The Best Internet Search in 2023

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I have been on the internet since 1995. I have used a lot of different search systems in numerous browsers. Today, I am ready to say I have a new favorite system.

But first, a little history. I started back in the day on America Online, using their limited mix of tools. But I will never forget the day I figured out that once I was on, I could open up Internet Explorer and search from there. That’s when I discovered Yahoo!, which was great for its time. The website started with a curated list of categories, which you could click on to drill down to various sites and pieces of information that Yahoo! wanted to feature. You could also use their search bar, like you can do today. For its day, it was great. We were on the web and looking stuff up.

There were several other sites along the way, but one of the next huge breakthroughs was Google. Google was different from the others because instead of a start page with all kinds of links, it started with a blank page that just had a search bar. Put your search string in the bar, hit return, and then scroll through what came up. Google was using bots to crawl the web” and index everything, instead of developing curated lists of content. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and googling” became a household word.

But Google developed a number of problems. First, there are the ads. Do a Google search, and you will see sponsored links on the top, sponsored ads on the sides, and all kinds of other things that distract you. Similar to this is the ability to sponsor links so that even though they don’t appear as an add, they still float to the top of search. Any of these ads or sponsored links might have something to do with what you want, but they may not be the best possible result.

Second is the censorship. This is like the reverse of ads. Search engines tend to surface results based on a match of what you type in and what is most popular. So if you search for how to clean your oven” it should show you sites and videos that show you this, ranked by which ones get the most clicks. But there are some topics and people that seem to get throttled down to the bottom of search or hidden altogether. Conservative websites and online commentators have complained particularly during election season when their traffic seems to go down and searches for their names or content don’t seem to surface results, despite having great success in the past.

The third and final big problem I have is the tracking. Google uses cookies and other technologies to monitor what you look at online so they can target ads at you. They even monitor and read your Gmail to offer targeted ads. They claim this is so they can show you ads for things you might want and be interested in, but at the end of the day, it’s just creepy. It shouldn’t be anyone’s business what you are researching and looking at unless you want people to see it. But sites like Google and Facebook disagree (so much for Google’s original mission statement: Don’t be evil”). This is one of the reasons I use ad blockers, but that’s another story.

At the end of the day, Google is not a search company. They are an advertising company. That may sound crazy, but look at their business model: they don’t make any money off you searching with them. They make money by people paying for ads and paying to boost search results with sponsored searches.

The next best thing (but not the best): Duck Duck Go

For the last few years I have been using Duck Duck Go. Unlike Google, Duck Duck Go promises to never track anything you search or the sites you visit. That’s great, I really do appreciate that. And I have not heard of them censoring content. But there are still ads. They are not nearly as intrusive, but they are there. If you are looking for a great free resource, this is it.

What I’m using now: Kagi Search with the Orion Browser

I heard about Kagi a few weeks ago, and it’s definitely different from anything else I have ever used. It has no ads, no tracking and (as far as I know) no censorship.

But if it does not have ads or tracking, how do they make money and stay in business?

Hold on to your hats because this may shock you: Kagi is paid search. That’s right. Kagi isn’t free. You can sign up for a trial which gets you 100 web searches and 50 AI searches. After that, it’s $5.00 per month for 300 searches on a starter plan, or $10.00 per month for unlimited on a professional. They also have family and annual pricing which is 10% cheaper. All their plans are listed here.

In all the years I have been online, I have never heard of a company charging for internet search. Sure, there are companies like LexisNexis and companies that charge for online background checks, but that’s not general internet search. So it may sound absolutely ridiculous, but I don’t think it is. Because they don’t have ads, sponsored links, or tracking, they are a true search company. You are paying to (hopefully) get the best search results without ads or sponsors (I’m sorry I’m repeating myself, but this is blowing my mind).

Now, because the search is paid, you can’t just go to ( and start searching in any browser. You either need to add their extension to your browser and pop in your security key, or install their browser Orion) and log into your Kagi account. They also have an extension for Raycast.

I have been a die hard Safari user on both Mac and iPhone for years, but I decided to try Orion out. It’s not perfect, but it is good. Orion is lightweight, nice to look at, and can use Chrome or Firefox extensions. You can have your tabs on the top or the side (I’m digging having them on the side). The only problem I have with it is that the integration with 1Password is hit or miss. It’s not great at filling in credentials for you, but that could be a problem with the extension itself.

In my Kagi tests, I find I get results that are more relevant to what I am actually searching for. I don’t have to do very much scrolling to find good information, but if I do, I find things that are still relevant, just expanding on what I am looking for. That’s much better than searching for something and finding three articles that are the same thing, two articles that have nothing to do with what you are looking for, and then maybe finding something that will point you in the right direction like I typically get with Google.

The search also has tabs at the top for things like images, videos, news, and podcasts related to your subject. This is the same as most other search engines, so that’s not a special perk, but it indicates that they are in line with the trends that most search companies are doing.

So, should you give Kagi (and possibly Orion) a try? I recommend at least signing up for the free account and comparing the search to what you are used to seeing on Google or even Duck Duck Go. Whether you like it or not, I encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments.

December 2, 2023