Search engine Mojeek promises privacy and no sharing of your data
A new search engine, called Mojeek , which promises not to track your movements across the web and to protect your privacy, is ramping up to become a major online player.
While saying it is not competing with the likes of Google or Microsoft's Bing, it is vowing to bring a different approach to how we search online, amid growing concerns about just how much of our data and web usage is tracked by the search giants.
With its enormous bank of servers located behind the secure walls of Custodian Data Centre's Maidstone base on Vinters Business Park – it is one of the site's biggest customers – it has spent more than 10 years being developed and built up by founder and developer Marc Smith.
Now, after receiving a major financial investment, it has hired experienced CEO Colin Hayhurst – a man with a long track record of developing technology and software firms – to enable it to spread its wings.
"What Marc has done is what tens of thousands of engineers do at Google," Mr Hayhurst explains.
"He has been building the technology stack independently to create a true search engine and one which protects your privacy."
And by true he means unlike many search providers, which simply renose the findings of Google or Bing. Mojeek crawls the web itself and delivers a result based on what you searched for, unencumbered, for now at least, by who has been prepared to pay to have their listing at the top of your results page.
"Our big selling point is the privacy," the CEO explains. "So there's no tracking on what sites you visit before or after. If you search with Mojeek you get a different view of the world – and only a true search engine like ours can deliver those results."
While questions remain to be answered as to just how it intends to commercialise – advertisers, after all, are highly attracted by pinpointing the demographic they wish to reach online, which Google's tracking has done with such aplomb – there is no denying that the lure of a search engine which doesn't track your movements is increasingly appealing to many.
"There aren't actually that many true search engines," adds Mr Hayhurst. "There's Google and Bing then Yandex in Russia. The next biggest is us. Beyond that there are sites in China, Vietnam, Korea, but that's about it."
The concept of non-tracking search engines isn't necessarily new. US-based DuckDuckGo has secured an estimated tens of millions of users albeit by delivering results through a compilation of established providers such as Bing and Yahoo!
Mojeek is delivering its results through its own web crawling efforts. An impressive feat.
The trick now is how to differentiate itself in the market while not becoming, as Google has, a platform where the highest bidders can determine not only your results but serve you up ads across the web.
"We don't see ourselves competing with Google," the CEO explains. "We see our rivals as those offering privacy, such as DuckDuckGo and several others.
"They have about 1% of the market – which doesn't sound a lot but that is a big business. And we're the only company which is a real search company that does no tracking.
"There's a lot of smoke and mirrors about what Google does – lots of talk of algorithms to optimise your rankings and so on, but the fact is users put in what they want to find, so you can serve up relevant ads based on their search.
"DuckDuckGo has a profitable business based on ad revenues without having to track and record data about their users."
For a UK business, the potential to capitalise on an increasingly anxious end user's fear of data tracking is significant.
Its main investor is Edward Iliffe – the man who owns Iliffe Media and a raft of local publishers, like this website.
He said: "The size of the index and the number of searches carried out using Mojeek is growing daily, and the objective is to become a UK alternative to Google and Bing – an ambitious target.
"Mojeek's founder's objective is to be the alternative search engine with the unique selling point of not tracking the user and thereby maintaining user privacy."
You can try Mojeek for yourself – it is now used as the search engine for this website.