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Solving Safari's Smart Search Problem

Smart Search can be a cool thing: While you type in the address bar, your browser suggests sites that it thinks fit your search intent or align with your browsing history. Even more, it can pre-load those sites it deems most likely to entertain you. There are drawbacks, though.

Smart Search has been around since Safari 6. Much more recent is this problem: When entering one of the new top-level domains like .guru or .travel in the address bar, you end up in a Google search for the web address you just typed in more often than not. That's not so smart.

Even if that's none of your problems, Smart Search transmits your data to somewhere, be it Apple or your favourite search engine (in some markets, most users don't even know that alternatives to Google exist, given a market share well over 90%). That may not be in your best interest. In addition, Safari, by default, pre-loads the top results of any Smart Search suggestions. This can easily turn into a data privacy problem. Why? The moment your browser pre-loads a page is the moment when it leaves your IP address in the server's log file, where it surely will get analyzed, aggregated and maybe even handed over to third parties (not only spelling N-S-A).

Fortunately, you can turn off Safari's Smart Search behaviour with little effort. Hit cmd-; to enter the browser's preferences. In the Privacy tab, there are two options (well down to the bottom of the window). One allows you to "Don't preload top results in the background", the other to "Disallow search engine suggestions". Coincidently, this solves the problem with the new top-level domains, too. (MacConfig)