Startpage (Ixquick) is a Way to Offer Private Search – Frank Tests it Out

I learned about Startpage in an article on Reuters. Here’s a nugget:

    Startpage — also known as Ixquick outside the United States and Britain — had already offered private searching, but users would leave the company’s protection when they clicked on a search result and entered a third-party website.

    The new service offers use of a Startpage that means the user is invisible to all websites, though pages load more slowly since Startpage must first retrieve the contents and then redisplay them.

    “My wake-up call came last year,” says Katherine Albrecht, who runs U.S. media relations and marketing for Startpage and who says she noticed Inc had installed a program monitoring users who typed in terms indicating they had influenza — and was sharing the information with the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

So I decided to play around with it for a while.

The Startpage search window is very spare and uncluttered, similar to Google’s:

Note: Click any image for a larger view. What to click depends on your browser.

Startpage

Here is a sample websearch result:

Startpage Results

If you click on a link on the results page, Startpage by default opens the link in a new page; this can be changed in the settings. When I’m doing a complicated search, I find this convenient. When I just want a quick answer to a “What is an empanada?” type of question, I end up with more open that I like open in my browser. I am still considering changing the default setting.

Here a sample image search result:

Startpage Results

Startpage settings are readily available by clicking “Settings.” There is a short, clear explanation of each setting to the right of the selection:

Startpage Settings

Startpage includes an option to set up a proxy through the search engine, as explained on the proxy page, which can be reached by clicking “Startpage Protects Your ” on the left sidebar, then clicking the “Proxy Explained” link in the top right of the resulting page.

Startpage Proxy Explained

The “Add Startpage to Your Browser” link just under the search window tells you how to do what it says. It properly identified Opera, Firefox, and Konqueror under Linux; I have not tested it under Windows.

In Opera, which I mostly use, I right-clicked in the empty search field and selecting from the pop-up menu; for Firefox, I downloaded an extension. I also made it may default search engine in both, simply to make sure I kept trying it out; how to make it your default search engine will depend on your browser.

So far, the search results have been adequate. For general searching, when I’ve been looking for answers to questions or general information, Startpage has returned relevant results in a usable way. That is, I’ve found my answer or information without any extra work.

There was one search I did for a public Facebook profile (with the permission of the Facebook user in connection with something else I was working on; I was looking for www.facebook.com/[username] and I already knew what the link was) where Google resoundingly outperformed Startpage–the link I wanted was the top one in Google from several different search strings; in Startpage, the link I was looking for was not on the first page.

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