The Ethical Search Engine Taking On the Internet Giants

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Due to question marks over how personal information is used, and awareness of burgeoning profits concentrated among just a few “Californian behemoths”, people are becoming increasingly tired of the dominant search engines, according to Storm CEO Kevin Taylor.

Storm provides an alternative search engine that not only aims to organise itself around the user’s needs better, but has the potential to raise £200 million for good causes by the end of 2017. Storm will also give half of its income to charitable causes.

Taylor explained to Salt: “Storm is an ethical search engine aiming to challenge the dominance of established search giants like Google.

“Storm works in a very similar way to many existing, well-known search engines; you simply enter a word or phrase as a query and search results are presented in order of relevance. The difference with Storm is that a ‘Give’ icon will be displayed alongside listings for retailers in the search results. This indicates to a consumer that if they go on to make a purchase from that retailer, they will be raising money for their chosen charity. The amount the user pays for goods online remains the same.”

The idea was born out of Storm’s recognition that people were beginning to look for alternatives. Taylor believes the internet search market is “ripe for disruption”. Chairman Andrew Crossland and marketing director Sam Tilston conceived the idea of building an ethical browser and search platform after meeting a young software engineer, Alex Kontos, at an entrepreneurs event. Kontos, now a Storm director, had already founded the Waterfox browser from his bedroom, which has now been downloaded around 5 million times.

Taylor continued: “Traditional search engines do a good job of presenting search results but we believe that many consumers are increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of information they have to share to use these services. It is also now widely understood how much money these businesses make, and whilst this isn’t of course wrong, there is demand for more ethical alternatives. We also know consumers want to support charities and other organisations they care about in a way that is easy and doesn’t cost them anything.”

Storm aims to have 10 million regular users within two years, and Taylor believes it has potential to have a real positive impact on the world: “Imagining the possibilities for bringing about positive change is really exciting; technology touches everyone around the world, everyday, not always in a positive way. Our intention is to bring useful, ethical technology to the everyday lives of our users and have a positive effect.”

He firmly believes that business and the private sector have a social responsibility: “Consumers increasingly expect this of the companies they choose to interact with and they are prepared to test it to make sure it isn’t just skin deep.

“A large corporate organisation may well have a CSR policy or charter, they may have a charitable foundation that benefits from corporate donations (typically deductible for tax purposes) and they may openly support a large global charity, is this enough? Not in my view; consumers will start to demand that the companies they choose to do business with moderate their profit by diverting some of it to good causes or using it for social good. This is the complete opposite of what is happening in Silicon Valley today, where some of the world’s largest companies are generating outrageous profits and yet only make very small contributions in relative terms through their social responsibility programmes.”

He concluded: “At Storm we are very open and very clear, we will divert 50 per cent of the income we generate to charity.

“We have set up Storm with a genuine belief that we can develop a business that can act as a vehicle for social change. With the funds Storm will provide, our charitable partners can continue the inspiring work they do.”

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Photo Credit: Marcie Casas from Flickr

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