WhaleSlide versus Google – privacy and philanthropy

Google may sit pretty in its search engine top spot, but in this review series I look at some of the smaller startups that take a different approach to search.

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My previous blog posts include a review of the tree-planting search engine Ecosia and the under wraps search engine Duck Duck Go. This week I look at WhaleSlide, a privacy-conscious, philanthropic search engine.

They say charity begins at home, but with WhaleSlide it can begin on your desktop, phone or tablet. With the GDPR clock ticking down to roll out in May 2018, personal data is a topic weighing heavily on many people’s minds.

What’s it all about, then?

WhaleSlide, a white label search engine that went live around eight weeks ago, was created by childhood friends, Andy Curran and Francesco Petruzzelli, with the intention of challenging the way people search. Using something called ‘passive giving’ it donates 50% of profits to users’ chosen charities, when they purchase through one of 17,000 partner retailers. So far they have 320 charities registered. On top of the charitable aspect, WhaleSlide are also very concerned with protecting the user’s identity.

So why choose Whaleslide?

Well, it turns out that charities may be missing a trick. E-commerce is showing no signs of slowing, in fact it is predicted that by 2026, online spend in the UK alone will be £532bn, up 300% from £133bn in 2016. With online shopping expected to account for 40 per cent of retail sales by 2026, UK charities could receive up to £4bn a year extra by taking advantage of ‘passive giving’ websites.

Passive giving basically means that the user can select to donate to a charity, at no cost to themselves, whilst they carry out shopping online. By using the free tool, charities can set themselves up to be the recipients of this passive giving. Whaleslide predicts that on average, £20 will be raised per user, throughout the year.

Back to the ‘P’ Word

A YouGov study commissioned by Whaleslide in March 2017 asked 2,000 people about what features attracted them to a search engine, and they found that:

  • 53% considered guaranteed data privacy an attractive feature
  • 46% of respondents said an engine with no adverts/sponsored links would appeal to them
  • and in third place, 44% said that faster search results would be attractive to them.

So with results like these placing privacy as one of the top considerations of internet users, it is no surprise that new search engines are taking this into account – WhaleSlide are privacy aware and do not share, or sell on, any user data. This means that you won’t be followed around by adverts, which is reassuring for both the user, and also for the charities, that are able to de-risk the fundraising they carry out in this way. They do not have to worry about an advert annoying or offending a potential giver.

See my previous blog post about DuckDuckGo for more on the topic of privacy when searching.

Seek and you shall find

I’ve been playing with this search engine a little, and to be honest, I am really impressed. The top results are relevant and useful. Like Google, and every other engine I’ve tried lately, some irrelevant – location wise – results are served. It’s not a massive problem since you can filter these at a glance by reading the title. Browser Media appeared in position three when I searched ‘Ethical SEO Agency’, in comparison to position one in Google, below the ads.

Here is a shot of the results served when searching for ‘black trainers’. The usual suspects appear on page one. It is refreshing to not have ads everywhere, and it’s made clear when the result is part of the charity agreement, with the result being marked with a ‘C’.

WhaleSlide also has additional features that lead it to feel more like a growing community, than just a search engine. You can pin posts, collections, tiles, and sites, which can be shared. I did have a compatibility issue when using WhaleSlide on Chrome with the Moz extension running. However, WhaleSlide support were easy to get in touch with, really helpful, and very responsive. So they get a thumbs up from me in that regard.

Measure of success

WhaleSlide tell me that the number of users it has is increasing 100% month on month, however I have found reference to the number of daily users being only 491, and daily pageviews being the same. If the stats are this low, it is not possible to assess the amount of search traffic they receive. This startup, is very much still starting up.

Look though, everyone has to start somewhere, and in the seven weeks since it went live, WhaleSlide has raised £3,000 for charities. This averages out to be £428.57 per week, and £61.22 per day. I think given the newness of this enterprise, these numbers should be taken in a positive light.

WhaleSlide victory?

Well, it is a great engine for search, I like the extra features it provides, and it does make me feel good about it – so all in all it’s ticking the boxes for me. It is too soon to tell whether this new engine will have much impact on digital marketers but it is worth keeping half an eye on. I would definitely choose to use this engine for internet shopping, but I am not quite ready to change from Google and to have WhaleSlide as my default search engine.

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