DuckDuckGo
September 1, 2014 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Here's how one small company is slowly, surely beating its way into the most monopolized category in technology: Inside DuckDuckGo, Google's Tiniest, Fiercest Competitor.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (66 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
DuckDuckGo's Secret Weapon: Hardcore Privacy
posted by Going To Maine at 3:36 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Startpage.com is pretty good too.
posted by Solomon at 3:47 PM on September 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


They're based down the road from my childhood home. I'm illogically proud of that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:47 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just made the switch at work last week. I like the quality of the results, and the ability to to special commands by just typing an exclamation point is pretty nifty. I'm still getting used to the interface - I'd rather it used basic Arial than a web font or whatever it's using - and Google's Skynet magic is markedly missing... but so far, I'm happy.
posted by blue t-shirt at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2014


I have used DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for quite a while now and I find the results to be very useful. The only thing I find Google is better for: searching for photographs of specific merchandise from particular stores/manufacturers (which is a search I do fairly often, oddly enough, "Brand name" + "article of clothing" + "descriptive term").
posted by crush-onastick at 3:53 PM on September 1, 2014


As much as I love them, they've copied Google in one irritating way - unnecessary bad redesign. It hides full URLs by default (only showing top level domain), with a stupid monochrome colour scheme that makes the page titles and the URLs stand out a lot less than the old layout. You can switch back to the Classic look but it's irritating that I have to do it manually every day on my work PC which doesn't store the settings.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 PM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've been using them since 2012 for all my text based searches. I think I was annoyed by Google's lack of tax honesty, as I switched to Bing Maps and stopped using a Googlemail account at the same time. I also resolutely ignore any "install Chrome for a better experience on this website" messages. Indeed, the only thing I used Google for was image search, but since DDG introduced that feature earlier this year I have seldom been to Google.

So, I guess there's a lesson there for companies: pay your taxes and don't act like the rules don't apply to you.
posted by Thing at 3:56 PM on September 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've bounced back-and-forth between DDG and Google for a couple of years now, especially for searches that I'd rather Google not keep a record of. I've noticed over this time that, as DDG got better and better with the quality of the results, Google just got shittier and shittier.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:57 PM on September 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Here's a question that is probably better addressed at AskMe but in context of all the bad things google does I've not found an email service that works as well as gmail for enterprise. I've felt like a prisoner to google for years as they turned my previous line of work upside down (newspapers) and are creating issues for me as a freelancer. I hate the fact that I'm supporting a company that obviously does evil things because of the convenience using their cheap/ free products.
posted by photoslob at 4:03 PM on September 1, 2014


I just made the switch at work last week. I like the quality of the results, and the ability to to special commands by just typing an exclamation point is pretty nifty

I've been using it for a couple of years. I don't like the quality of the results, mostly - in a lot of cases, I try DDG first, and then use the !g command to try it in Google when I'm disappointed in what it gives me. But yeah, those ! commands are absolutely brilliant, once you learn a few.

Some of my favourites;

!d word - Instant dictionary search.
!ety word - Instant etymology.
!wiki something - Instant Wikpedia!
posted by Jimbob at 4:07 PM on September 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


(All aboard the anti-big-tech-company train drone-copter, yeah!)

I remember thinking "I'd use it if they got rid of the scorching orange backgrounds". Musta happened. (It may have even been the Firefox search box icon, in which case I was fussing over 75 pixels. I probably shouldn't admit that.)

Now a reduction in whitespace would be nice. Whitespace: overrated and vaguely reminiscent of domain-parking spam.
posted by sylvanshine at 4:15 PM on September 1, 2014


Whitespace: overrated and vaguely reminiscent of domain-parking spam.

Oh this. 100%. When I first hit DDG after the redesign, my first thought was that I'd typed in the URL wrong and got a parked domain. When I checked the URL, I figured DDG must have been had their domain taken over. It was incredibly jarring.
posted by Jimbob at 4:18 PM on September 1, 2014


I've had DDG in my drop down list of search engines* since about 2009. I switched the default to bing around 2011, which was annoying and most searches there immediately resulted in switching over to the OG. Since the announcement that Google seemed to be actively ruining my favorite part of the internet, this past may, I changed the default to DDG and damn it feels so good. It's improved so much and still has a very light, concise feel to the results that doesn't oppress me with ad based returns. I rarely google now.
The only downside to their format is that google habituated me to mentally skipping over the first 1-3 results. Which means that I'm blinded to the fact that the thing that i'm looking for is at the very top of the search results, nearly every time.
EDIT: OH, and I love, love love the category option blocks in the top when you search for an ambiguous or multi-use term. It really nicely equalizes all the possible things you could be searching for rather than just going to the most commonly searched for meaning.
*in camino, yes, i know what year it is, and no I don't care.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:26 PM on September 1, 2014


I used to use duck duck go, but for some reason I can't remember, started using privatelee.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really want to like it, but it just never seems to meet my needs - at least, not nearly as quickly and easily as Google. I give it another go every few months, with high hopes .. but it hasn't worked out.
posted by dotgirl at 4:29 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


The key bit for folks who don't know much about DuckDuckGo:

When you do a search from DuckDuckGo's website or one of its mobile apps, it doesn't know who you are. There are no user accounts. Your IP address isn't logged by default. The site doesn't use search cookies to keep track of what you do over time or where else you go online. It doesn't save your search history. When you click on a link in DuckDuckGo's results, those websites won't see which search terms you used.
posted by mediareport at 4:30 PM on September 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Oooh, thanks for teaching me that !etymology can be shortened to !ety.

Allow me to say thank you by pointing out that !wiki can also be shortened to !w.

\o/
posted by Earthtopus at 4:30 PM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


DuckDuckGo may finally be the company that proves that Bing is actually very good. DDG is mostly rebranded Microsoft search. They add some value, particularly for shallow queries and navigational queries that make up a lot of casual search traffic. But when it comes to deep queries against a database of the whole Web, DDG is basically Bing. (In the US, at least.)

DDG is more like a metasearch engine, like the old Dogpile or SavvySearch. There's nothing wrong with that. But if Bing disappeared tomorrow, DDG would disappear too. In the US and Europe there's really only two search engines: Google, with Bing being a distant second. Our best opportunity for having a third competitor may well come from the Chinese company Baidu, they're slowly building up US/Europe capability.
posted by Nelson at 4:38 PM on September 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


I have been a happy user of DDG as my default search engine on several of my machines.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:43 PM on September 1, 2014


I theoretically switched to DDG a while back - several months? A year? Dunno exactly. I say "theoretically" because while I have it set up to be my default search engine (so that for example if I type blueberries into my browser's address bar, it will do a DDG search for blueberries), I am so, so used to instead typing google blueberries into the address bar.

I'm trying to break myself of this habit, and just doing blueberries instead, but my brain has been fighting against itself this whole time. I'm seriously considering changing my browser's configuration so that google blueberries will do a DDG search for blueberries.
posted by Flunkie at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also use ecosia.org. They donate 80% of their income to tree planting programs. What other good search engines are out there?
posted by travelwithcats at 5:05 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really tried with DDG, but as noted by Nelson above, as a European user... there were issues.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:23 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


And they do it all with Perl! Bless them.
posted by bonaldi at 5:30 PM on September 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have been using DDG for a while and have largely been happy with it. On the few occasions were I felt that Google might serve me better I use the Disconnect plug-in. The plug-in is supposed to provide privacy protections so long as you have it configured correctly.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 5:36 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Been using it on my laptop since the announcement of the Google Shenanigans here, and mostly like it. have yet to really dig into its features, but I'm happy enough that I might start using it on my other machines as well.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:39 PM on September 1, 2014


Been using DDG for a few years now as my default search. I was originally brought over by their excellent dontbubble.us and donttrack.us sites. You should read those if you've gotten this far down in the thread and don't use DDG.

But after using it for a few years, the thing that makes me love it most are !bang shortcuts. THEY ARE THE SHIT.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:50 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


DDG is mostly rebranded Microsoft search. They add some value, particularly for shallow queries and navigational queries that make up a lot of casual search traffic. But when it comes to deep queries against a database of the whole Web, DDG is basically Bing. (In the US, at least.)

the article mentions that DDG basically outsourced the core search functionality -- but how does this actually work? Do they license Microsoft's code? Do the queries hit Microsoft's servers?
posted by eugenen at 6:00 PM on September 1, 2014


I'd rather it used basic Arial than a web font or whatever it's using

In DDG's settings, you can specify the font. Arial is an option. Sans-Serif is also an option. There's quite a few choices.

I might start using it as my default engine just simply for the dark theme. Looks quite nice.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:11 PM on September 1, 2014


Is there a way to use ddg to google?

So I go over to duckduckgo.com and then search for someone like 'pharell hat' THROUGH google.

Because then I'll be able to take advantage of its privacy, but be able to use google's way better results.

Although, I remember reading ddg's tos or something, and their privacy seems kinda a marketing scam. Let me look for that. Kinda mean thing to say if it isn't true.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:28 PM on September 1, 2014


Another very happy DDG user here. I just love the fact that their search results page is, you know, mostly search results rather than advertisements posing as search results.

I've been using it as the default search engine on my Mac for a year or two now. I'm thrilled that iOS 8 is going to include DDG as one of the search options in Safari. Hopefully that will bring them a few gazillion more users.
posted by alms at 6:43 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


how does this actually work? Do they license Microsoft's code? Do the queries hit Microsoft's servers?

I'm not privy to the details but I'm 99% sure the queries hit Microsoft's servers. The hardest part of running a search engine isn't the algorithms, it's building a distributed system that lets you search all that data in << 100ms. So queries are presumably sent from DDG to Bing, probably with as little personal data as possible to keep your privacy safe. DDG has been fairly open in describing the basics of how stuff works, maybe if you go looking you can find some blog posts from them with details.

In my description of the Google/Bing duopoly over search I forgot to mention Blekko, which does have its own honest search index.
posted by Nelson at 6:54 PM on September 1, 2014


So, what is DDG's business model? The article says "Search ads", but then just moves on - and then there's the whole Bing thing. Is MS paying DDG for traffic?

It's all lovely stuff, but I'dve appreciated a bit more discussion about how they're going to make back that VC and how much evil that will involve.
posted by Devonian at 6:56 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Is there a way to use ddg to google?

I think you just type '!g pharell hat' - see all the bang commands
posted by stbalbach at 6:57 PM on September 1, 2014




> Do they license Microsoft's code? Do the queries hit Microsoft's servers?

Extremely unlikely they license Microsoft's code. They'd be licensing access to Microsoft's search services (albeit probably at negotiated rates rather than anything off the transaction table on that page), which provides them access to the Bing search API. There might be Microsoft-provided code included as part of the deal, but that's ancillary to the access license. Yahoo!'s search services are also licensed from Microsoft Bing.
posted by ardgedee at 7:24 PM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, what is DDG's business model?

Search ads. Details here. "The advertising we syndicate through Yahoo! is part of the Yahoo-Microsoft search alliance." So basically they're showing Microsoft's ads. They are probably paying Microsoft to answer the search traffic, but given Microsoft's willingness to burn giant piles of cash keeping their losing competitor to Google afloat, I suspect they aren't charging DDG much for search access. Or maybe nothing, depending on the details of the ad syndication deal.

DDG publishes traffic stats: 19 million searches / day. Let's talk a wild shot in the dark and say DDG ads make $10 / 1000 searches (roughly in line with Bing 2011 numbers). That's a penny a search or about $190,000 a day. I'd be surprised if DDG got to keep even 10% of that number; they syndicating both the ads and the searches.

So maybe DDG makes like $20,000 gross revenue / day, or $70M/year. ⋇500%. That sounds like a lot, but then servers and employees are expensive. OTOH DuckDuckGo is mostly bootstrapped; they've only raised $3M total, keeping things very lean and trying to operate at a profit. My guess is it's working.

Gabriel Weinberg, the founder and CEO, is a very shrewd entrepreneur. I admire the hell out of what he's built. OTOH he's entirely beholden to a very few business deals, mostly with Microsoft. It's working now, I hope it continues to work. A big worry is how committed Microsoft remains to running a search engine; they're losing literally hundreds of millions of dollars on it. So far Satya Nadella, the new Microsoft CEO, hasn't made any bold moves. But if you were looking to clean up Microsoft's balance sheet then selling off the search engine would be an obvious thing to do.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 PM on September 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is interesting, I hadn't heard of it. I will give it a go.
posted by Librarypt at 7:32 PM on September 1, 2014


Just wanted to point out that DDG does not exclusively use Bing for it's search results.
posted by hambone at 8:11 PM on September 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


With all the bang talk, this thread is overdue for

https://duckduckgo.com/bang.html

which, incidentally, I could not find directly using DuckDuckGo!

The above isn't complete. It appears there are hundreds of commands, as they can be suggested by users here.
posted by sylvanshine at 8:11 PM on September 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


When I was stuck in Beijing for a couple of days this summer, I was using an iPad to kill time during the layovers. The default iOS search engine is Google, which of course does not work in China.

After the first few confused 'why isn't my page loading?' moments (the Great Firewall is not as obvious as you might think: it's just a 404 whereas I thought it would be like a NetNanny warning page or something), I fired up DuckDuckGo.com and crossed my fingers that that was the right URL. It was and I was pretty stoked to do the searching I needed to do while using a search engine I'd long been curious about anyway. So full points to DDG (and MetaFilter, which also works just fine in China) and my thanks to their team.
posted by librarylis at 8:56 PM on September 1, 2014


Would love to use, but here in HK it's painfully slow.... no local server I guess. Took 30 seconds to process my last query.
posted by modernnomad at 1:14 AM on September 2, 2014


The summary at the bottom of that "Illusion of Privacy" article:

This is not an indictment of DuckDuckGo per se. Except in as far as they are taking advantage of the hysteria to their own ends. Every provider needs to be upfront with saying, “If it is indeed true that the NSA is monitoring our ingress/egress traffic, we can make no guarantee of privacy regardless of encryption or other efforts on our part.”

In the larger picture, this is the crux of the problem not just for DuckDuckGo, but the internet as a whole. Until and unless agencies like the NSA are forbidden from conducting dragnet collection and analysis of data, there can be no privacy. Privacy is merely an illusion at this point.


That seems a fair point, though one that applies to everything on the Internet.
posted by mediareport at 5:03 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I guess "You won't be tracked for commercial purposes but the government is still tracking you" is the best we can hope for?

That's still a big step up from Google.
posted by mediareport at 5:06 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


!mefi to search here
posted by chavenet at 5:24 AM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


The NSA should just go ahead and create a targeted ad platform already. Its ability to create far-reaching consumer profiles of its "customers" surely outclasses Facebook's and Google's. The sector is just ripe for disruption. It would be irresponsible not to maximize profit for the taxpayer.

(In 2026, the federal income tax is repealed, but you have to sit through an NSA-delivered ad each morning and after waking up from a nap.)
posted by nobody at 5:28 AM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been using it for a couple of years and it owns.

I really love the new maps, despite their limitations. Does anyone know of a reliable way to tell DDG "I really do want you to show a map for this search term"?
posted by liliillliil at 7:03 AM on September 2, 2014


but given Microsoft's willingness to burn giant piles of cash keeping their losing competitor to Google afloat

Yes, Microsoft will even give you rewards for using Bing.
posted by smackfu at 7:30 AM on September 2, 2014


"wiki " will generally give you the wikipedia entry for the thing as the first result on Google too, but I guess it's nice to make it explicit.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:48 AM on September 2, 2014


I've switched to DDG many times now. (It's like quitting smoking, if I'd ever started.) I keep getting hung up on response speed - for all it's shittiness, the one thing Google search still has going for it is blinding speed. I barely finish typing before the responses show up.

So I keep doing this cycle of DDG, DDG "!g", oh hell switch to Google, but this sucks, switch to Bing for a test, but those really aren't as good as what I get with Google...
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:08 AM on September 2, 2014


BTW, if you like these ! shortcut searches DDG offers, your browser probably supports something like it right in the address bar. Here's how to customize it in Chrome. Chrome also automatically adds searches it finds on sites you visit regularly. In my browser if I type "metaf" I'm prompted to hit tab, then whatever I type is done as a custom Metafilter search, not a generic Google search.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's even easier in Firefox. Just right click a search box, click 'Add keyword for this search', then choose your keyword. I'm so used to just typing w for wikipedia, et for etymology, etc in the address bar that using non-configured PCs feels like the internet on Hard Mode.

I had no idea DDG was doing this well! It's comforting to see that there actually is a strong consumer demand for sanity in privacy.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:41 AM on September 2, 2014


Because then I'll be able to take advantageof its privacy, but be able to use google's way better results.

You could also use the Disconnect search engine or plugin to do anon google searches.
posted by ersatz at 9:10 AM on September 2, 2014


Video of DDG founder Gabriel Weinberg speaking at Gel 2013, the only conference presentation he's given to date. (Full disclosure, it's my conference.)
posted by mark7570 at 9:26 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I submitted !discogs you're welcome
posted by mike_bling at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2014


YaCy is a peer-to-peer search engine which may be of some interest to those looking for Google alternatives.
posted by Golem XIV at 9:45 AM on September 2, 2014


Yes, Microsoft will even give you rewards for using Bing.

That is really sad.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:47 AM on September 2, 2014


Logged in just to favourite this FPP, hard. Been in their tester group, and even then, they rarely and gently and appreciatively email. No spam even. Dudes deserve all the support they can get.

Now, can I please sort by time [day, week, month etc] so that I can give up the other guy completely, please? And get a little global in your news sites?
posted by infini at 10:50 AM on September 2, 2014


My default search in my tor browser is DuckDuckGo's Tor hidden enclave. That might solve some of the problems relating to the NSA watching everything that comes in and out of DDG's servers.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify - it's not a monopolized market.

This statement has no other judgement on the quality or accuracy of the rest of the article.
posted by foxywombat at 1:48 PM on September 2, 2014


One great way to combat the NSA (and other nefarious gov'ts) in this area is to use SSL, which both DDG and Google use by default.
posted by Inkoate at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2014


Who needs googly.com if you can have giphy.com?
posted by travelwithcats at 7:43 PM on September 2, 2014


I've used DDG for a couple of years now, and I'm very happy with it. Now and then I go to Google for more results, but not often, and it's very jarring to do so.
posted by lhauser at 8:22 PM on September 2, 2014


The fact that DDG is essentially a wrapper service around Bing is what makes it weird to me. At least if I use Bing or Google, I know I'm not using a rebranded product. It feels like when you buy a supermarket brand cola, and it turns out you're still buying Coca Cola.

I suppose the privacy stuff is something.
posted by zoo at 12:43 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I looked at their hiring page, just out of curiosity: "Back-end (Perl) engineers." What? I really want to hear them explain that. The answer will be either hilarious or really educational. I just don't know which.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:37 PM on September 3, 2014


Safari 7.1 for the Mac, just released by Apple, includes Duck Duck Go as one of the search engine options.

It was already possible to use Duck Duck Go from Safari by using the DDG extension. But this change will make DDG visible and accessible to people who didn't already know about it.
posted by alms at 8:53 AM on September 18, 2014


Well, that didn't take long. Duck Duck Go is now blocked in China. Welcome to the big leagues.
posted by alms at 7:08 AM on September 23, 2014


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