Just last week, DuckDuckGo hit 10 million searches in a day. I’ve been using it as my main search engine for a few weeks now, and I’ve been loving it; it’s pretty easy to see why it’s becoming so popular. Here are just three reasons.
1. DuckDuckGo care about privacy
They have a number of pro-privacy measures, and they’re pretty well thought out. For instance, not only do they use HTTPS by default, but they will also send you to the secure versions of any other sites you visit from theirs. This helps prevent eavesdropping, but still might not be completely NSA and GCHQ proof. Fear not though, because DuckDuckGo also operate a .onion service for the TOR network.
DuckDuckGo doesn’t save your search history either. Your search can’t be linked back to you, either directly or indirectly, and DuckDuckGo does not construct a profile on you as you use their service. This is in stark contrast to Google, who since point B on the graph combine the data they have on you from almost all of their services in order to form a more complete picture of your life.
Google use this to tailor their search results (and adverts) specifically to you, hopefully providing you with a better service in exchange for your data and faith in their “don’t be evil” manta. Unfortunately the NSA and the GCHQ don’t have the same manta. They do, however, by one way or another (or yet another) have access to this data once it exists. With DuckDuckGo I occasionally have to specify an additional term to clarify exactly what I mean, but on the whole their no tracking policy still gives very accurate search results so I’m happy to make that trade-off.
2. Features like !bangs are useful
When you type a search into DuckDuckGo you can add a !bang to be automatically redirected to the search results from a different website. So if you wanted to search amazon you’d just add !a or !amazon to your search, and if you wanted to search wikipedia you’d add !w or !wikipedia.
There are over 6,000 of these, with popular sites usually having more than one possible bang. I’ve found that this is generally enough that I can just assume that a bang exists for whatever site I want to search, and add !domainname to my search to go there. This is particularly useful if you set DuckDuckGo as the default search in your browser; I can just type in “help everything’s broken !stackoverflow” straight into my address bar to search stackoverflow, or “!answer if evolution is true why hasn’t my dog turned into an elephant?” to search Yahoo answers.
The added advantage of this is that if you ever can’t find what you’re looking for using DuckDuckGo, you can just add !g or !google to search the HTTPS version of Google for the same thing. More often than not, when DuckDuckGo hasn’t been able to give me a relevant result nor has Google, but it’s nice to able to check so easily. It certainly makes switching that much easier.
3. Instant answers and DuckDuckHack
Instant answers appear below the search box, above the results, much in the same way that Google’s do. DuckDuckGo’s seem to be more powerful though, and cover a wider range of topics too. Plus if you want to add more there’s an open source community you can join to do so called DuckDuckHack.
The most useful instant answers, like the weather or Wikipedia summaries, will just pop up as a nice surprise as you go about your business. A few cool ones to try though are:
- Who’s in space?
- Characters in the Simpson’s
- Pokédex information on any Pokémon
- Guitar chords
- A hex colour picker
DuckDuckGo can also do a fair amount of maths, and use some basic formula like the wavelength and frequency relationship. It’s no WolframAlpha – DuckDuckGo isn’t gonna solve that bitch of an integral for you just yet – but you can always just add !wa or !wolframalpha to pass the query on.
Maintaining your privacy online is a lot harder than simply switching search engine, but doing so undoubtedly helps. If you’re like me and you still use Facebook and maybe Gmail too, an even better reason to start using DuckDuckGo than the privacy side of things is that it’s actually pretty good. Features like !bangs and the growing wealth of instant answers make DuckDuckGo really nice to use, and I’ve had no problems with the results it gives.