Development, In the News

Search Engine APIs. Contrast and Compare

Finding a search engineIt was with quite a bit of interest that I received an email today from Bing advising that “the Bing Search API will transition to an offering made available on the Windows Azure Marketplace”. Within the PR hype were two pretty crucial pieces of information:

  • Developers can expect subscription pricing to start at approximately $40 (USD) per month for up to 20,000 queries each month.
  • After the transition period [completed in the next few months], Bing Search API 2.0 will no longer be available for free public use.

That’s a big deal. Here’s the full announcement. Why? Because it’s a lot of money for any business or amateur / hobbyist sites or applications to front up with at very short notice. Exchange rates may make this cost even more significant (for example, at time of writing $40 US dollars equated to $48.20 NZ dollars) and a few months may well not be enough time to compare different alternatives, test them and deploy them to a production environment.

So along that line of thinking, what are some of the different options for search APIs? How do their pricing structures compare and what limitations are imposed with each?

Search Engine Cost Per Cap (in queries) Link Notes
Google Free Day 100 Google API All additional requests over the 100 daily request cap are charged at the rate of $5 per 1000 queries, for up to 10,000 queries per day.
Baidu Free Week Quota Baidu API The quota system is not clear on the initial allotment of allowed API calls
DuckDuckGo Free Always None DuckDuckGo API Search engine attribution requested in results
Bing US $40 Month 20000 Bing API

Yahoo! search APIs were deprecated in April 2011 in favour of Bing when Microsoft finally secured a stake in the search giant.

DuckDuckGo is the darling child of bleeding-edge web enthusiasts and power users with its !bang syntax, strong keyboard shortcut support and quirky UX.

Baidu appears on this list because despite being almost exclusively Cino-centric, it commands a very high ranking in global share purely by virtue of the population it serves. However I found it extremely difficult (using the translated English description) to find concrete numbers regarding the Baidu quota system and the complexities around the calculation of API query totals.

A Bung Move for Bing?

With most of the main competitors offering a free service for low-end users or, in the case of DuckDuckGo, a completely free service, it’s difficult to understand what Bing is trying to achieve with this decision. It seems on the one hand that Bing would want to drive as many potential customers away from the “not evil” Google in favour of its own services but charging from the outset across the board for all users would likely achieve exactly the opposite.

Maybe Microsoft are trying to position themselves in a niche within the search market that targets higher-end enterprise customers. Their API is solid, their results generally good and the options around the delivery of those results are very broad but the pricing model still sets a barrier for entry that will in all probability make Bing a second choice at best behind its competitors.

So there it is. Do you know something I don’t? If I’ve overlooked or misunderstood some details around the Bing or other search APIs, add a comment below or tweet me. I’ll be really interested to see where this is going.


  1. The FAROO Web Search API is free, no registration required, up to 1 million queries per month.

    REST-API for Web Search, News and Trending Topics (JSON / JSONP / XML / RSS)

  2. I didn’t know about DuckDuckGo, seems to be like a nice alternative. Pitty it seems to be only relevant for english sites.

  3. exod8s

    I use API, no registration required, if you don’t exceed 1 million queries per month or more than 1 request per second you can used it for free. Also, you can generate API keyonly if you want to exceed rate limits and pay. but anyway, Faroo is 10 times cheaper than Google, Yahoo or Bing.

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