I'm a big fan of time-saving features on my computing devices. Keyboard shortcuts, text expansion snippets, clipboard managers, my keyboard-fu arsenal is full of tips and tricks that reduce the grunt of my daily tasks. After all, the less time I spend doing basic chores, the more time I have to focus on interesting ones, like writing articles or assisting my colleagues. But the all-time most awesomest bestest feature among these tricks is custom search engines on Chrome. I use them daily, all the time, and I've sung their praises enough times that I've made a few converts. What baffles me, though, is that the Chrome team has been busy adding more complicated and powerful features to Android, but it has yet to implement this very old and simple one.
When it comes to custom search engines on Chrome, I don't joke, I don't play, I don't mess around. It is a Very Serious Topic™ that comes up countless times in our internal Android Police discussions, more often than not when I figure out yet another useful engine that can shave off precious seconds from our daily workflows. That's usually followed by a ten-minute chat about how clever that latest trick is and how I should write a book about custom search engines. Well, short of writing a long book then trying to find a publisher, here is a guide with all the tips, tricks, and smart ideas I've amassed over the last decade.
The majority of us turn to Google Search to discover all kinds of web content, but that might not be the best choice if you care about privacy. In order to improve its results and make more relevant recommendations, Google tracks your activity across the web. If you're looking for a privacy-focussed alternative, we have good news — Brave Search is here to offer another option.
Brave, the desktop and mobile browser based on Chromium code, is gaining a lot of steam. Its stated mission of protecting privacy and blocking malicious advertising resonates with a lot of users, particularly those who are growing weary of Google's track record on both. Brave's latest move is an acquisition of Tailcat, a small open source search engine out of Europe.
Following the Indian ban of almost 60 Chinese apps including TikTok and Weibo, many people living in the country now report not being able to access the privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo. The company confirms as much, saying that the problem isn't on its end. It's currently talking to local internet service providers to resolve the issue. It looks like these have blocked the service via their DNS servers, as the search engine is still accessible through most third-party DNS resolvers.
Back in 2010, Hipmunk launched with the promise to simplify and improve flight search across multiple airlines and released an Android app soon after. Its innovations have long been copied by other search engines including Google, which made it hard for the company to keep up. It was acquired by SAP Concur in 2016, and Hipmunk has announced today that it will shut down for good on January 23. The business-focused Concur Hipmunk service is also retiring.
Following the EU's record antitrust ruling against Google back in 2018, the European Commission asked the company to give Android users the option to set other search engines as default. That prompted Google to take the opportunity to make even more money by auctioning which companies to feature as default search engine providers. The winners have now been published, and it looks like privacy advocate DuckDuckGo and meta search engine Info.com have taken the crown across the continent.
Google's ongoing European saga just saw a new development. After the record $5 billion antitrust fine issued by the European Commission last year, the company had to implement new screens to ask users if they wanted additional browsers and search engines on their devices, and now it's taking that one step further by making the search engine choice a default. However, as would any for-profit company do, it's using this as an opportunity to charge search providers that want to be featured.
Google has thousands of custom-built servers that scan the web every single second for new content... except right now. Google stopped indexing new webpages a few hours ago, but the company says a fix is on the way.
Google has been facing a lot of backlash from the EU (and other countries) regarding its dominance over several markets, including online search. "Backlash" is a tame word to describe it too, there have been lawsuits, huge fines in numbers we can't fully comprehend, and lots of politics at stake. But whether this latest change in Chrome's search engines is related to that or not, we'll let you decide.