Remember the name, DuckDuckGo. For if online privacy is high on the list of things you care about, then there is no better option for searching online than this private search engine.
Not only does this service doesn’t store your searches and protects you from dodgy sites, it also won’t track you around the web. Amazingly, it will even find results that Google hides! It truly is the alternate search engine to the behemoth that is Google, and a perfect option if you are ready to ditch Google.
This detailed guide introduces you to DuckDuckGo, shows you exactly why its privacy focused features are unmatched, and why you should switch to a search engine that protects your privacy on the web.
Let’s get cracking!
What is DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo is an online search engine, very much similar to services like Google and Bing. Only that it prioritizes your privacy over everything else. Unlike its data guzzling rivals, this service does not store your searches or queries, or tracks you across the whole web.
The service has been around for over a decade, but it is only in the last couple of years that it has risen to become one of the more popular search services on the web. Its market share is still a fair bit behind Google, but it offers many unique advantages.
Some of which even DuckDuckGo diehards are oblivious to!
And although most people know DuckDuckGo as a website, it is also available as a mobile app. An official browser extension can also be downloaded, and the service can easily be integrated with the Tor browser for anonymous searches in the dark web.
In short, this duck gives you the whole package.
Who owns DuckDuckGo?
The service actually launched more than 11 years ago, on September 25, 2008, with the company founded in Pennsylvania by Gabriel Weinberg.
This privacy focused search engine has been around since 2008, but it is only recently that it has really taken flight. From humble beginnings over a decade ago, its popularity has now surged to the tune of more than 55 million search queries per day. To date, DuckDuckGo has served up over 42 billion private searches, with more than a billion being made every month at the start of 2020.
DuckDuckGo is primarily built upon search APIs from various vendors, which is what has allowed the team to remain agile — the company only had 67 employees as of July 2019. And yet the work they have been doing, the success they have achieved, is nothing short of extraordinary.
If these numbers are not enough for you to take notice, then nothing will. Other companies are also starting to take note of this meteoritic rise. So much so that Google, its longstanding rival finally added this rising search engine as an option in its Chrome browser in spring last year.
Took a fair while, but DuckDuckGo has finally become the posterchild of privacy aficionados.
How DuckDuckGo earns money?
Most search engines record everything you search and then build up your unique profile, which they then sell to advertisers. This has been the industry norm since pretty much the beginning, but the intrusive methods these search engines have employed has made them the ire of criticism.
DuckDuckGo takes a different approach to this, a simpler approach. Yes, the site is still funded by advertising, but the company makes use of keywords to choose what types of ads you get served. For example, if you search for something laptop related, then you will see laptop ads.
That is all there is to it.
The company has been on record saying that it does not need a lot of advertisements to make money, and this is another bonus for you will not be forced to wade through a wall of ads to get to the actual results. Better yet, it you don’t want to see ads at all, you can go into the site settings and turn off the adverts completely.
Ads are only half the story though.
The search engine has another way how it earns money. And that is by adding affiliate code to the results for sites like Amazon and eBay. This way, DuckDuckGo receives a small commission if you buy something at these retailers and marketplaces. Importantly, the company only works with affiliates that don’t share personally identifiable information.
And the good stuff doesn’t stop here.
DuckDuckGo even donates some of its income to other privacy focused organizations, which is another thing that should please people that put privacy first. Since 2011, the firm has given away $1.3 million to like minded causes and projects like Privacy Badger, Tails, Tor Project and FreeBSD.
DuckDuckGo vs Google
It sure seems like DuckDuckGo is becoming the main challenger to the search dominancy by Google. In fact, back in 2012, Google identified DuckDuckGo as a competitor in response to accusations that it was a monopoly — an acknowledgement if there was one!
DuckDuckGo is designed with the primary goal of protecting the privacy of its users. What this means is that the search engine does not store any of your personal details, nor passes them onto other sites.
Both Google and Bing store your searches. And if you are logged into your account at the services, then they can link the details of what you are looking for directly to you. The same is true for other search engines, and even online service that you sign up for like Uber and Spotify.
This recent study showed that Google customizes your results even if you are logged out of your account and are browsing in incognito mode. It’s not too hard for the search engine giant to do this, keeping in view the fact that it has trackers on an estimated 75% of all sites on the web — not only does Google know what you are looking for, it also knows where you went.
All these details, this personally identifiable information is what makes the online globe spin.
But if you want out, then there is no better choice than starting with DuckDuckGo.
Which is the better search engine?
Your choice of using DuckDuckGo versus any of the other services will ultimately come down to the quality of the search results that it serves up. The question of which is the better search engines is better answered if you know the difference between the search philosophy of DuckDuckGo and other web search engine providers.
Like any search engine, DuckDuckGo takes the query you enter and matches it up with the results it finds on web pages. These come from its own, via its web crawler called DuckDuckBot, as well as from over 400 other sources, including Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex, and Wolfram Alpha. It also uses crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia to populate knowledge panel boxes to the right of the search results.
As far as the quality of results is concerned, this privacy focused search engine is right up there with the best when it comes to display web results. Unlike back in the wild west days of the 90s, when smaller search engines suffered when it came to maintaining quality and could be exploited by overeager webmasters.
Should I trust DuckDuckGo with my data?
You may not be too worried about what companies like Google know about you or your online activities. After all, you have nothing to hide. Yet, even then, there are causes to be slightly concerned with how much of your details and data these online services accumulate every day.
Whenever you use Google services like Search, Maps, Gmail, and YouTube, all your information is recorded from start to finish. If you want to find out what information you have handed over to Google, then go to the My Activity page to take a look to see exactly what the search engines giant knows about you and your online visits and habits.
Convinced yet? No? Then you can find out more about the search engines privacy policies by checking them out at the Don’t Track Us website.
DuckDuckGo PROs and CONs
If you have read this far, you pretty much know all there is to about what makes DuckDuckGo so special. Not only is it setting new standards of trust online, it also ensures that the personal information of its users remains in their hands.
This is its biggest strength, and depending on how you like your results, its biggest weakness too.
The thing with Google and Bing is that these search engines customize the results based on what they know about you. After all, they want to present you with the results that they think you most likely want to see or click on. Simply put, these search engines serve up content that you expect to see, from sites that you regularly visit. This creates a filter bubble of personalized content.
Long story short, if you have been using mainstream search engines like Google and Bing for a while, then the results shown on DuckDuckGo may take some getting used to. You may feel that the unfiltered results aren’t as good as the ones you get from Google, but that is definitely not the case.
In that sense, the results DuckDuckGo serves up for you are not worse than Google, just different.
Is DuckDuckGo better than Google?
What also sets DuckDuckGo apart, other than its extreme focus on privacy, is its selection of unique refinements that amplify your search experience. In that sense, while the service may not be able to match the length and breadth of Google Search, it does make for smarter searching.
Bangs are among the cleverest of features that DuckDuckGo has offered since day one. They are shortcuts that let you search directly on a particular website. These come in really handy when you want to search on other sites like IMDB, Reddit, or Wikipedia. The site offers 13,505 bangs as of this writing, covering all the popular websites in several categories.
Likewise, DuckDuckGo also lets you find cheat sheets if you want to learn how to get more out of an app, site, service, or operating system. You can get a full list of hints and shortcuts for all sorts of products, so try all your favorite.
DuckDuckGo can also shrink your URLs right from its search box, and you can also check where a link will send you by expanding it. And if you want to create random passwords, you can ask DuckDuckGo to generate a password of your chosen length. You also get a Maps section that you can use to find out more about a location or get directions. And it can also tell you the weather by providing you with a detailed forecast.
The search engine also has plenty of keyboard shortcuts that you can learn to make it quicker and easier to use. You can also generate QR codes, if you want.
Other DuckDuckGo products
More than just a web search engine, DuckDuckGo has also moved beyond in other areas. The company has created a range of different products, including apps that allows you to boost your privacy on different devices.
Since people now conduct more searches on mobile devices than desktop computers these days, it comes as no surprise that DuckDuckGo has a Privacy Browser mobile app for Android and iOS. Not only is this application available on the respective app stores, it is also available on F-Droid and GitHub. The former is a repository for Free and Open Source Software, while the latter houses an APK file for you to sideload on your devices.
DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension
While the DuckDuckGo website will be the primary way most people first access the service, you can install an addon in your browser to get more out of the search engine. The extension not only allows you to search the web easily it also blocks hidden third-party trackers on the sites you visit, routes you to secure versions of websites, and exposes poor privacy practices.
The DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension is available for Firefox and Chrome, along with other Chromium based web browsers like Vivaldi, Opera, and the shiny new Microsoft Edge.
DuckDuckGo Tor onion
You may be familiar with the Tor network that encrypts your browsing data and disguises your location to keep you anonymous on the web. It is often used by people who want to visit sites on the dark web, often using the Tor Browser.
DuckDuckGo also has a special hidden onion address that only the Tor Browser can open, which provides for a much more secure way to search. This onion link takes a little while to resolve, but this is only because your traffic is being routed through a series of encrypted Tor relays around the world.
DuckDuckGo is not only more private than Google, but it is also smarter. The service offers a lot of advanced features and continues to add in capabilities that not only amp up your online experience, but also keep your identity safe and protect you from dodgy sites.
It truly is your best bet if you want to search the web more privately, speedily and smartly than ever.