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DuckDuckGo: Search Engine Review

Product Review

DuckDuckGo: Search Engine Review

Joel Ward October 29, 2014

ddgDuckDuck Go is creepier than Google

Ever feel like there are eyes everywhere watching you online?  Are ads following you on multiple devices? There’s a reason for this. Search is still one of the most profitable revenue for the companies lucky/skilled enough to get a piece of the pie. Google dominates search on the desktop, but the mobile marketing space is still very much undecided. Throw in the fact that Google controls the Android platform and the lines become even murkier. Bing, Yahoo, and many others are vying for the prize. What do they all have in common? Blurred privacy lines, and shared data.

DDG does not track users

You might start seeing a new acronym pop up on your radar: DDG. What’s this? It’s DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn’t track its users! Considering that the ever-watchful company out of Mountain View is always expanding its scope, even non-techies are becoming concerned with the behemoth’s tendency to “get creepy with it”. Things you searched for on one device are now following you on every other, much to your chagrin if you’re trying to be discreet. Even if you use the Privacy mode, your results still get sent back to the mothership. They use the honor system. Pretty scary stuff, huh?

DDG does not track users; it makes money by advertising and affiliate programs. Not content with just that, it only shows one (targeted) ad per search. Even when the site is paid through an affiliate program (such as Amazon or eBay), the users’ information is anonymized to protect the customers’ privacy.

Apple adds DDG to OS X Yosemite / iOS8

Why all the fuss now? Well, for one thing, Apple just did DuckDuckGo a solid, choosing it to be installed as a default search engine for safari on both iOS and OSX devices. For a lot of people, this will be their first exposure to DDG, and ongoing privacy concerns should serve to keep this new entrant in the limelight. Considering the huge number of devices out of Cupertino, along with the known willingness of Apple consumers to update software, this is a major game changer. Apple did a similar move when Siri was released, choosing to use Bing over their rival.


DuckDuckGo has actually been around for over half a decade; it opened its first community website to report user problems in mid-2010. Union Square Ventures invested in late 2011 whilst stating its intent “… to change the basis of competition in search.”

Originally created and self-funded by creator Gabriel Weinberg, the site is almost deceptively named after a simple children’s game. But do not mistake ease of use with lack of depth or experience. Weinberg’s last venture was acquired for $10M in 2006.

Surprise Surprise

I recently upgraded my Mac to OSX Yosemite and selected DuckDuckGo as my default search provider.  The first thing was the jarring “this is NOT Google” look-and-feel, which dissipated almost immediately, considering DDG’s minimal style. It reminded me a lot of the original spartan Google style o-so-many years ago. The next thing I noticed was the results seemed a lot more “honest”.   By that, I refer to the fact that the obvious gaming of Google’s algorithms isn’t in play here, so the actual content must speak for itself. This is probably more a function of the newness of DDG as opposed to the entrenched Google juggernaught. As DDG grows in market share, the bots will descend on its algos as well.

So, do you think that the landscape can’t change that quickly? Just keep in mind not so long ago, conventional wisdom was that search was virtually synonymous with AltaVista. Excite was so sure it would overtake them in market share that they turned down an offer from Larry Page and Sergey Brin to buy their nascent search engine for only $1M. (Spoiler Alert: It was Google.)


Joel Ward

Joel is a Programmer with over ten years of experience in algorithmic design using C++, C, Python, Java, or whatever. More recently he has become a Bitcoin enthusiast. Extensive experience with Big Data in the telephony, storage, and financial spheres.

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