Ecosia Search Engine Review | TechRadar

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Whichever search engine you use every day – be it Google, Bing, or whatever – you’ve undoubtedly seen the many ads that populate the most generic search pages. Ads are a major revenue stream for search engines, which is why they often dominate the first third (or more) of your delivered results.

Ecosia, a Berlin-based search engine launched in 2009, has bigger plans for revenue generated from search results ads. Instead of putting all this income back into the business, Ecosia donates 80% of its profits to tree planting organizations around the world.

While its eco-friendly program may be enough to onboard new users, we wanted to know exactly how Ecosia stacked up against search engines big and small in terms of overall user experience and privacy. Here is what we found.

search results

Ecosia may be an alternative search engine but its search results seem quite similar to those of Google or Bing (Image credit: Ecosia)

Characteristics

Right off the bat, Ecosia’s layout, customization options, and even its search results and ads may seem familiar to other major search engines. That’s mainly because its deliverables (results and ads) are provided by Microsoft Bing, with Ecosia’s own algorithms filtered for good measure.

On the home page, a large search query bar dominates real estate. As you type in searches, automatic suggestions are triggered to help you complete your query. To help convey the company’s green operations, a ticker below the search bar counts the number of trees planted by users of the engine (over 130,000 at the time of writing).

On the results page, the results are displayed left aligned. Filters for the web, images, videos, and maps (which link to Google or Bing Maps) are located at the top of the page, along with a More drop-down for Wikipedia, Amazon, and other web services.

Settings

You can customize Ecosia’s language, search region, automatic suggestions and more from its settings menu (Image credit: Ecosia)

By clicking on Settings (at the top of the page), you will be able to customize things like website language, search region, and automatic suggestions. You can also click the hamburger icon in the upper right corner of the screen for links to an about page, privacy practices, and Ecosia’s loot shop.

Privacy

Ecosia takes a number of steps to protect your privacy (Image credit: Ecosia)

Privacy

Compared to other search engines, Ecosia takes user privacy very seriously, as stated on the company’s “Privacy” page. Ecosia only keeps certain user data for a week, after which the information becomes completely anonymized. Unlike other search engines, Ecosia does not sell your data to advertising companies. Plus, every search is encrypted for added security as you browse.

When privacy is a major concern, we recommend that you use one of these VPN services for the greatest security.

Search Results 2

Bing and Ecosia search results often look quite similar as the service announcements and deliverables are provided by Microsoft (Image credit: Ecosia)

User experience

For those who have used Google’s or Bing’s search engines, Ecosia will feel very familiar. The results were returned quickly with the most relevant deliverables ranked at the top. Tapping into the Bing framework, there’s quite a bit of crossover when it comes to results. For example, a search for “Walt Disney” on both platforms returned essentially the same results, but with some formatting adjustments.

Trees

Ecosia is the perfect search engine for those who are environmentally conscious because every search can help plant a tree. (Image credit: Ecosia)

One of the main differentiators between the two platforms is Ecosia’s focus on its mission to reduce carbon emissions. No matter what part of the site you are on, you will always see a tree icon in the upper right corner of the page, showing how many searches you have performed using Ecosia. According to the site, it will take you about 45 searches under your belt to plant a tree. This assumes that in this mass of searches, a majority should result in click-throughs, as Ecosia’s tree-planting income comes directly from advertising profits.

Additionally, non-browser Ecosia will often display a banner at the bottom of the page recommending that you add the Ecosia browser extension, along with a message that says “Let’s plant trees! (See image above from Ecosia search results).

Extension

You can add Ecosia to Chrome with just one click with the company browser extension (Image credit: Google)

If you choose to follow this suggestion, Ecosia can be downloaded as a browser extension for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, saving you from having to throw a separate URL for Ecosia when searching (and making it easier to get your tree – count to).

Application

Ecosia also offers a mobile application for iOS and Android (Image credit: Ecosia)

Platforms

Ecosia is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux devices. You can use the search engine with major browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Opera, etc. Ecosia browser plugins are also available for Chrome, Safari and Mozilla.

You can also download the Ecosia mobile application for both ios and Android devices.

Competetion

In terms of overall privacy, Ecosia takes on DuckDuckGo and Qwant, two engines that prioritize security and non-tracking when using their respective sites and browser extensions. While DuckDuckGo is a bit more privacy-focused, none of the competitors donate their profits to conservation efforts (if that’s important to you).

Then there is Google and Bing. Both search engines are very popular and offer an intuitive experience based on previous searches and user data, but there is always the risk that some of your search history will be harvested and sold to outside companies.

Final verdict

Ecosia looks, feels and delivers results in a way worthy of a safe and well-designed search engine. For those looking to give back to the universe in one way or another, the company’s green initiatives are inspiring, making you feel like your every request goes towards a good cause. Additionally, Ecosia’s browser extensions make it easy to integrate the engine into your daily Chrome / Safari / Firefox workflow.

While algorithmic profiling is not as user-oriented as Google or Bing, rest assured that Ecosia’s lack of profiling means your data is not being used transactionally.


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