Suggestions for Searx (very long post, sorry :-/ )

I think that Searx has a lot of potential but is rather bad if one uses the default values, so, I’d like to comment several issues with the hope that these “rants” may contribute to make Disroot’s search better. I’m aware that it’s probable that some of these rants aren’t fault of Disroot’s installation and configuration of Searx on their servers, but I don’t know which ones depend on the software’s configuration and which ones are product of Searx’s code exclusively. So, excuse if I comment about things that are far away from what a simple configuration of instance can do.
I hope you excuse the lenghth of this post.

  1. I observe with stupor that almost every piece of free (libre) software, that software which should not only bring freedom to our technology, but also make said technology more accesible, democratic, neutral, respectful with persons, cultures and communities, against language barriers and against advantages for native speakers of this or that language, instead, keeps on supporting and reinforcing this, not innocent nor uninterested at all, model of an Anglo America-centric world (when a search engine plays favorites with a language, makes its users visit websites from that cultural -ergo most probably economic- zone and make those sites gain visitors, reputation, users, clients, etc; and all this, in detriment of other zones of the world. You think that if Amazon had been polish or Facebook japanese they had had the same success?).
    Unfortunately, Searx doesn’t escape from this digital form of neocolonialism: no matter where you come from (IP address) nor in which language you have set your browser (browser’s user agent), the search results you get are in en-us. This neoimperialist behavior is so undissimulated that even if I search for terms in my language (not a single word in english), even about my country, my city (couldn’t be more local!), and even with the search terms in quotes, I get results in english in first place and in majority! o_O I have to change this behavior in the drop down menu or in Preferences to get the REAL “default language” for me.

    This isn’t just a matter of “cyberactivism” in pro of human diversity and equalty. The search results are affected in their quality and utility due to this issue: like most persons, I only use english when I have no choice, in my everyday life I use my native tongue, and despite I’m able to slow and clumsily communicate in english, the language I handle well, rapid and comfortably, in which I think and speak is my mother tongue, thus, when I do a web search I do it in my language (sometimes I do it in english if I want to read about technology, but not because I want, but because there’s much more and deep technological publications in english, this forum is a proof of it). Searching in one’s native language not only makes the results comfortable and agile to read, but also limits the geographical area: if I search for a portuguese restaurant, most probably I don’t want a portuguese restaurant in Los Ángeles, Ohio or Jamaica but in my city; if I search for some local news I don’t want be informed by some foreign media which doesn’t have good first hand info and comprehension about my country nor can even spell correctly my language; if I search info for job opportunities, I most probably want them in my city or at least in my country, etc, etc. So, besides, the search results are bad.
    Searx shoud do like other engines and use the info provided by the browser’s user agent locale, which most probably is not en-us for most of the humanity. Curiously enough, Searx seems to respect a bit my locale since it shows its interface in my language O_O.
    So, since Searx detects that I don’t have american english as the language of my browser ergo I most probably am not looking for results in en-us but in my browser’s language, if this can be tweaked in some configuration script, please configure your Searx instance to respect each user browser’s locale sttings. If I punctually want results in english, chinese or swahili, dont worry, that I’ll choose them from the drop down menu by myself.

  2. This leads me to suggest a software feature: an option to select a group of languages to search.
    Most of us can read more than our native tongue and english, especially in the same family of languages, even if we can just understand half of the text and can’t speak a word. Most germanic languages speakers can read english, some german, some dutch, swedish, etc; latins can read some spanish, some italian, portuguese, french; slavs can read some czech, slovak, polish… Would be nice an option to select some “secondary” languages for our search, so for instance an austrian user could have the german locale from his browser as the most priorized language but also english, which most people can read more or less proficiently nowadays, as secondary along with dutch, danish, this way, said user would get more search results; an argentinian, besides spanish could have english, italian, portuguese, french…
    This is especially useful when searching for not too common or academic topics, where unfortunately it’s probable that you don’t find all the info you would like in your language nor in english. This shouldn’t be a configuration by default but something that the users could set in Searx’s preferences.
    Once again, I don’t know if is just a matter of configuring your instance to return search results in more languages than american english and the users’ or if is a task for the developers.

  3. Regarding the quality of the results, and going back to the restaurant example, it seems that even choosing the correct language, Searx isn’t very precise when looking for local businesses and services. If I look for that greek restaurant, searchers like Google take into account my IP address, and are usually rather precise as they return results priorizing sites in my city or at least in my province. Well, I love that Searx doesn’t store my IP, but it knows it while I’m in its website. Why not to use that IP of mine that Searx temporarily knows, give me good search results based on that IP, and when I leave the site forget it forever?
    Is this among the Searx engine configuration options you can tweak?

  4. I’ve said that Searx has a lot of potential, a libre and privacy friendly meatasearcher seems a very potent tool, but not with the default values. If I really want good search results I have to go to Preferences, and, besides the language thing, add Qwant, Yandex, DDG, and some more, to the default search engines, then I get A LOT of very nice results, many often much superior to the results I get in Google. It’s amazing, but then I close the tab, the cookies for Searx are deleted and the next time I use it I’m again in the beginning, and I have to configure once more the language, search engines and other options. >_<
    In Startpage, for instance, you can set your preferences and save it, at least in Firefox; no matter if you delete the cookies, caché, etc, your configuration will be there along with the other search engines that Firefox came with from “factory”.

    Could you write a plugin in whatever language (I think FF uses Javascript, but I’m not sure) that can be installed in our browsers and keep our configuration? I have no idea about coding, sorry, if I had it I’d contribute writing it myself and sharing my plugin with everybody.

  5. Last but not least. When one saves a configuration an URL is provided. It’s like: http://search.disroot.org/?preferences=Ce3rE_uMQlk9K_JYjxsHJPb7nA-gxV5zJF7d… and a lot more characters. It seems to me that such a weird URL must be very uncommon, unique I’d say. So, if that URL is passed to websites is a perfect way to track us since that URL is in fact a fingerprint that nobody else on Earth has. Searx warns us when we make changes in the preferences:

specifying custom settings in the search URL can reduce privacy by leaking data to the clicked result sites

When is that URL leaked? Do websites need to know it? It should be Searx the only one that knows it, no? If it is impossible no to leak this identificative URL, couldn’t you make Searx to use more generic URLs, so many users would coincide using the same? I mean that the possible combinations aren’t infinite: if I change the default language and add a couple more of search engines, is very probable that other users may have the same configuration. Couldn’t be the same URL for all of us, so it would be a bit harder to indentify us?

If you have read the whole post I give you sincere thanks for your effort :grin:

1 Like

Enough time has passed, time for answer… :stuck_out_tongue:

I think a lot of your questions will be answered if we realize how searx works.

Searx is meta search engine. It does not search and indexes the web by itself. It rather relays your queries to all the other serch engines (google, bing, duckduckgo etc) and displays the search results provided by all of those engines on one page.

  1. Our Searx IP is based in NL. Since its agregating search responses form all over the other engines, it provides results that are given to it. I’m not native english speaker and I have no issues finding results in my native tongue (I’m not dutch either). Maybe its the specific queries that don’t give you results you are looking for.

Whatever you type into the search bar. That phrase is then sent to say “google.com”. Whatever is the response back from google.com it’s being displayed to you.[quote=“sanunova, post:1, topic:3004”]
Regarding the quality of the results, and going back to the restaurant example, it seems that even choosing the correct language, Searx isn’t very precise when looking for local businesses and services. If I look for that greek restaurant, searchers like Google take into account my IP address, and are usually rather precise as they return results priorizing sites in my city or at least in my province. Well, I love that Searx doesn’t store my IP, but it knows it while I’m in its website. Why not to use that IP of mine that Searx temporarily knows, give me good search results based on that IP, and when I leave the site forget it forever?
[/quote]

It’s exactly because searx is not a search engine on its own. It means there would be no point of using searx if it would relay all your information (agent, cookies, ips) to google, bing, duckduckgo, pirate bay etc to get properly formated results specially for you. If this is what you want, then searx might not be best for you. Any alternative engine that hides your personal information from search engines like google never gives you search results you are looking for.[quote=“sanunova, post:1, topic:3004”]
I’ve said that Searx has a lot of potential, a libre and privacy friendly meatasearcher seems a very potent tool, but not with the default values. If I really want good search results I have to go to Preferences, and, besides the language thing, add Qwant, Yandex, DDG, and some more, to the default search engines, then I get A LOT of very nice results, many often much superior to the results I get in Google. It’s amazing, but then I close the tab, the cookies for Searx are deleted and the next time I use it I’m again in the beginning, and I have to configure once more the language, search engines and other options. >_<
In Startpage, for instance, you can set your preferences and save it, at least in Firefox; no matter if you delete the cookies, caché, etc, your configuration will be there along with the other search engines that Firefox came with from “factory”
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There is no way to please everyone. In fact in the beginning we have had most of the search engines enabled by default, but we decided to switch it to default settings because people were complaining about them.

You can save the preferences too (just scroll down in preferences page. you can save it to url too).

I think other questions should be directed to the developers of searx directly. What we do is run searx with default settings. Users are able to add more search engines provided, change settings, and save preferences.

All I can say (yet again) from my side is that its not possible to deliver perfectly prepared and personalized search results where the main idea behind the project like searx is to annonimize it as much as possible.

Since my reply. I changed the language location to my mother tongue and I’m very impressed with the results.

So much so that I had to change it back to english as I’m totally not used to it.

So I think the only argument is why is the language not set by default to your browser settings, and that the settings arent save if you remove the cookie.

Personally I think its good setting. Or not a real showstopper. Given the fact disroot or any publicly announced searx instance is accessed by people from all around the globe, setting it to language defaults we all (or most of us) can use is better solution. At the end it’s not that hard to change it to your localization.

Keeping this one cookie in your browser is also not that big of a deal, especially that searxs does not log any of it anyway. any other form of saving settings would mean it needs to be saved in the database on the server somewhere.

Of course you can always argue to set other defaults, but I’m pretty sure the moment we would set it to change the language based on origin, we would have exact same converations with someone that doesnt like it.

The great thing is that you can deploy your own instance pretty easily or perhaps find instance that has defaults set exactly the way you like it.

Sorry for the long delay, but real life has been taking a lot of time from me these late months.

You’re right. I forgot about the way Searx gets results from the real search engines. I’d probably use a proxy in my city along with some cookie autodeleter extensión for my browser so I’d get accurate results while keeping my privacy reasonably safe.
This would be a solution when searching for location related things, but doesn’t solve the problem about language. The matter that Searx were able to ask for results in my browser’s language is still a defect IMO. You can’t do anything about this, in your Searx setup, it’s something I should talk about with Searx devs?

I didn’t meant that. Sorry if I didn’t explained myself more clearly. I know there must be a standard configuration that satisfies as many users as possible. What I meant is that even if I configure my preferences, and save them, they are lost the ext time I restart my browser since my privacy options force the browser to delete cookies when closing. Unfortunately, Firefox doesn’t permit to manake cookies individually, so I can’t tell it to keep Searx’s ones. That’s why I was asking about some addon, like Startpage’s, for instance. SP’s engina addon keeps your preferences well saved regardless of cookie purges.

A correct language setting and a few more of search engines added to the search, and the search results are awesome, yes! That’s why it deceives me that much that Searx goes back to the default configuration because settings can’t be saved unless you want to be tracked and spied by other websites along and across the web… :pensive:

That’s exactly what I said it was a mistake IMHO. People from all around the globe doesn’t use english as their default language, but their very own language. Almost everybody I know in my country have their browsers in the country’s main language or some regional one. and just a couple of “freaks” xD have it in english. Also most of my friends in America (not Anglo America) and ex Erasmus acquitances. I’m talking about “average” users, of course.
Buy it’s not a matter of my own personal “statistics”. I’m sure that the parents of most of us are using their browsers in their native languages, our aunts, our non techie friends, etc.
That’s why I believe is a mistake to assume en-US=the “default” language of the world. The default language is each user’s language, and that’s easily identifiable by searx from the browser’s user agent.
So, if it is something you can tweak, have you thought to do it? Perhaps could set up an instance for testing this, with a different URL so it doesn’t interfere with the normal Disroot Searx setup? I’d be pleased to do extensive beta testing and tell you if I get better results or experience any issue.

Seriously, it’s a pain in the ass because the preferences are forgotten every now and then. You lose the preferences even when you mistype a search term, and click on the corrected suggestion thet Searx offers: once you click on it, you are back to en-US.

The problem is that it is. It indeed is such a big deal to save said browser because it isn’t saved at all. Please, if you know how, just tell me. Firefox 60 here.
And about the need to be saved on the server, are you saying that Startpage is saving my preferences on their servers? I think that not, that the browser’s serach engine preferences are saved it the browser’s user profile. But I’m no computer expert at all. Could be wrong. But if you feel curious enough, try by yourself going to https://eu.startpage.com/do/preferences tweak some things, generate the URL, click on «Install custom plugin» and do all the tests you need.

Serously? You think that if users would get search results better suited for their language settings they wouldn’t like it? It stranges me, but who knows.
This brings an idea to my mind: Have you thought about making polls among your registered users? It could be a nice way to really know what do users prefer, no?

Come on… Don’t come with the “brother-in-law-ish” comment «If you don’t like it, do it yourself». If common users knew how to maintain a web server at home and afford its expenses, and didn’t give a damn about environment savings all of us would have a server or two at our homes, working 24/7 and making energy companies even richer and natural resources even more exhaust. But no, the reality is that not everybody can become a server administrator, that’s why we use services like yours and some contribute with money, which is the best we can do.

Well, as I’ve said, if you think it could be a nice “test bench” to set up a seond instance with some adjustments, and need some beta testers, don’t hesitate contacting me. I’ll be very glad to cooperate in making Disroot even better.