data safe and private. 

Here are some of its key features.

A Self-Hosted Program

Searx.ME can be self-hosted on private servers. That means online searchers can use one of several instances hosted by other users (you can find them in the Searx Instances section on the website) to make searches. 

And if you don’t trust other contributors and want to ensure the utmost security of your searches? Then you can also install the program and run it on your own. 

No User Tracking or Profiling

Popular search engines, such as Google or Bing, continuously collect your personal information. They try to learn as much about you as possible so that they can deliver a highly personalized browsing experience. 

But, by tracking what you do online and profiling you, search engines invade your privacy.

The information they collect every time you make an online search includes:

  • Your IP address
  • The data and time when you performed the search query
  • The keywords you used
  • A cookie ID 

Searx.ME does not crawl and index the digital landscape on its own. 

As we explained above, Searx.ME sends search queries to more than 80 search engines. The searches are submitted without cookies or users’ private information. That means that Google and other search engines do not know anything about the searcher.

Tauber further explains this: 

“When using Searx, the IP address of Searx, a random User-Agent, and a search query is sent to Google by default. Of course, you can customize Searx to forward other extra parameters like search language or the page number of the requested result page.”

Helping You Escape The Filter Bubble

A hyper-personalized web-browsing experience can definitely come in handy when looking for individualized search results. But this benefit also has its flip side. Hyper-personalized web-browsing can create a filter bubble that is difficult to escape. 

You see, search engines track what you are doing online. Based on your online behavior and searches, they select results they consider relevant to you. Thus, they prevent you from learning new stuff outside search filters, looking at things with a different perspective, and thinking critically.

Hyper-personalized web-browsing can create a filter bubble that is difficult to escape.

Searx.ME helps you overcome this issue by automatically blocking all tracking cookies. 

When search engines do not know anything about you, they cannot create localized and personalized search results. 

“In this case, Google cannot access any personal information or preferences. [It] only selects results for you based on the IP address of the Searx instance you use. By not having all the possible information on you, it makes it harder to tailor results to your taste,” says Tauber.

Free Online Searches For Everyone

The majority of privacy-respecting metasearch engines, including DuckDuckGo and Startpage, are run by for-profit companies. 

On the other hand, Searx.ME is 100% free. The company’s goal is to stay non-profit and make its software available to all users.  

Providing Full Transparency

DuckDuckGo and Startpage also use closed-source software. So, online searchers put their trust in search engines that do not showcase their work publicly.  

Contrastingly, Searx.ME is fully transparent. The source code is public, and everyone can track what Searx.ME does. 

Hosted by Organizations that Promote Digital Rights

One of their major supporters is La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net), a French advocacy group that promotes digital rights and freedoms for online users. They address a wide range of burning privacy issues, including freedom of speech, online privacy, and copyrights.

An Open-Source Metasearch Engine

While the Searx.ME team consists of three developers, it is an open-source search engine. That means there are numerous individuals contributing to the platform. Public Searx instances allow individuals and organizations who care about privacy to make changes to the code. 

Your Online Information Has Value

The rollout of the GDPR has taught us an important lesson. Everything you google, post, or purchase online creates your digital footprint. This information often ends up being viewed, analyzed, used, and monetized by far more people and organizations than you at first expected. 

For search engines and other third-party websites, collecting personal data is an opportunity to accurately profile users. This allows businesses to offer highly targeted content to users. 

Personal data is the most valuable asset in the hyper-personalization era.

In the hyper-personalization era, personal data is your most valuable asset. So make sure you keep it safe!

One of the most effective ways to do that is to use metasearch engines such as Searx.ME.

The folks behind Searx.ME proved that search engines can be decentralized, non-profit and, above all, privacy-friendly. Searx.ME is fully transparent, 100% free, and collects no personal data. Keep rocking, guys, we are more than happy that you chose .ME as your digital home!

Author:

Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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