Why We Must Change Our Default Browser and Search Engine

We tend to think of Google Search as the gold standard, the comprehensive, personalised, convenient, quick and reliable option. The one for getting things done. The experience that other search engines can only aspire to.

But, as we know, Google Search is designed around the financial goals of the advertising business. Can we understand just how far that misaligned incentive has warped the whole experience? What if a search experience were designed in a different way, around what's good for us, what's important to us, our real values? I don't mean just the same kind of search experience but with adverts stripped out. I mean if the whole system, from content publishing through to browsers and apps, were redesigned. How unimaginably different might that look? And as we obviously can't jump straight to that world, what insights does this give us about improvements we could seek in our current world?

Robin Berjon explains in “Fixing Search”. It's a good article. (@robin@mastodon.social">Follow this writer!)

Anyone still thinking Google Search is “good”, after learning about what is going on behind the scenes, is missing a perspective on what “good for us” would really look like.

“Have you ever wondered why every cooking recipe on the web has a twenty page biopic preamble? Because Google likes it better that way.”

It's shocking how much Google pays the other browser makers (Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari) to promote Google search as the default. Nearly no-one changes their default search to DuckDuckGo or another. Thus Google buys their users. The same pattern plays out in the phone makers, the desktops and laptops. Users captured.

”... search defaults are how you buy the search market. The business model of browsers — and their architectural purpose in web search — is to serve as muscle-for-rent to enforce search dominance.”

And that's not even the half of it. There's the browser. We have come to think of Google Chrome in the same way as Search. For good reason. It's designed and optimised for the advertising industry, and that kind of search experience (along with tracking and data collection).

In a blow to the diversity of web browsers, Microsoft (foolishly) built their Edge browser on Google's browser technology, thereby giving Google control over the direction of the web experience of the majority of people on Earth, and what is the direction a giant advertising company is taking us? Only one way, and that way is down.

The point of Berjon's article is about how society and government needs to re-think the business and regulatory models. (Abuse of monopoly, surveillance capitalism.) But if you are stuck in today's dystopia and want to escape, you can. Make a small start leading to a big improvement in our online lives:

Ask a friendly techie to help you change your default search and your default browser.

What to switch to? While anything not Google-based is an improvement, the only mainstream freedom-respecting browser is Mozilla Firefox, and the most mainstream privacy-respecting search engine is DuckDuckGo. Those are what I use and recommend.

Ask your friendly techie today, right now, before it's too late. You will regain a chunk of your own freedom and contribute to the freedom of others.

#degoogled #awesomeFOSS #Mozilla #Firefox

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