I have tried DuckDuckGo, Blekko and Bing, all for about a month each.
I recommend Bing.
The thing that you almost forget after using Google forever is that they can always pull up relevant links to what you want, even from ancient forum posts if it's a really esoteric issue that only 5 people have ever had.
DuckDuckGo is decent, but it's no where near Google in that capability. Blekko not even close to DDG. (I have been using Blekko for my default search engine for a week or two now, but I almost always have to revert back to Google, except for really obvious results that I could probably pull up without a search engine entirely. I feel bad saying it, but it really isn't that good. Hopefully they keep working on it, though. )
Bing, on the other hand, was almost neck and neck with Google; it was only very occasionally that I would revert back to Google, and I used Bing for perhaps a month. I theorize that this is because Bing has millions (billions?) of Microsoft dollars behind it, way more than any other competing search engine.
I think I'm going to go back to DDG for a bit. I only used it a few months ago; I'm interested to see if it's gotten better.
With the upcoming work on IE9 I'm inclined to disagree. I've bashed on Microsoft as much as anyone else but things are changing. They're in position to grab a lot of favor for their brand. I'd love to see the day when benevolent and Microsoft weren't antonyms.
"Start thinking about whether their interests are aligned with yours."
You're definitely right about that. That's why I commented on Microsoft's attempt to play nice. It's also why I'm concerned about the new face of Google. The more we punish/reward companies based on their actions the more their actions will begin to suit us.
"Stop thinking about corporations in terms of 'evil' and 'good'"
No. If enough people start "thinking about corporations in terms of 'evil' and 'good'" then evil will fail. Capitalism is about getting people what they want and rewarding the people who made it happen. We just need to make sure that less technically inclined people also want "good".
Things are indeed changing, but I don't think it's for the better; five years ago they weren't demanding that companies pay them license fees in order to be allowed to use Linux, Samba, and other software they didn't write.
I just switched my search to DDG a few hours ago. This might be preliminary, but I don't think I'm going to switch back. The jump in quality in the last few months since I last used it is immense! I love all the programmer friendly features too (scraping from stackoverflow, etc). Really nice job.
I'm not sure how widespread it is, but a handful of Bing blindspots I've run across are something they can't do anything about without violating robots.txt: a decent number of sites block all crawlers by default, but whitelist GoogleBot, presumably from a "we don't want to be crawled, but we do want to be googleable" line of thought.
Yeah, MSNbot isn't very friendly, so they somewhat bring it on themselves. Both it and Yahoo's bot are much worse than Google at predicting likely page updates, as well--- on one of my sites that has a blank robots.txt, MSNbot accounts for >10x as many hits as GoogleBot, yet Google still manages to keep its index just as up to date.
Some people have had success with crawl-delay, though there are occasional reports of MSNbot not honoring that either.
Are you sure anti-Microsoft bias wasn't seeping in somewhere? (It used to be pretty easy, but it's getting harder with every new Google news article...) My roommate and I both tried it and didn't really get tripped up (and that was a while ago)
No, I'm fully aware that everyone benefits if there are alternatives to a search monopoly. I was strictly evaluating the results. It may be that my searches are pretty demanding of a search engine, because they're not typically consumer oriented searches, but rather more obscure research and/or startup related. However, I do think I use a search engine fairly normally as well. For example, I remember in particular one search, I think it was the last one I did before giving up on Bing, President Obama was making a rally speech in support of Martha Coakley (who was famously defeated by Scott Brown) and he made reference to a certain buzz about a truck Scott Brown was supposed to be driving. I didn't know what the reference was to but Bing performed dismally. After several clicks and getting nowhere I Googled "Scott Brown truck" and Google almost missed it (it was a new topic at the time) but Google did have the ad in question near the bottom of page one, and led me to a page with a video of the ad.
I lasted a few weeks, and would occasionally go back to Google when I wasn't satisfied with how a search turned out.
A few times I wanted to switch back to Google, but I couldn't justify it rationally to myself.
Around that time I bought a new laptop and used it to work away from home for a few days. I hadn't bothered to switch my default search engine away from Google. At some point, it dawned on me how happy I was to be back.
When I got home I promptly ended my experiment and have been back on Google ever since.
I will say that I didn't hate Bing or anything. If for some reason I was forced to use Bing instead of Google for now and ever after I'd probably be slightly bummed, but not much more than that.
Bing is great. I only REALLY miss two things on it. A spell checker like google has with suggested correction and a calculator along with currency converter. Also, I haven't found/don't know if bing has a suggestion based search like google has?
Maybe an online PDF/PPT viewer would be nice also for links that lead to those files.