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How to use the self-hosted Whoogle search engine remotely

Learn how to configure the Whoogle search engine on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and set it as the default search engine on your internet browser.

Introduction

In today's data-driven world, concerns about privacy, data protection, and the digital fingerprint have become paramount. As a response to these concerns, self-hosted search engines have gained traction as a viable alternative to mainstream options. One commonly used choice is Whoogle.
Whoogle is a privacy-respecting, self-hosted search engine. It gathers Google search results but strips them of unnecessary data: eliminates third-party cookies, IP tracking, and accelerated mobile pages (AMP), providing a more secure search experience. In addition, Whoogle offers a variety of installation options that cater to various different setups. Running Meshnet alongside Whoogle allows you to use the search engine remotely from any device in your Meshnet.
This article showcases how you can deploy a self-hosted instance of the Whoogle search engine using Docker on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and use it remotely over Meshnet as the primary search engine across various internet browsers.

Before you begin

Make sure that you have Docker and Docker Compose installed on your device. Instructions on how to download and install these tools can be found on the Docker website:
Note
Docker Compose comes pre-installed with Docker Desktop.

Deploy Whoogle using Docker

With Docker and Docker Compose installed, you can start creating a Docker container for the Whoogle search engine.
Windows
macOS and Linux
  1. 1.
    Download the Whoogle files from its GitHub repository by clicking Code > Download ZIP.
    Downloading the whoogle-search repository as a ZIP file from GitHub.
  2. 2.
    Open the downloaded archive and extract the whoogle-search-main folder to an easily accessible location.
  3. 3.
    Open PowerShell and navigate to the whoogle-search-main folder using the cd command. Example
    cd C:\Users\secretmeerkat\Docker\whoogle-search-main
  4. 4.
    Execute the following command to start creating your Whoogle instance:
    docker-compose up -d
    Docker will pull the whoogle-search image from Docker Hub and create the container.
  5. 5.
    Once the process is finished, run the docker ps command to ensure the container is active and healthy.
    Output of the 'docker ps' command showing that the whoogle-search container is up and healthy.
Tip
You can modify the environmental variables in the docker-compose.yml file to customize your Whoogle instance. For example, you can enable user authentication or connect the search engine to a SOCKS5 proxy server.
  1. 1.
    Open Terminal.
  2. 2.
    Copy the whoogle-search GitHub repository to your machine with the following command:
    git clone https://github.com/benbusby/whoogle-search.git
  3. 3.
    Navigate to the whoogle-search folder using the cd command:
    cd whoogle-search
  4. 4.
    Execute the following command to start creating your Whoogle instance:
    docker-compose up -d
    Docker will pull the whoogle-search image from Docker Hub and create the container.
  5. 5.
    Once the process is finished, run the docker ps command to ensure the container is active and healthy.
    Output of the 'docker ps' command showing that the whoogle-search container is up and healthy.
Tip
You can modify the environmental variables in the docker-compose.yml file to customize your Whoogle instance. For example, you can enable user authentication or connect the search engine to a SOCKS5 proxy server.

Access your Whoogle instance using Meshnet

With the container up and running, you can start using Whoogle as your search engine from any internet browser.
  1. 1.
    Copy the Nord name of the device running your Whoogle instance.
  2. 2.
    Open your preferred internet browser.
  3. 3.
    In the address bar, paste the copied Nord name, followed by :5000/. Example secret.meerkat-everest.nord:5000/ If you are accessing Whoogle from the same device that is hosting it, swap the Nord name for localhost.
Your new, self-hosted search engine should now be visible on the internet browser.
Whoogle search page, accessed using the Nord name, visible in the internet browser.

Configure Whoogle as the default search engine

Navigating to the Whoogle website to make a quick search is far from convenient. Thankfully, with most of the widely used internet browsers, you can add and use a custom search engine relatively easily. Below you can find instructions for setting Whoogle as the default search engine on some of the commonly used browsers.
Firefox

Windows, macOS, and Linux

  1. 1.
    Open Firefox.
  2. 2.
    Visit your Whoogle page, as described in the Access your Whoogle instance using Meshnet section.
  3. 3.
    Right-click the address bar and select Add “Whoogle Search”.
    Right-clicking the Firefox address bar and selecting Add "Whoogle search" from the list of options.
  4. 4.
    Navigate to the following URL: about:preferences#search
  5. 5.
    Under Default search engine, select Whoogle.
    Whoogle selected as the default search engine in Firefox settings.
The default search engine has been changed.

Android

  1. 1.
    Open Firefox.
  2. 2.
    In the upper or lower right corner, depending on your chosen layout, tap the three-dot menu and select Settings.
  3. 3.
    Under General, tap Search, and then select Add search engine.
  4. 4.
    Select Other and fill in the required fields.
    • In the Name field, type in Whoogle.
    • In the Search string field, type in http://<NordName>:5000/search?q=%s, where <NordName> is the Nord name of the device hosting Whoogle.
      Example
      The Add search engine page in Firefox filled in with the link to the Whoogle page.
  5. 5.
    In the upper-right corner, tap the check mark button.
  6. 6.
    Under Default search engine, select Whoogle.
    Whoogle selected as the default search engine.
The default search engine has been changed.

iOS

  1. 1.
    Open Firefox.
  2. 2.
    In the lower-right corner, tap the three-line menu icon and select Settings.
  3. 3.
    Under General, tap Search, and then select Add search engine.
  4. 4.
    Fill in the required fields.
    • In the Title field, type in Whoogle.
    • In the URL field, type in http://<NordName>:5000/search?q=%s, where <NordName> is the Nord name of the device hosting Whoogle. Example
      The Add search engine page in Firefox filled in with the link to the Whoogle page.
  5. 5.
    In the upper-right corner, tap Save.
  6. 6.
    Under Default search engine, tap the first option and select Whoogle from the list of available search engines.
    Whoogle selected as the default search engine.
The default search engine has been changed. From now on, the Whoogle search engine will be used whenever you perform a search using the address bar.
Chrome
The steps below apply only to desktop devices because adding custom HTTP-only search engines is currently not possible on the mobile version of Chrome.
  1. 1.
    Open Chrome.
  2. 2.
    Visit your Whoogle page, as described in the Access your Whoogle instance using Meshnet section.
  3. 3.
    After the page loads, Chrome should automatically detect Whoogle as a search engine. Then, navigate to the following URL: chrome://settings/searchEngines
  4. 4.
    Scroll down to the Inactive shortcuts section.
  5. 5.
    Next to Whoogle, click the three-dot menu and select Make default.
    Clicking 'Make default' next to Whoogle in the Search engine section of Chrome settings.
    The default search engine has been changed. Under the Search engines section, you should see Whoogle (default).
    Whoogle set as the default search engine.
From now on, the Whoogle search engine will be used whenever you perform a search using the address bar.
Edge
The steps below apply only to desktop devices because adding custom HTTP-only search engines is currently not possible on the mobile version of Edge.
  1. 1.
    Open Edge.
  2. 2.
    Visit your Whoogle page, as described in the Access your Whoogle instance using Meshnet section.
  3. 3.
    After the page loads, Edge should automatically detect Whoogle as a search engine. Then, navigate to the following URL: edge://settings/searchEngines
  4. 4.
    Next to Whoogle, click the three-dot menu and select Make default.
    Clicking 'Make default' next to Whoogle in the Manage search engines section of Edge settings.
The default search engine has been changed. From now on, the Whoogle search engine will be used whenever you perform a search using the address bar.
Brave
The steps below apply only to desktop devices because adding custom HTTP-only search engines is currently not possible on the mobile version of Brave.
  1. 1.
    Open Brave.
  2. 2.
    Navigate to the following URL: brave://settings/searchEngines
  3. 3.
    Next to Site search, click Add.
  4. 4.
    In the Add search engine dialog, fill in the required information.
    • In the Search engine field, enter Whoogle.
    • In the Shortcut field, enter any character combination you prefer.
    • In the URL field, enter <NordName>:5000/search?q=%s, where <NordName> is the Nord name of the device hosting Whoogle. Example
      Filled in Add search engine dialog with the link to the Whoogle page using the Nord name.
  5. 5.
    Click Add.
  6. 6.
    Under Site search, next to Whoogle, click the three-dot menu and select Make default.
    Clicking Make default next to the Whoogle search engine entry.
    The default search engine has been changed. Under the Search engines section, you should see Whoogle (default).
    Whoogle set as the default search engine.
From now on, the Whoogle search engine will be used whenever you perform a search using the address bar.
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