Chuck Carroll

Four Months Into Using Kagi as My Default Search Engine

Published: 2024-04-14

I've been using the Kagi search engine for the past several months and wanted to share my thoughts. For those not in the know, Kagi is a paid, ad-free search engine that's supported by subscriptions rather than advertising. Unlike search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo (DDG), Kagi does not make it's money off of serving advertisements to it's users.

Some background, I had been using DDG as my primary search engine for the past 5 years, and although it's fine for the most part, the quality of search results would sometimes not be up to parr with the likes of Google, and I'd find myself using the "!g" bang to direct my search query to Google. I would also used DuckDuckGo with an adblocker because I have a strong aversion to ads.

I am someone who believes that if a service is respectful to me as an end user, I'm all in for paying for the service rather than have my attention and data sold to advertisers. If you are someone who doesn't want to live in a world where advertisements infest every little thing nook and cranny of the internet, we must learn to get used to paying for services. I decided to put my money where my mouth is and signed up to see how things went.

I won't go into all the bells and whistles Kagi search offers, but search results can be more easily customized and fine-tuned, and search tools are more accessible. It also supports DDG !bangs which has become a big part of how I use the internet.

In terms of overall quality of search results, I'm impressed. I cannot quantify this, but anecdotally I've found that I get far less SEO blogspam than Google and DDG. I can personalize my results by downgrading or outright blocking entire domains that I know I would never want (like Pinterest). I can also elevate certain websites that I'm more likely to find value in like HN and the Arch Wiki.

Kagi also has some really neat tools. Kagi Smallweb kind of reminds me of StumbleUpon but for small non-corporate websites. In fact, a while back someone that emailed me mentioned that they discovered this site through Kagi Smallweb, which is really awesome because that means someone else would have had to submit it to Kagi.

Another tool that I use regularly is Kagi's FastGPT. Results are fast, in plain text, and the sources are cited. FastGPT was the first LLM tool I've used regularly since I don't have a Google or Microsoft account.

Kagi is not perfect. When it comes to location, searching for something like "Thai food near me" requires a couple extra clicks. The results themselves don't provide a map, but a Reddit discussion and a Yelp listicle. Clicking the "Maps" button however does show my city with various Thai restaurants.

The other potential drawback and popular critique is the cost. I initially signed up for the $5/month plan which gives you 300 searches. Apparently most people make less than 300 search queries per month. I, on the other hand, make more than double that. Having that 300 search limit would always be in the back of my mind when doing searches, and I'd sometimes switch to DDG for more basic searches. I eventually decided to switch to the $10 plan.

Although it's still pretty early, overall I've been happy with the experience. I never occasionally fall back to using Google Search like I did with DDG, and I'm fine paying for a subscription. However, Kagi is also a new company. Who knows if the company will turn to shit at some point in the future, but at least for now, I'm a fan of what they're doing. Another concern is that as Kagi grows, SEO companies may wise up and start "optimizing" ad-ridden shit content for Kagi.

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