computer bullshit

My Thoughts on Kagi

I've been using the Kagi search engine for a couple months now, and I'm pretty happy with the product so far. Yes, I pay $10 a month for it (under the "Early Adopter" plan, since I got in right before they switched their pricing), but I find it worthwhile.

TL;DR: I think it's worth the money, but try out the free tier for 100 searches per month if you're on the fence!

Pros

Search Results are Pretty Good

The quality of search results are table-stakes for a search engine, especially one that you're paying for. Kagi's search results are sourced from other search engines (Google, Bing, etc.), so they're what you'd expect as a Google user.

Customization Options

One of the key differentiators between other search engines is that you have a higher degree of customization options. There are cosmetic options (light/dark mode, default "open in new tab" behavior, colors, etc.), but the ones that I find most intriguing are about the options that let you prioritize certain websites or outright hide them altogether! Here are some of the changes I've made to search results:

My personalized search results from Kagi. I've raised results from MDN, GitHub, and StackOverflow. I've blocked results from Quora, code911.top, pastureandpearl.com, geeksforgeeks.org, and w3schools.com

As a web developer, I frequently look for information from MDN, GitHub, and StackOverflow, so I want those to fly to the top. Some of my searches have yielded low quality results from content farms, so I've blocked those to reduce distractions and let other (ideally higher quality) results show up instead.

Misc

Cons

Of course, nothing is without its downsides. The issues I have with Kagi aren't deal-breakers, but something to keep in mind if you want to adopt it.

It's Closed Source

The source code isn't publicly available, so you have to take them at their word that they don't track you. However, they have a pretty sound argument for why you should trust them: their business would collapse if they did track you. Most, if not all, of their users are privacy-conscious because they market themselves as such. If they tracked their users and it got out, everyone would likely cancel their subscription and move elsewhere.

Searches are Limited

Unlike other search engines where you can search as many times as you want, Kagi limits searches based on how much you pay (you can pay per-search as well). This was a hard pill for me to swallow since I search for information very frequently (my job as a software engineer is basically professional googler). However, I haven't exceeded 500 searches in the time I've been using it, and my limit is 1500:

My usage of Kagi for some months in 2023. The breakdown is:
Jul 2023: 28 searches
Jun 2023: 390 searches
May 2023: 404 searches
Apr 2023: 364 searches
Mar 2023: 416 searches
Feb 2023: 167 searches

July and February are very much lower than the norm because July just started as of writing, and I signed up mid-way through February.

You have to Log In

Since they limit usage based on the number of searches, they need to associate that back to you somehow. So, having an account and logging in is a necessary evil. This is a pain if you have your browser automatically delete all data when you close it (like me). However, you can configure your browser to have exceptions. I'll only go over Firefox since that's what I use, but I'd imagine Chrome (and maybe Safari) have similar options.

First, navigate to the Privacy & Security > Cookies and Site Data section and select the *Manage Exceptions... button.

The "Cookies and Site Data" section of the Firefox settings. The "Delete cookies and site data when Firefox is closed" checkbox is checked and the "Manage Exceptions" button is visible and enabled.

Then, add the following URLs (both HTTP and HTTPS) and select "Allow" as the status:

Here it is pictured in my settings:

The "Exceptions - Cookies and Site Data" modal in the Firefox settings. The following sites have been allowed to keep their cookies across reloads: "http://kagi.com" and "https://kagi.com".

Then you should be good to go! Close the browser and re-open it, you should still be logged into Kagi.

Tips for Using Kagi Effectively

As mentioned previously, Kagi limits the total number of searches you can make per month. You can buy the $25/month plan to get unlimited searches for peace of mind, but there are ways to reduce the number of searches without breaking the bank. You may even be able to keep it under 300 with the $5/month plan!

Using Bang Searches

"Bang" searches are a feature from DuckDuckGo that let you search another website from their search engine. They work the same with Kagi, but with one key difference: they do not go towards your limit. So, if you know you want to search a specific website, try using a bang search first! I use them all the time for things like searching MDN (!mdn) or Wikipedia (!w).

The catch is that you'll need to know which site you want information from in advance. Since I use MDN a lot, I know that some types of information I'll need to go straight to MDN for. If you don't know which site you want to search, then you'll have to do a regular search that counts towards your limit.

Using your Browser's Bookmarks

I use my browser's bookmarks extensively to keep track of things I want to refer back to. This sounds mundane, but this wasn't a habit I had before using Kagi. I would instead search for the website I wanted to go to, then click the top search result that popped up. I did this even for websites I visited every day! This behavior can open you up to scam websites that abuse Google Ads for all search engines, but also has financial consequences for Kagi.

If I can't use a bang search, then I'll search my bookmarks for the website that I want to go to.

Conclusion

We've looked over some reasons to use it, some issues you may run into, and some tips for using it. It's not for everyone, but I hope you consider trying it out! Thanks for reading this far into the post!

#kagi