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Think about their business model

Article for: People who want a better understanding of the economics of the web
Difficulty: Easy
Importance: Moderate

When you choose a product or service, consider their business model. How do they make money? How will they stay in business? Let's look at the business models of some common browsers and search engines.


For Browsers

To hire programmers and maintain their websites, and test and support staff, browser makers must bring in money. They can choose any combination of the options below.

Method 1: Profile the user and sell information about them. Google has trackers on most of the websites you visit. They create a profile of you and tailor ads based on their knowledge of you. They also sell what they learn about you. Google and Edge use this model. Vivaldi, Brave, Cliqz and Firefox refuse to use this model.

Method 2: They make deals with search engines to receive a small fee when you use their search engine. Everyone seems to use this method.

Method 3: Open source. With this model, which can be combined with receiving a small fee for links, volunteers contribute to the code which everyone can examine. Often larger companies donate time, personnel and money to these projects. Some become important. They built Firefox this way. Linux is open source and runs most of the Internet.

Method 4: Many browsers offer a Startpage populated with news links or site options. The browser makers get a small fee if you click on any of those links.

Search Engines

Like browsers, search engines must bring in money to support their computers, Internet access, programmers and support.

Method 1. Google, Yahoo and Bing build a profile about you, and tailor search results and advertising to get the most clicks. This means that as time passes, you may click on more ads or sites they have a deal with. It becomes dangerous politically because you can become siloed into only seeing articles that mirror your preconceived ideas. They push "click bait" at you to increase clicks and their revenue. They develop a profile of you which they can sell. You are the product.

Method 2. Qwant, Yippy, DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Swisscows and others show you ads and results that are based on your search terms, but not your previous history. They make money if you click on ads, but do not tailor the ads or develop a profile. You get objective search results and ads are based on the search terms, not you. The service is their product.

Method 3. Open source / Charity: Searx.me is an open source project that relies on donated time and money to continue.

Further Reading

  • I've written articles on alternative browsers here and here.
  • I've written about alternative search engines here and here.

Date: August 2019

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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