Kicking the tires
First, I wanted to see what kind of search results I would receive. I started off with a basic news search for the term cybersecurity. (search string) Much to my surprise and satisfaction, two out of the four top results returned were news items of interest to me that I had not previously seen elsewhere.
Within a search, you can narrow your focus to:
Now, where Qwant really shines is that you can change your search results not only based on country but by language. They appear to offer search engine results from 34 countries, in 26 interface languages. Although, finding the actual list that isn’t in the drop-down menu was a challenge.
I decided to test this out on my existing cybersecurity search and selected France and French as my country and language. My results updated to this:
An interesting thing to note is that in French, cybersecurity is sometimes spelled as cybersécurité. When I updated my search term to the French spelling, but using the USA/English search setting, it didn’t do a great job with results. Changing the search engine to USA/French made it a little better, then completely changing it to France/French was of course the best results. So, a couple of things to keep in mind. If you are not searching in English, it’s probably best to tweak your parameters a few times to make sure you are getting optimal results. I’d say this is especially true searching from the U.S.
Food for Thought
Behind the scenes, Microsoft is powering Qwant. I’m not saying this as a good or bad thing, just a fact. I found some criticism of Qwant and some in the past have questioned their dedication to privacy and even how they are retrieving information. The company has defended itself in a series of statements and in other articles.
At the VivaTech 2019 trade show, Qwant and Microsoft have announced a partnership to support Qwant’s amazing growth while preserving user privacy. With this partnership, Qwant will use Microsoft Azure Cloud resources to compute its Web indexes in order to serve more accurate results. (Source)
Some in the press refer to Qwant as the “European Google” or “Google Killer.” (Source)
On the main Qwant page, you can easily click on Hot Trends or Trending Personalities. Right below that, there is a Social Trends section showing some of the most trending topics on Twitter.
Qwant is definitely trying to be the Google replacement, based on all the auxiliary services they offer. There’s
- Qwant Maps (this is technically listed as still being in beta)
- Qwant Music (this appears to be a search engine to redirect you to places to listen to music)
- Qwant Boards (this appears to be Pinterest type of platform)
- Qwant Junior (for the kids)
If one is really privacy conscious, I believe that Duck Duck Go, Firefox, and obviously the Tor browser are most likely more accessible and trusted. That’s not to say to discount Qwant. Where I see this as being a boost for OSINT research is the Europe-centric information and languages can help provide better results than someone search U.S. / English based search engines for non-English information.
After I published this blog post, a Twitter follower of mine send me this message about Qwant:
I was able to confirm in this article the connection between Axel Springer and Qwant. If you’d like to do further research on the politics of this, please go ahead. Just sharing this information in case it is a factor in your decision to use or not use it.