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Two Months with Kagi

I don’t think I need to rehash how broken search engines have become over the past few years. DuckDuckGo has been my main search, while I’ve used the !G bang whenever I needed to tag in Google for some help. Still, rarely did this help me find what I needed. Like so many others, I’d have to add +reddit or +blog in an attempt to find something that wasn’t being optimized or written by AI.

I’ve known about Kagi for a while now. In fact, I signed up when it was first launched, but before I got a chance to use it, I read a post by someone who mentioned they wouldn’t trust a bunch of ex-Google engineers, so I went ahead and deleted my account. This is a lesson on why you should think for yourself and not just listen to people on the internet, because Kagi and Google couldn’t be any more different, at least in their current states as of today.

I reluctantly decided to give Kagi a chance about two months ago. I decided to take advantage of the 300 searches for free, since that should be enough to let me know if Kagi was truly any different from the rest.

Almost instantly, I saw the difference. Instead of the same ten websites that always pop up when I search for something, I had options and lots of them! The listicle articles were put in one section, and I even had the option to block or lower the priority of websites I was sick of seeing (Tom’s Hardware, howtogeek, verywellhealth, Pinterest, etc). I could even prioritize domains that I did want to see more of. This changed everything I knew about search engines. Suddenly, I was in charge and not at the mercy of manipulative algorithms and I liked it.

But did I like it enough to pay ten dollars? Five dollars is one thing, but ten? That’s the price of what a streaming service would have cost you two years ago.

After I used up my free 300 searches, I decided to pay the ten dollars and lean into Kagi. I mean, my ten dollars bought me unlimited searches, so now I could really go crazy and see what Kagi could do. My month is over tomorrow and as much as it pains me to admit it, it was ten dollars well spent.

I stopped feeling frustrated after every search. I found myself enjoying all the new sites I kept running across that were hidden and neglected by Google/Bing/DDG. I was able to type in the word blog, and actually find real blogs and not lists of blogs made just for SEO purposes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, but the improvement over the big search engines is very clear and I love that.

Back in the mid 90’s, a friend and I started the Web Searchers. We had a simple website that advertised our services: we’d help you find something online. Back prior to Google, searching took some effort and while we definitely overestimated the demand for our free service, it was a lot of fun. You’d stumble down all these rabbit holes of interesting sites, in search of “the one” or a piece of information. Using Kagi reminded me of those days. It stripped away all of the walled gardens and junk made just for ads and opened up a world of the internet that feels fresh. Like the melting of ice and finding a thriving world alive underneath it, Kagi gave me back the internet.

The biggest issue I’ve had with Kagi is setting it as the default search engine on my Apple Devices. There is an app you can download on iOS and it’ll help set up the search as your default, but it doesn’t seem to work all that well. In fact, I can’t get it to work on my iPad at all. So, there is some frustration when I type in a long search request and DuckDuckGo pops up, and then I have to copy and paste it into Kagi. The easiest solution to this is to just set up my homepage to Kagi of course.

(Side note: I gave Kagi’s own Browser Orion a try, and I liked it quite a bit.)

While my ten dollars feels well spent, I still struggle to justify that price. It’s so hard to go from getting something for free to paying ten dollars a month for it. I’m considering paying for the annual subscription at $109 for the year, and I’d love to do the Duo which lets you use it for two individuals, because I think my wife would love it, but she’s not going to spend any extra time copying and pasting into Kagi if something doesn’t work right. And well… like so many others, she’s also moved on from search engines. She does her searching in Instagram or Pinterest, and only steps out when she can’t find what she needs (which is rare).

I recommend Kagi. I’m not really sure it’s place in the future of the internet, because everything seems so up in the air right now, but if you miss the days when search engines were actually useful, give Kagi a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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