Paying for Search
Since the start of the year I’ve been paying for general web search through the use of Kagi at about £8 ($10) per month. I’ve long desired the ability to have some control over the results served, and Kagi seemed like a good way to gain this control.
What I like about Kagi
- No ads.
- There’s a toggle for “Forums”. This is something I’ve greatly missed since google removed their discussion search filter.
- You can define other “Lenses” for different categorization/filtering of search types & results.
- The interface is clean, simplistic and easy-to-use.
- You can rank up/down sites in the results to prioritise favourite sites. Using this you can also out-write block sites. No more Pintrest/Quora results!
- Privacy is taken seriously.
- There’s no manipulation/tracking of result clicks.
- Has all the controls and “bangs” there I’ve found useful on other search systems.
- There’s a great amount of control provided, with many options covering appearance and search results.
What I’m not so keen on
- They still rely on bigger players (Google/Bing/+) for the fundamental search index.
- US based, would personally prefer a EU based option to limit privacy creep.
- They’re a younger company, still finding their feet, so change does occur and their does look to jump around.
- Since signing up they’ve jumped on AI, raised cash and toyed with pricing changes.
- Local features & results can often be inaccurate or US-centric.
- As an example, searching “portable SSD” provided me UK stores in the results but I also get a bunch of US-based product results in a “Shopping” feature box at the top. The region for the search is set to UK.
- The pricing I’m on does have a usage limit (1.5k searches).
- I’m within this usage but it’s a thing you have to keep in mind, and I’d be hitting the limit if I wasn’t grandfathered to a legacy plan.
Is it worth it?
While $10/month seemed quite a lot for something I’ve always used for free, for me I have found it worthwhile as the customized search control, ranking, and lack of ads makes searching so much nicer on a day-to-day basis. Search is a fundamental tool of the web which, looking at my usage, I’m using about 1000 times a month.
It would be hard to stomach any higher of a cost though, which is why I’ve been nervous when they’ve toyed around with pricing changes to the main service while adding extra AI features I didn’t intent to use. During this I did briefly attempt to go back to google and duckduckgo, but i very quickly missed using Kagi.
Brave search is interesting. They’re building/using their own search index which is a great achievement and I think a very healthy thing for the web, and I hope they continue to do well following this path. They also have a great (Beta status) feature called Goggles, which allows filtering and re-ranking of results via custom and shareable rule-sets. Brave search didn’t quite work for me though. The customization I desired wasn’t “native” enough to the core search, requiring some friction to use right now. That, combined with the results, just didn’t click for me.
Of course there’s duckduckgo, or similar other platforms, but I really wanted those result customization features while not being subject to ads (or feeling guilty for blocking ads).
Marginalia is an interesting alternative search, although it doesn’t quite fit the need for every-day searching for me, but it’s great for exploration. Their random page is especially enjoyable if you want to become nostalgic for the stumbleupon era of the internet.