There’s no denying it. These days, Google has lost whatever innocence it used to possess. There may have been a time when its motto “Don’t be Evil” rang true. But now, we know more about how the search giant tracks user activity, bows down to repressive governments, and privileges paid advertisers over individual privacy.
But what can you do if using Google leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Actually, search engine alternatives like DuckDuckGo (DDG) could be the answer. Don’t switch yet, though. Read this DuckDuckGo review for a full appraisal of what this Google competitor offers, and whether it’s a more private way to search the web.
Introducing private search engines
DuckDuckGo is part of a relatively new breed of search providers that have come to be known as private search engines. We call them “private” in comparison to Google – the market leader. As you’re probably aware, Google has a poor reputation when it comes to collecting data on users, along with other privacy issues.
Just to name a few historical problems with Google:
- Cookies – each Google search beams a cookie to the user’s computer, which tracks where they go, and what they search for. This may be necessary to satisfy Google’s business model, but it means that the search engine is much more invasive than it needs to be.
- User tracking – Cookies also allow Google to track users on their paths around the web. The company claims that this is anonymized, but as it’s based around IP addresses, that’s not necessarily true. Either way, it lets Google build up in-depth profiles for marketing purposes.
- Information sharing with developers – sometimes, Google seems more loyal to paying customers than ordinary users. For example, its email arm, Gmail, has been unmasked as allowing developers access to users’ contact lists and emails.
- Doubts about links to the security state – Google is part of the In-Q-Tel program, and has not been open about its links with the NSA and CIA. In fact, some security experts have argued that the CIA “made” Google via investment decisions. Can we trust it to keep our data private?
Private search engines are a response to problems like this. As web users become more informed about how search giants work, they are flocking to alternatives which seem to take a more ethical, trustworthy stance.
The question for this DuckDuckGo review is whether one of the leading Google alternatives is worth your attention, or whether it is just a cheap imitation of its more famous cousin. Let’s dive in deeper to discover the truth.
Getting to know DuckDuckGo
Firstly, you’ll probably want to know where the zany name comes from. Some people may see a code or a hidden message, but the reality is more prosaic. Founder Gabriel Weinberg took the name from the popular children’s nursery rhyme, “Duck, Duck, Goose” – but the shortened version has caught on and works really well.
The company itself was founded by Weinberg in 2008, who sought to create a search engine based around answers, not lists of associated websites. That’s why to this day, you’ll find that DuckDuckGo delivers “instant answers” to your queries, along with more conventional search results.
But it’s what DDG doesn’t do that makes it stand out. Weinberg also wanted to create a tool which delivered relevant results without using any form of user tracking. So he created a system which doesn’t rely on user profiling.
The company also chose to base itself on open source software, which is held on the GitHub repository – an indication of where its heart lies, and something which definitely separates the engine from Google.
However, don’t be fooled. DDG is a profit-making venture which has struck partnerships with major corporations like Yahoo and Apple. It’s not a charitable venture. It’s a search company which – while dwarfed by Google – processes 30 million daily searches.
DuckDuckGo: key features
Before moving onto more detail, let’s recap what DuckDuckGo is, and some of it’s most important features:
- Takes search results from a coalition of 400+ sources, including DDG’s own search crawler, as well as Bing, Yahoo, and Search BOSS
- Offers web search without user tracking – DDG doesn’t log or track any IP addresses or rely on cookies to profile users.
- Search results tend to have a strong focus on “quality,” with companies like eHow relegated in results, and reputable news sources given added promotion.
- Offers almost totally anonymous searching via a Tor portal.
- !Bangs are also available. These search modifiers allow DDG users to search indexes on thousands of third-party websites by using the main DDG engine.
- DDG is a profit-making company, with ad partnerships with Amazon, Yahoo, and eBay.
- A DuckDuckGo mobile app is available, which provides privacy updates on websites before you visit them and includes measures to neutralize ad trackers.
DuckDuckGo video review
How does DuckDuckGo work?
The key difference between how DDG works, and how Google works, revolves around something called IP leakage. When you make a Google search and click on a link, Google will send that site the search terms you used to reach that link. And this will also tend to include your IP address – giving companies (and Google more than anyone) the ability to track your movement around the web.
DDG doesn’t do that. The search engine still delivers a list of possible links. But when you click on those links, no IP address information passes to the target site. This means that, while the site can identify your IP address, there’s no way for it to detect how you got there, or learn anything else about your identity.
Additionally, DDG uses encryption to add an extra layer of protection when visiting unprotected sites. And the Tor proxy feature routes searches through an even deeper layer of encryption.
As far as ads are concerned, DDG doesn’t take the Google approach of building in-depth profiles for each user. Instead, it just associates ads with the keywords you use. While that can be a blunter tool for marketers, it’s much less invasive for ordinary web users.
Is DuckDuckGo safe to use?
So far in this DuckDuckGo review, we’ve been pretty positive about the company’s approach to security and searches in general. And there’s a lot to praise about the way it does business.
However, nobody is perfect. Some experts have flagged up issues with the way DDG stores your web browsing history as plain text – which gives people the ability to locally access your online activity.
Others have accused DDG of being adware (in its mobile app form), but this doesn’t seem fair. In Reddit AMAs, the developers have been very candid about the way they operate, and when concerns are addressed, the company takes action. Still, as we said: no search engine is totally flawless, so it makes sense to use extra measures like VPNs to enhance your privacy.
What is DuckDuckGo’s relationship with Onion services?
Another sign of DDG’s privacy reputation is its close links to TOR. In 2016, TOR switched its default browser to DuckDuckGo, following difficulties with the Disconnect service. DDG has also been a vocal supporter of TOR, seeing it as a kindred spirit in the fight for genuine online privacy.
Since 2010, as we noted earlier in this DuckDuckGo review, the search engine has offered a “Hidden” version which employs a Tor exit enclave. So the links are very strong, an indication of how serious Weinberg and his staff are about maintaining DDG’s commitment to privacy.
Can you use DuckDuckGo settings to customize your searches?
As with all good search engines, DDG users have the freedom to change a number of settings governing how their results are delivered. For instance, you can designate a country to make your results more geographically specific. Languages can be toggled to find more accurate results, and there’s a “safe search” function that parents will appreciate.
Users can turn off ads, set the browser to auto-load extra results instead of clicking through, and select from four map services to find directions that really get from A to B as quickly as possible. You can find the full list here, and it’s pretty comprehensive.
Comparing DuckDuckGo vs Google: Should you switch?
Finally, we reach the billion dollar question. Should you make DDG your default search and ditch Google for good? Here are some criteria to help you decide:
|Owning company||Owned by Duck Duck Go, Inc, managed by founder Gabriel Weinberg, a company with revenues of a little over $25 million.||Owned by Alphabet, a company with revenues of over $100 billion per year.|
|Number of pages indexed||Unknown||Hundreds of billions|
(over 100,000,000 GB)
|Number of daily queries||25 million||3.5 billion|
|Advertising||Yes, but optional||Yes|
|Security features||TOR supported, no IP logging or cookies, no targeted advertising, and no user profiles.||Routinely associates each search with cookies and tracks user IP addresses, building profiles for marketing purposes.|
I’ve been using DDG for about 5 years now.
Bing always sucked. So does DDF. It’s inability to process simple boolean search parameters leave huge gaps in desirability. If I want accurate search results I go to Google.
DDG is simply terrible, and I have years of experience with it to back that up.
I absolutely love duck duck go! ❤️
I’ve bben using only DDG since 2014 and it has done a very good job. I’ve not intention of switching back using Google spyware.
So i just joined Duckduck…and I am already impressed…u like google they allow me to have a voice…they dont censor what I want to read & talk about…Dudkduck is the way to go…I realize how much Google is cesoring what I want access too…Google is way too Progressive& restrictive… its obvious what type of people are running this browser…free yourself and reassociate yourself with freedom of speech….thank you Ducksuck for reminding me i dont live in a Communist country!…that i dont need ibformation decided for me
Duck has been going down hill. Politics leaking into casual searches to local locations that have no relevance to my search. Just another google at this point… might as well go back to the goo, atleast will load faster.
Rest in peace old DDG, we will all miss you. Think it died in 2020.. just got so bad currently that it’s pushing political opinion and being what we never wanted it to be. From the bottom of my heart to who pressed for this change, fuck you.
Your comments don’t carry water! Anyone relying on what this “?” has written is “drinking the coolaide.”
Do your research, DDG for me, is a fine search engine and works!
I’d love to use DDG more but the search results seem to be so bad and oftentimes completely irrelevant to the terms I am searching for. I don’t know why this is. I’m forced to use Google because the results are way, WAY more relevant.
I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for years along with my NordVPN and I’ve been very happy. However, today I’m reading an article in “Truth Press” that is stating that now DuckDuckGo is now censoring your access to information, which is one of the reasons I left Google.
Anytime a service or company censors you, you are being subjected to someone’s Ideology. Years ago, I stopped watching all main stream media and started watching CSPAN raw feeds for government info. I got tired of watching opinions, I like to get the raw data and interpret it myself.
So now, DuckDuckGo has formed alliances with all the suppressors of information like, Apple, Amazon, Facebook succumbing to presumably the money, the price you pay, either become WOKE, or act like you are WOKE, either way the outcome is the same.
So that leaves me a new weekend project, how to get off the DuckDuckGo Woke MerriGoRound…
FS: Exactly. I’m doing much the same.
I have absolutely no use whatsoever for the woke crowd, genuine or otherwise, with their extreme leftist hypocrisy and stupidity.
Likewise…. Do we settle for the omnipotent Google search and just succumb to the snooping and tracking and info sharing, or go with a less intrusive ( maybe) search engine ( DDG) that is increasingly returning it’s own “woke” agenda results. The irony of a ( mostly) free internet leaves us having to settle for the whims of whatever free app or platform we use, I guess. At least trying to stay aware and looking for a better alternative is all we are left with. Today’s default search engine for me is Brave, ( BETA) but keeping my eyes open to what’s available.
Bing and Duckduckgo is the same search engine…in case you wonder why some relavent stuff comes out even when you search thinking your completely incognito.
DDG does NOT honor standard grammar and is a piss poor SE. Try excluding a word from a search.
Duckduckgo needs to allow shortcuts on its home page. It’s really irritating that it doesn’t.
It’s terrible and so is BING, the API they use is the same.
Well i would like to use Duckduckgo
Duckduckgo sucks like Google
I just switched to DDG & it is not as bad as google.. google ugg
Did a search on bread machine recipes yesterday. Today my MSN news source is full of bread machine ads. Not happy.
Thanks Much.Been using DDG since 2008 & its an East coast company & I prefer it over silicone valley.Google installed on cell & tried to delete Chrome but its not gone completely.Eventually Americans will sue them as 50million of us are keeping logs of what they do.THANKS for writing a nearly unbiased article.
I am new to DuckDuck Go but I have already found it to be very effective. It’s like someone pulled me out of quicksand….
I just got a new HP and it came with Google, we are trying to lode up DDG, having trouble doing such, do we need fire Fox to lode up DDG? We tried to lode but Google says to lord up DDG with Google?
Greetings, Kay. You can set up DuckDuckGo as your search engine on Google Chrome, no need to switch browsers. Simply go to the customization settings on Chrome (the three dots in the top right corner) and click on Settings. There you will find the Search Engine tab where you can set DDG as your default.
I want to connect up with dividing but Google make it hard to switch over HELP lol thanks
Meh, Yandex.com is the best search engine you get all the results you were searchinng for 24/7 100% of the time fully uncensored and I they do have ads but it is not in your face, they have then between your search results. I noticed that they do not seem to sell your data either which is a big plus since I have never gotten promotions or anything else for that matter targeted at me from other businesses. Been using them for a couple years now and it works flawlessly. It is the last of search engines that actually gives you everything you were searching for. Don’t get me wrong though I do start with duckduckgo but if duckduckgo doesn’t give me what I searched for than I use Yandex.com
Well I looked for it just to find out that it collects more data than Firefox and brave:/