Kagi Search First Impressions

For those who know me, my dislike of Google Search will come as no surprise. The quality of Google Search results has deteriorated a lot over the past 5-10 years. Many of the reasons have already been documented extensively in posts such as Google Search is Dying by DKB: SEO spam, excessive advertising, and irrelevant results.

On top of those, another major peeve for me is the way Google downranks old pages and personal websites in favour of newer content. This can make it difficult to find useful information on niche subjects—something I find myself searching for fairly often.

I adopted DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine some time ago. It does a better job of revealing old and obscure content, but it's still not as good as Google used to be. Enter Kagi Search, a new search engine that just entered public beta.

Kagi bills itself as a "premium" search engine, and it comes at the premium price of $10 USD/month (with a limited free tier also available). I admit I scoffed at the idea of paying for a search engine when I first saw it making the rounds on Hacker News, but when I finally gave it a spin during the open beta I was impressed enough to subscribe and see where it goes.

So what are my initial impressions?

  • Kagi's search results seem to be very good. Kagi is completely ad-free, and out-of-the-box the search results seem to include far less spam.
  • I really appreciate that Kagi lets me not only block certain domains, but also rank them up or down. For example, I can ensure that MDN always appears above W3Schools in my search results. I had already resorted to using uBlacklist to remove junk domains from Google and DuckDuckGo, but Kagi provides even more flexibility. It's a breath of fresh air.
  • The pages load very fast. They seem roughly on par with Google, but significantly faster than DuckDuckGo.
  • Like Google, Kagi still returns irrelevant results in some queries. For example, RobustIRC appears in my search results for purebasic, despite having no mention of "pure", "basic" or "purebasic" and being written in Go. It would be interesting if Kagi had a way to show why certain pages appear in the search results—it must have some reason for thinking this is related.
  • The number of results returned is very short. Typically around 20 results per search, I think. Some types of searches, such as for celebrities, return more. Kagi says it focuses on quality over quantity, but sometimes I've found real gems on the 10th page of Google Search results. I'd like to be able to see more results without having to tune my search query.

Concluding Thoughts

$10 USD/month is a steep price—almost more than I'm willing to pay. However, I think it's reasonable value so far. Kagi's FAQ indicates that this pricing is heavily based on the price of the APIs used, with every 80 searches costing Kagi around $1 USD to process. $10 USD/month represents an experiment, and the subscription cost could either move up or down depending on how sustainable the current fee is.

My big concern is that $10 USD/month won't be sustainable. Kagi includes a Usage page to show how much your searches have cost the company, and I search a lot. After just four days, the total cost of my searches has already reached $1.76 USD. Based on this trend, my search costs will reach around $13.20 USD/month—meaning Kagi are effectively losing money on me. However, I would be extremely reluctant to pay any more than $10 USD/month, or pay per-search.

For now, I'm paying month-to-month and excited to see where this experiment goes. Kagi has only just entered public beta, so I'm sure it will continue to improve as time goes on. You can give it a trial right now by registering for a free account, which allows you to make up to 40 searches per month.

Do you have any thoughts or feedback? Let me know via email!