DuckDuckGo Review

Last updated: February 3, 2021
DuckDuckGo Review

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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.

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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.

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:

DuckDuckGoGoogle
Owning companyOwned 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.
Launch date20081998
Number of pages indexedUnknownHundreds of billions
(over 100,000,000 GB)
Number of daily queries25 million3.5 billion
AdvertisingYes, but optionalYes
Security featuresTOR 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.

 

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29 comments
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  1. Zelma

    Actuall as Im using DuckDuckGo inorder to have Google OUT OF MY LIFE!!!!!! Id like to inform you that google even though I do see it being stopped when I search something I have just experienced a complete breach of Privacy!! A group I subscribe to sent me a link to their latest offering and Google on my DuckDuckGo informed me it finds my activities suspiscious and would not let me through to the site! On my duckduckgo??????
    I do not think you can keep Nosy Google in check at all and this is not the first time but it has been the most in my face one of the series of breaches!!


  2. Terry

    Why do my searches pull up so many google/YouTube and not rumble.com?


    1. Mikaela Bray Author

      Hello, Terry. It’s hard to answer your question because I don’t know what kind of search queries do you use. Chances are that DuckDuckGo simply thinks that Google results are more relevant. After all, rumble.com is not THAT popular.


  3. Cathy

    Compare a search for “hunter biden china” on safari, chrome and DDG… you’ll be amazed


  4. josep

    duck duck go is so good


  5. HYL

    Couldn’t have agree more on your assessment of Google Search now days. Recently tried to search a topic on Google search and it sure left a bad taste in my mouth. Basically it made me feel like I was doing a Baidu Search from China. Holy cow! And it was that crazy! Are we still in America? Not 100% off Google Search of course since I’ve used it for years with lots of my stuff on it. But going to use more DDG in the future for sure. I need to ween myself from Google too.


  6. Matt

    Have used you and sister search engine for 10 years ! Thank you, and never a problem!


  7. Kat

    lI really like DuckDuckGo! So glad to get rid of the Google trackers invasion of the body snatchers for sure. What have you got to lose try it!


  8. SJJ65

    If I search anything related to Microsoft (Windows, Office, Service Packs) duckduckgo returns a blank page.
    Using the same (current) FF browser Google (I mean Yahoo) does not have that problem.

    Also, duckduckgo has no mechanism I could find to report bugs.
    .


    1. Jeffrey

      @SJJ65 I’m not sure what your problem is; DDG returns many links when I search with “Microsoft,” “Windows,” or “Service Packs.”


  9. Thomas

    The biggest issue with Google is that it is no longer reliable search engine it was few years back.
    Everybody looks at the number of indexed pages and say wow! But unfortunately your results are narrowed down to just handful of websites that Google considers relevant, fast and overall professionally optimized. This leaves millions of websites that are indexed and do not show. I don’t want to see in search results only excellent websites that have prefect wording in their descriptions and only relevant content. There are stores that don’t have resources for that so you will not see them. Last couple of years it become extremely frustrating when you try to find something and only handful of companies show up on first hundred pages.
    10 years back you were able to see single page websites made by local contractors and now you only see major corporations.


  10. Definitely not a robot

    Google is by far better. It does computations for searches and also it narrows various sites by Geneva Convention and Article XIII of the European Union.


    1. Daniel

      DDG does computations too.

      What do you mean by “narrows various sites by Geneva Convention and Article XIII of the European Union.”?


      1. Mike

        Duck Duck Go is so good. I get such a better search result than I ever did with Google. It really is amazing. I particularly had been noticing censored search results around the time of the election on Google. With Google I could not get unbiased information, no matter how hard I searched. I switched to Duck Duck Go immediately after the election, and I won’t be going back.

        I hadn’t really been following any news or anything about Google. I didn’t even know they had been harvesting my information until I got an e-mail from a lawyer saying I was part of a lawsuit, and that my info had been illegally collected by Google. So, that’s one thing I can avoid with Duck Duck Go.

        Alot of people on the web have been saying that Google is too big and can’t be replaced, by another search engine. This is total BS. For example: I used to use Yahoo search, exclusively. Then for my own reasons I got sick of it. This was at the time that Google was starting. Back then G Mail was by invite only. I really was excited when I finally got invited to join G Mail. I considered Google one of the good guys, as I do Duck Duck Go now. I switched everything to Google, and never looked back at Yahoo. Back then Yahoo was like Google is now. Now Yahoo is struggling, big time. That’s how it happens. Giant industries can disappear almost overnight. Remember My Space? Remember Block Buster Video? Remember Cable TV? So, I am urging everyone to switch away from Google. I strongly recommend Duck Duck Go.


      2. Mike

        It means they work for Google. lmao


  11. Alikingasi Papaol

    I used DDG to search “how reliable is duckduckgo” and it gave me an unbiased search results. That speaks volumes about this search engine. I do hope they keep it up though. Otherwise, I’m leaning towards DDG.


  12. Samuel

    I downloaded Google maps app on my computer to see a map. GOOGLE took control of my computer!!!!!!! It took two days to get rid of all their crap. I would not even think of using Google for anything anymore.


    1. Nich

      So true. It was a pain and a half to uninstall chrome. Normal applications have an uninstall feature in the local file, but not google. they’re like a virus.


  13. Lem

    I like DDuckGo, I don’t care if loads slow but the reason is its security it has everything I started reading on the play store but I didn’t
    download it one day my friend “girl” told me are Themes and so on I installed.
    I immediately understood his charge and also cards and data is the VPN , yeeeee
    with DDuckGo.😃😎🙂


  14. John

    just as irrelevant search results as google so really doesn’t matter which you choose…


  15. Joe

    Saving non-default DDG settings between sessions is a pain. Either save the to the cloud and restore, or allow DDG to set cookies in your system. I don’t know about you, but I don’t and never will trust the cloud to be anonymous or secure. If you routinely disallow and/or delete cookies (as you should), you need to figure out how to make the DDG engine an exception to this policy in your browser. Far better if they had just used a local configuration file like most sane applications. But DDG is still FAR AND AWAY better than Google.


  16. Ted N

    It’s actually a really good search engine, I’ve used for a few years, back in the days. Now I use Ecosia, it plants a tree around the world every 45 search, I feel it’s a simple way to have good impact.


    1. Myo

      Ted, if you’re still following this, please check independent reviews of Ecosia. They use Google as their search engine.


  17. Romain

    Since your Privacy Mythbusting #4 newsletter and executing the therein proposed tests I have some doubts about the Duckduckgo reliability. I am using the Brave browser (which is Chrome based) for improved security and protection against advertising togehther with the Duckduckgo search engine. Anyone has experience with this?
    Signed: Romain from Flanders, Belgium.


    1. CantYouSee

      I can’t speak directly to your question, but I would like to point out that Chrome is a google product. While it may offer a sense of security from other malicious websites, if the application was developed by a malicious company, are you any better off?


  18. Wade

    Google is outdates guuuys!!! They stole our information and sell it to big companies. They don’t CARE about us. Use DuckDuckGo to be free and safe online, I recommend it 100% 😉

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