Yandex Search Engine Review | TechRadar

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When we think of search engines, some of the first services that come to mind are probably Google search and Bing. Then there are alternative entities like DuckDuckGo and Qwant that prioritize user data and privacy when delivering results. A major search engine that doesn’t get as much attention in North America is Yandex, a Russian engine that is just one part of a huge technological conglomerate.

The Yandex search engine was launched in 1997 by Arkady Volozh, Arkady Borkovsky, and Ilya Segalovich, and is now recognized as the most widely used search engine in Russia, just behind Google.

If you’re considering a new search engine, we took a full tour of Yandex to see how it stacks up against the competition.

Characteristics

The Yandex home page will be similar to anyone who has used Google or Bing. A search bar for user queries takes up the majority of the landing page. As you type in your query, the engine will automatically begin to fill in the best results that you can click.

Home page

You can access other Yandex services by clicking on their icons above the search bar (Image credit: Yandex)

Above the search bar, there are tabs for images, videos, and maps, which you can click to filter the results by these separate categories. A Mail tab connects you to Yandex’s free email service, while Maps focuses on geographic locations you can search.

Plans

You can find restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, gas stations and other places around the world using Yandex Maps (Image credit: Yandex)

The Maps tab defaults to Europe when first opened, but you can search anywhere in the world.

You can also customize your search by scrolling to the bottom of the results page and clicking Settings. Here you can adjust everything from filtering your results to the types of ads that will be displayed when using the search engine.

Privacy

Yandex explains why it collects user data and how it uses it on its site’s privacy page (Image credit: Yandex)

Privacy

Yandex is quite open about the fact that they collect and use your user data. According to the company, this is about providing the best experience for all users when using Yandex services. The information is collected from the searches you perform and the different Yandex products you use (Mail, Cards, etc.).

In addition, Yandex has been subjected to several government offenses regarding user data and Yandex’s encryption practices.

In summary, running the Yandex search engine in an unprotected way may put some of your user data at risk. If you run the engine through the Yandex desktop or mobile browser, you can enable incognito mode to automatically delete your cookies and history when you close the browser. In addition, we strongly recommend that you run a VPN to hide your device’s IP address when using Yandex.

search results

These are the Yandex research results from a research on the Tokyo Olympics (Image credit: Yandex)

User experience

We used the Yandex desktop search engine on a 2021 MacBook Pro running MacOS Big Sur version 11.2.3 with Safari as the browser. After performing a search, the results were delivered almost instantly, with the most relevant being sorted at the top. A search for “Tokyo Olympics 2020” resulted in links to official Olympic websites as well as a short right-aligned descriptor of the event courtesy of Wikipedia.

When viewing the results, you can filter by images, video, and other organizers at the top of the page. Some results are automatically separated into separate levels for images, video, and other media as you browse them. At the bottom of the results page, you can go to the next page or jump forward or backward by clicking on the page numbers. If you want to compare results to competing search engines, there are links for Google and Bing.

We also used the Yandex mobile browser on iOS on an iPhone 12 (also available for Android devices). The app uses the Yandex search engine by default and the results were similar to the desktop version.

Similar to Qwant mobile platform, you can also open multiple results tabs at the same time. A More button also lets you run an Incognito search, view your history, and share your results with others.

A minor downside for the desktop and mobile versions was that even though we tested the search engine through the Yandex.com URL, a number of our results were for Russian sites. The frequency of these foreign language results seems to vary depending on the research we have done.

To be able to use services like Yandex Mail and Yandex disc (Yandex version of Google Drive), you will need to register to get Yandex ID. To do this, you just have to click on “Registration” at the top of the results page and entering the requested credentials. Conveniently, you can also log into your Yandex account with Facebook, Google and Twitter for faster login.

Platforms

Yandex is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux devices. You can use the search engine on major browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge, Opera, Brave, and others.

You can also download Yandex mobile browser for iOS and Android devices from the App Store and the Google play store.

The competition

The main competitors of Yandex are Google, Bing, Qwant and Ecosia. While engines like Qwant and Ecosia offer a more privacy-focused experience, things like automatically generating results based on previous searches aren’t as intuitive.

Yandex itself has more in common with major search engines like Google and Bing. The most recognizable, these search engines store and analyze user data to provide more personalized results, although the waters become murky when it comes to what other entities these companies are selling your data to and for what purposes.

Final verdict

Yandex offers a search engine experience similar to that of today’s major search engines. From a performance point of view, the results are obtained quickly and are easy to filter. If you want to expand your Yandex suite, registering a Yandex ID unlocks additional apps like Yandex Mail and Yandex Disk.

In terms of privacy however, there is a lot to be desired. While Yandex is transparent about its user data practices, the fine print is hardly reassuring. When web security is a major concern, going with a privacy-focused search engine is always your best bet.


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