Book Chapters 

Chapter 8: Alternatives to Google:

"If it isn't on Google, it doesn't exist".
-  Jimmy Wales, co-founder Wikipedia 

This chapter deals with the “Alternatives to Google”. Since there are many Google products and services, we shall discuss the substitutes for only the most popular ones. However, we shall list down the substitutes for lesser known Google products too, for users to search and use them, as and when required. 
We shall discuss the substitutes for the following Google products in-detail:

  • Google search engine
  • Google Mail
  • Google Chrome

We have already discussed about Mozilla’s Firefox browser in the Chapter “Prepare Your Computer”. 

Google Search Engine Alternatives:

Duck-Duck-Go ( is a privacy conscious search engine. Let’s take a closer look how Duck-duck-go differs from the Google search engine. 

  • Duck-duck-go doesn’t profile its users. They show the same search result to all, not the customized ones. 
  • Duck-duck-go emphasis is on returning the best results, rather than the most results. 

It generates the results from over 400 individual sources, including crowd-sourced sites such as Wikipedia and other search engines like Bing, Yahoo and Yandex. 

What are the Privacy Benefits of Duck-Duck-Go?
It doesn’t track users:

  • Individuals share the most intimate secrets with a search engine including medical, financial and personal issues. Duck-Duck-Go keeps all the personal information private, unlike Google. 
  • Google’s incognito mode is a myth. “Incognito” mode isn’t really incognito at all. It’s an extremely misleading name. It only deletes the browsing history locally after the session ends, but does not stop any website including Google from tracking us.

Blocks Google Trackers Lurking Everywhere:

  • Google track its users not only on their search engine, but also on all other Google products like YouTube, Android etc. Besides, Google trackers are present on 75% of the top million websites. Even, Google Analytics, which is generally used by website owners to know about visitors to their website, feeds the information to Google. Similarly, Google runs three of the largest non-search ad networks: Ad-sense, Ad-mob and DoubleClick.
  • These ads are not only annoying but also manipulative. Duck-Duck-Go on the other hand, blocks these trackers and data brokers. 

Do You Know:
Google tracks us so much, that airlines charge us differently based on our personal information like urgency of flights!

Search Without Fear:

  • When people know they are being profiled on Google, they change their behaviour called “the chilling effect”. For example, a MIT study showed that people search fewer health issues on Google, fearing leakage of information.

Gives Unbiased Results, Outside the Filter Bubble:

  • When we search, we expect an unbiased result, to see what others are seeing. However, on Google we are more likely to see results we wish to see, and less likely to see the opposing view-points. This leads to “echo chamber effect”.  

Start Page Search Engine:
Start Page ( allows us to use the Google’s search capabilities without being tracked or monitored on the internet. When we type a search term, Start Page submits that query to Google and then returns the results obtained from Google. 

All Google sees is a massive amount of searches coming from Start Page servers. However, Google trackers cannot relate the searches to an individual. Also, Start page immediately discards all the personally identifiable information like IP address of the users and deletes all the records of the searches performed. 

Other Search Engine Alternatives:

Google is an amazing search engine, but sometimes we need a specialised search engine. They are the ones excelling in a particular type of search, like name, PDF files, companies and business details, softwares, Alt-coins etc. The following section deals with the specialised search engines and their capabilities: 

Carrot2 ( is an open source search engine that groups the search results into different topics. The clustered result helps navigate through the results quickly. This search engine uniquely provides three formats for viewing and filtering the results:

  • Folders
  • Circles
  • Foam Tree

The “Circles” and “Foam Tree” options convert text option into interactive graphics. The size of each section corresponds to the results volume. Clicking on any section shows all the results that include that specific term, on the right.

Searx ( is a free and privacy rich meta-search engine. It does not share IP address or search history with the search engines from which it gathers the results. Also, it blocks the tracking cookies. Its salient features include:

  • It presents the results from two main search engines, Google and Bing. 
  • Removes the duplicate entries automatically. 
  • Allows filtering the results from the next row using parameters like News, Images, Video, Map, Music, Science, Social Media etc. 
  • There is cache link to each result. Tapping it, opens the cached version of the page through the “Way-back Machine”. 
  • “Links” option on the right side of the result’s page, gives an option to download the search results in csv, json and rss file formats. 

Gmail  Alternatives:

Talk Walker Alert:
While Gmail alert is considered the Gold standard for alerts on automated searches, Talk Walker Alert is considered the best alternative. They look whether the desired information has been posted online and inform the user accordingly. 

Talk Walker Alert has an interface very similar to Google Alert. However, they do not require a Google account. 

How to make Talk Walker Alerts: 

  1. Your mail: (Non Gmail id)
  2. Language: (As suitable)
  3. How many: All results
  4. Result Type: News, Blogs, Discussions and Twitter

Talk Walker Alert saves our time and makes the searches effective as it’s not humanly possible to search the websites 24*7 like Google crawlers. 

Other Google Product Alternatives:

Google Hangout Alternatives:
Signal Messenger:

Signal is an encrypted messenger for Android and iOS. It can send one to one and group messages which include files, voice notes, images and videos. It uses end-to-end encryption to secure all the communications. The messages are deleted automatically after a specified period of time. 

It’s also free and open source. 

YouTube  – “Vimeo”


For videos present only on YouTube, you should watch on Duck-Duck-Go via YouTube's "youtube-nocookie" domain. And, if you're creating and hosting the video yourself, Vimeo is the best-known alternative that focuses on the creators.

Google Drive – “Resilio Sync”


Resilio Sync provides peer-to-peer file synchronization, which is used for private file storage, backup and file sharing. The files are never stored on a single server in the cloud. The software is available for a wide variety of platforms and devices, including servers.

Blogger – “WordPress”


WordPress has no third-party trackers by default. 

Google Hangouts – “Zoom”

Zoom is a robust video chat alternative. It works well even for a large numbers of participants. However, it requires installation of a software. 

Now, we shall list down other lesser used Google products and their alternatives:

Type of Google ProductName of Google ProductAlternative Products
Documents ServicesGoogle DocsZoho Docs, Microsoft Office 365
Maps ServicesGoogle MapsBing Maps
News ServiceGoogle NewsBing News, Yahoo News
Entertainment PlatformsGoogle, iTunes
Photo ServicesGoogle PhotosFlickr, Apple Photos
Cloud File StorageGoogle DriveDropbox, iCloud, OneDrive
Advertising PlatformGoogle AdwordsBing Ads
Web Analytics ServiceGoogle AnalyticsClicky, Adobe Analysis
Communication AppsGoogle HangoutSkype, Signal
Money AppsGoogle WalletPaypal, Apple Wallet
Note ServicesGoogle KeepEvernote, Microsoft OneNote
Translation ServicesGoogle TranslatorMicrosoft Translate
Social NetworkingGoogle+Twitter
Health Tracking ServicesGoogle FitStrava, RunKeeper
Book ServicesGoogle BooksiBooks, Amazon Kindle

While Google is almost everyone's default search engine and easily serves an average internet user's needs, there are better customized alternatives for special needs. 


Chapter 9: Facebook:

(Facebook graph search worked from March 2013 to June 2019)

"There is life without Facebook and Internet? Really? Send me the link" 
-    Unknown 

Facebook is the most popular social network in India. Since, India has such a huge user base, we have dedicated a chapter to Facebook. In this chapter, we will help users search a profile faster, enrich their Facebook experience and learn to see in-depth profile information. 

Let’s begin our Facebook journey now. 

How to Search for a Profile on Facebook most Efficiently?
Once a user is logged in, a search field is present at the top of every Facebook page. It can search a variety of things like people who work at a certain company, residents of a particular city, a specific search term etc. However, most frequently, it is used to search a specific profile. 

Typing a person’s name provides the search results below. With about 300 million users in India, it is very likely that we will locate several user profiles with the same name. Hence, finding the right person may be difficult.  

Normally, a person tends to scroll down the page, hoping to identify the desired user based on the photo, location and other additional information being displayed. However, there are much better ways to find out the profile of interest, which we shall study in this section.

Facebook Graph Search:
In 2013, Facebook introduced the Graph search, and simultaneously eliminated some of the search filters that were previously visible on the “people search” result’s pages. For example, location filter was removed. 

However, the search filters were not truly eliminated till February 2015. They were just made more difficult to use. We needed to enter specific words (common phrases) into the search box to use them. For example, “People named Saujanya Singh who likes Mathematics”. If the wording were perfect, accurate results were obtained. Some other examples of correct wording was:

  • People named “Saujanya Singh”
  • People who work at IPS
  • People who work in Delhi
  • People who live in Hyderbad
  • People who like Physics
  • People who attended JNU 
  • People born in 1991
  • People who visited Isreal
  • People who speak Hindi

In February 2015, Facebook removed even this ability. 

Present Situation:
Many of these “common phrases” still function, but provide only partial results. Even worse, some of them run an error. However, we can still recreate the original searches. In-fact, we can receive user’s profile information like never before. 

Facebook now requires a specific web address URL to search the information. Though not user-friendly, but we can recreate each specific query. Now, we shall discuss the information one can search and the correct web address URL for the same. 

Name Information: 
This is the most commonly used parameter to search a profile of interest. Facebook even now allows to search a profile with the user’s name. However, we have found better success by using the custom URL. For example, the URL to find users with the name “Saujanya Singh”:

Here “%20” represents a space.
Did you notice “People named “Saujanya Singh” in the search bar at the top of the page? 

Employment Information: 
We can search the desired user’s profile with the help of the target’s employment information. For example, the URL to find the persons working in Reliance presently: 

If you want to see the past employees simply replace “present” with “past”. It identifies people who consider “Reliance” as their past employer.  

Thus, Facebook can help find the current and past employees of a business. 

Location Information: 
The URL to identify every user that currently lives in “Mohali”:

Likes Information: 
We can also search the desired profile by his/ her topic of interest. When Facebook users click the “like” button on any page, Facebook servers stores this data. The URL to view every Facebook user that likes “Sony”: 

Notice again “People who like pages named “Sony” in the search bar. 

Education Information:
Facebook allows users to filter the results by the target’s educational profile. Thus, users can find all the students of a specific school/ college. The custom web address URL to view all the profiles that have “DPS” as their present or past school:

Visited Information:
Facebook allows users to check-in the places they visit. The data again gets stored in their servers and allows users to search profiles using this filter. For example, the URL to view every user that has visited “Chennai”:

Languages Information:
Facebook users often mention the languages they speak in their Facebook profiles. The URL to find every user that speaks “Maithili”:

Dating Interests Information:
Facebook allows users to indicate their dating preferences. The URL to identify every women interested in men:
Again notice, “Women interested in men” in the search bar. 

Similarly, males interested in female: 

Male interested in male:

Female interested in female:

Posts Information:
Facebook allows users to search within the contents of the public posts, through the search bar at the top of the every Facebook page. However, the results are far from satisfactory. We should instead, search through the specific URLs. For example, the URL to display the posts having the keyword “Kashmir”:

Again notice “Post about “Kashmir” in the search bar. 

Real World Applications: 
Law enforcement agencies can use it to monitor the social media. For example, they can search the posts having extremist overtones with words like terrorism, insurgency, jihad etc. 

How To Search Using Multiple Filters At Once?
When we use one filter at a time, we again get overwhelmed with results. In this section, we shall learn to use multiple filters at once, for manageable results. For example, if we wish to search “Ravi Kumar” who lives in “Delhi” the exact URL needed will be:


Let’s break it down: directs Facebook to search for users named “Ravi Kumar”.
str/Delhi/pages-named/residents/present/ - directs Facebook to search for users living in Delhi. 
intersect/ - directs Facebook to show only the profiles passing both the filters. 

How to make own Custom URL?
URL of the first filter, followed by the URL of the second filter, followed by the URL of nth filter and ending with intersect. However, since is common for all the filters, so second and subsequent filter doesn’t need it again. 


The above URL searches for a Facebook profile with:

  • User name: “Pramod Kumar”
  • Present residence: “Delhi”

    Limitations and Custom Solutions:

    The desired profile still may not be found because: 

    • No such Facebook user exists
    • We applied at least one wrong filter

    The wrong filter application maybe due to: 

    • No information: A user may not update certain information on his/ her profile. For example, the current location or dating interest. 
    • Wrong information/ misinformation: May be deliberate, in cases of fake, covert or criminal profiles etc. 

    Custom Solution:
    The custom URL for multiple filters becomes too lengthy. So, websites like automate such searches. The filters include:

    • Name
    • Likes
    • Lives
    • Visited
    • Employer
    • Job
    • Language
    • Education
    • Friends with
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Interested in
    • Religion
    • Political view

    We just need to enter the “values” of different filters, and then tap on “Search Facebook” to start searching the profile. 

    Profile Information:

    Till now, we learnt to locate a profile of interest and to search by topic. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The Facebook Graph Search allows us to dig much deeper into a profile. However, we need unique user number for such searches, because names like “Pramod Kumar” are not unique identifier. Facebook does not know which “Pramod Kumar” we are talking about.

    To find the unique user number of a Facebook profile:

    • Open the profile page 
    • Right click on the page 
    • From the menu, select “View Page Source” 
    • A new tab opens with “text only view” of the source code 
    • Search for “entity_id” on this page 


    The above page shows the unique identifier for Mark Zukerberg - “4”. Normally, users have much larger user number like “1000000000000000000000004724823323”.

    The custom URL to search detailed information looks like: 

    Here the “search-parameter” assumes different value depending on the information sought.
    Notice, “Photos liked by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    How to Find a Facebook Profile Information most Efficiently?

    Before starting, we must set the “language settings” in our Facebook profile to English (US). Any other language may cause hit or miss, and may not function properly. 

    We have divided the search query, into three categories:

    Category 1:Only eases the process but provides no additional information. 
    Category 2:Yields little valuable information. 
    Category 3:Most beneficial queries. 

    All the custom URLs listed below, have the Mark Zuckerberg’s “user number” – 4. You must replace it with your target’s user number for the desired results.  

    Category 1:
    The information is already present publicly on the target’s profile. However, the custom URLs simplify and ease the process. 

    Places – Visited:
    Displays the places where the target allowed Facebook to collect the location information. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Places visited by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page.

    Places - Liked:
    Displays the locations “liked” by the target.
    Example URL:
    Again notice, “Places liked by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    Places - Checked - In:
    Displays the locations where the target used Facebook app to “check-in”.
    Example URL:
    Notice, “Places checked in at by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Pages - Liked:
    Displays the Facebook pages liked by the target. This often identifies the interests of the target like games, music, movies etc. 
    Example URL:
    Again notice, “Pages liked by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Photos - By:
    Displays the Facebook photos uploaded by the target. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Photos by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    Displays the videos visible on the target’s profile 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Mark Zuckerberg’s videos” at the top of the page. 

    Videos - By:
    Displays the videos uploaded by the target. They are generally personal to the target. 
    Example URL:
    Again notice, “Videos by Mark Zuckerberg” at the top of the page.

    Apps - Used:
    Displays the apps installed by the target through Facebook. Since, some of the apps only work on “iOS” or “Android” device, thus this query may also provide the device information. 
    Example URL:
    Notice, “Apps used by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    Displays all the Facebook friends of the target.
    Example URL:

    Displays the groups which the target has joined including the closed ones. It identifies the stronger interests of the target.
    Example URL:
    Notice the extra “/str” in the above URL. 
    Again notice, “Mark Zuckerberg’s groups” at the top of the page. 

    The Employer:
    Displays the current and previous employers of the target.
    Example URL:
    Notice “Places where Mark Zuckerberg work” in the search bar.

    Category 2:
    These queries yield little or redundant details. 

    Recent - Places - Visited:
    Displays the locations the target has recently visited. However, the “time - frame” recent is not well established. 
    Example URL:

    Photos - Interested:
    Displays the photos which Facebook believes the target has an interest in. But, how Facebook determines the “interest” is not well known. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Photos interacted with by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    Photos - Recommended - For:
    Displays the photos likely to appear on the target’s home feed.
    Example URL:

    Videos - Of:
    Displays the videos having the image of the target.
    Example URL:
    Again notice, “Videos of Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar.

    The Employees:
    Displays the profiles employed by the same employer and thus potential co-workers of the target.
    Example URL:
    Notice “Mark Zuckerberg’s co-workers” at the top of the page. 

    Category 3:
    These queries provide information: 

    • Hidden on the target’s profile 
    • Scattered all over the internet 
    • Despite any profile setting including “private”

    Stories - By:
    Displays the public posts made by the target, including the currently hidden ones. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Mark Zuckerberg’s posts” in the search bar at the top of the page. 

    Photos - Liked:
    Display the photos “liked by” the target. These include the photos liked on someone’s else profile, which are not private. 
    Example URL:
    Notice again, “Photos liked by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Photos - Of:
    Displays the photos where the target is tagged. This includes the photos private on one person’s page but not others. 
    Example URL:
    Notice again, “Photos of Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Photos - Commented:
    Displays the photos on which the target has commented. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Photos commented on by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Photos - Interacted:
    Displays the photos either liked or commented by the target. It will most likely provide redundant information but should be checked. 
    Example URL:

    Videos - Liked:
    Displays the videos liked by the target. 
    Example URL:
    Notice again, “Videos liked by Mark Zuckerberg” at the top of the page. 

    Videos - Tagged:
    Displays the videos where the target is tagged.
    Example URL:
    Notice “Videos tagged with Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page.

    Videos - Commented:
    Displays the videos where the target has commented. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Videos commented on by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    Stories - Liked:
    Displays the posts liked by the target. 
    Example URL:
    Notice again, “Posts liked by Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar at the top of the page.

    Stories - Commented:
    Displays the public posts on which the target has commented. 
    Example URL:
    Notice “Posts commented on by Mark Zuckerberg” at the top of the page. 

    Stories - Tagged:
    Displays the posts where the target is tagged.
    Example URL:
    Notice again, “Posts about Mark Zuckerberg” in the search bar. 

    The Relatives:
    Displays the relatives of the target. It may work even when the friend’s list is set to “private”.  
    Example URL:
    Notice “Mark Zuckerberg relatives” in the search bar at the top of the page.

    The Followers:
    Displays the followers of the target on the Facebook.
    Example URL:
    Notice “Mark Zuckerberg’s followers” at the top of the page. 

    Event Search:
    These queries deal exclusively with events, as explained below. We must replace “ * ” in the URLs below with a desired year like 2018. 

    Displays the Facebook events associated with the target. These often include parties, social gathering, concerts etc. It also displays events not listed on the target’s profile.  
    Example URL:*/data/events/intersect/

    Events – Created:
    Displays the events created by the target, thus the target was host or organiser. 
    Example URL:*/data/events/intersect/

    Events – Invited:
    Displays the events where another Facebook user invited the target. An invitation does not necessarily indicate attendance. 
    Example URL:*/data/events/intersect/

    Events – Joined:
    Displays the events where the target acknowledged his/ her attendance. 
    Example URL:*/data/events/intersect/


    How to Search Friend's Information?

    We may find a profile with very limited public information. In such situations, we should find similar information for the target’s friends. Similar to the last Section, we must again replace the Mark Zuckerberg’s user number – 4, with the user number of the target.


    How to Find the Common Results? 

    Using the custom URLs we can also find the common information/ results between two or more Facebook users such as common places visited, common likes etc. For example, to identify the common places visited by two Facebook users, the URL:

    U1 – User number of the “first Facebook user”
    U2 – User number of the “second Facebook user” 
    places-visited – The adjustable filter like photos-liked, stories-commented etc.

    Now we shall list the custom URLs. Here, the user number – 4 correspond to “Mark Zuckerberg” and user number – 6 corresponds to “Dustin Moskovitz”. We must replace them with the user number of our targets, to get the desired results. 

    Custom URLs:
    Notice “Places visited by Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz” in the search bar at the top of the page.