Startpage search is private Google search

The startpage search engine logo

Startpage search is a private search engine that gives you Google results. Why does this matter? Well, other search engines that claim to be private usually use Bing or other sites for their data. With Startpage, you get Google’s results without profiling.  

Background Info on Startpage search 

The company behind Startpage originally ran a search engine called ixquick.com which was launched in 1998. The privacy aspect of ixquick and Startpage didn’t happen until 2006 when the company began deleting users’ recorded IP addresses. From there, the idea of a private search engine continued to grow and the company continued making efforts to improve its privacy policies. 

Starting in July 2009, Startpage.com was created as a better way for users to remember the name and to offer Google search results privately. (thank god, ixquick was a horrible name) 

Finally, in March of 2016, ixquick.com was merged with Startpage into one site.  

Startpage Search Design 

The main page of the Startpage search engine

Upon first visiting Startpage, users are greeted with a basic gray background with a simple textbox for searching. Under that is the tagline “The world’s most private search engine”. Other than that, there is a link at the top of the page for image searching. Pretty minimal and there is a hamburger menu in the top right-hand corner for additional settings. (Yes, there is a dark mode!) 

The black theme

If you scroll down on the main page, you’ll see a lot of the marketing explaining how Startpage is private and will keep you safe at night. Fair enough, I think it gets the job done explaining what the site is about. 

Search Results 

Startpage pays Google for its search results but anonymizes your search request before giving the results back to you. In terms of results, the list of sites seems to be the same, but the layout and placement of what I consider “extra” information is very different. 

Google vs Startpage results 

Google 

Starting off with a search for “Home Alone”, Google gives me video options of where I can watch the movie, then a Wikipedia entry. Next, there is a row of videos if I happened to be looking for those. After scrolling further, I am finally presented with just a simple list of sites that might have what I am looking for. 

Screenshot of a search for Home Alone on Google

There is also additional information from various sources displayed on the right side of the page. I don’t mind because it’s not in the list and stays out of my way. 

Startpage 

Doing the same search for “Home Alone” on Startpage, the first thing I see is a giant poster for the movie and information from Wikipedia. After that are simple links to websites with nothing extra. There is also no additional information on the side of the search results. Whether you prefer the minimal look vs Google’s additional information sources thrown into the mix is up to personal preference.  

Screenshot of a search for Home Alone done on Startpage

Startpage Search for Images 

I found when searching for images on Startpage that image results tend to load much slower than other sites. The reason for this is because images are downloaded from Startpage which acts as a proxy, preventing the user from pre-maturely accessing the source website.  

startpage image search

After clicking a single image, you have three options:  

  1. View the image anonymously, which means getting a full version directly from Startpage.  
  2. View the site anonymously, which loads the site through Startpage’s proxy 
  3. Finally, viewing the site directly will give up some privacy. 
Image options

These options are fine and get the job done, but I do experience some mild annoyance at image loading speeds when searching for images with Startpage.  

Depending on your threat level, it might be more convenient to use DuckDuckGo, which serves content through Amazon’s servers and delivers results and images much faster. 

Startpage vs DuckDuckgo 

The results from one search engine being “better” are subjective and I’m not going to try and compare them based on what sites they bring up. What I will note is Startpage’s lack of instant answers/extras.  

If you just need a list of links with descriptions, Startpage works great and I have had periods of time where it was my default search engine. Having said that, I miss some of the “extra” features that Google and DuckDuckGo provide when searching for certain queries.  

For example, I often look up the time for different cities or countries. With Startpage, I don’t get an instant answer and instead have to click one of the top links to see the information. 

searching time on startpage

Searching the same thing with DuckDuckGo, I get an instant answer with a small widget at the top of the page. There are other examples of this such as currency conversion, calculator, etc. These are minor conveniences and if you don’t need them, that’s great. 

searching for time on duckduckgo

For some people though, they will realize how useful some of the instant answer features of other search engines have become indispensable.  

2019 Controversy 

Startpage was bought in 2019 by an advertising company that many users feared would cause a change in its privacy policies. When asked about this, the CEO of Startpage Mr. Beens stated, “Having a new shareholder in the company will not change any aspect of the privacy we offer. We are a Dutch company and will continue to be so. Fully complying with Dutch and EU privacy regulations (GDPR). We don’t store or share any personal data. No change either. Our clear privacy policy will stay the same. Management/founders (including myself) continue to have an important stake in the company and will continue to be fully committed to our privacy mission!” 

Despite this statement, several privacy websites have removed Startpage from their list of recommended privacy-friendly search engines.  

I think it’s still fine until further developments. 

Final Thoughts on Startpage search 

For those wanting to make their searches more private and attempt to get away from filtered or bubble search results, I think Startpage is an excellent recommendation. People used to Google search results won’t have to make as much of an adjustment. The results are minimalistic and there is nothing that gets in the way. 

Users wanting privacy but with extras and a faster image search would be better served with DuckDuckGo.  

Link: Go try it!

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