Would You Pay for a Privacy-Respecting No-Ads Search Engine?

By Bill Toulas / March 20, 2021

‘Better Internet Search’ is a new kind of search engine that promises not to push any ads to the user, not to collect any personal data that could be sold to or shared with third parties, and will actually reward users with tokens for things that generate revenue. The catch is that you’ll have to pay a minimum of £10 ($13.9) to buy the so-called “search tokens.” According to the project’s Indiegogo page, this amount of tokens would last for up to three months for a typical user, whatever that means.

If you find that this business model is risky or even flawed, the truth is that right now it’s too early to tell. The product was tentatively launched only three months ago and is being tested by a closed circle of 100 people. The current Indiegogo campaign has amassed around $2,000, and the previous one moved around the same levels.

Certainly, there’s not a huge following backing ‘Better Internet Search.’ However, the project is still in the beta stage of development, and it’s only looking to do a limited roll-out by the end of 2021, bringing another 200 users aboard.

Source: BIS

So, what is it that it offers on top of other privacy-respecting engines that are offered free of charge, like Duck Duck Go, for example? According to the project founder, Dr. Gordon Povey, free private engines are still susceptible to giving users malware results, still use keywords to target ads, and are inevitably unable to omit all bias as such. ‘Better Internet Search’ just doesn’t deal with ads and ad-serving networks at all and doesn’t collect sensitive user details or search histories.

As Povey further explains, free search engines aren’t really free in the sense that they still capture resources for all the tracking, logging, and ad-serving that is happening, so CPU cycles are hogged, and internet bandwidth and data consumption increase too. And if we also account for time losses induced by tracker and ad-loading delays, the adverse effects of using a “free” search engine are further intensified.

Technically speaking, the privacy-preservation aspect is achieved through a partnership with ‘Partisia Blockchain,’ which is an agnostic blockchain platform that can facilitate fully private computations and transactions. What remains unclear is how well a small project like ‘Better Internet Search’ will manage to scan the vastness of the internet, log all websites, and offer rich search results. It won’t be simple, and it won’t be easy, but if people embrace the product and this new business model, it’ll mark the beginning of a new era in the space.

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