You’ve probably never heard of DuckDuckGo. And, no, it’s not a game kids play. We’d say it’s just a small alternative search engine with a silly name, but it’s more than that. Once you know what it is, you might not go back to Google. Or Bing. Or Yahoo.
The ambitious Philadelphia-based upstart has been called the “anti-Google,” “bizarro-world Google,” and even the stripped-down “In-N-Out” burger of search engines. We think DuckDuckGo could be what most of us wish the Almighty Google would be, post-Edward Snowden whistleblowing -- a more private, anonymous way to search the web. At least that’s what its founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg says it is -- not that he hasn't suffered his share of scrutiny since founding the company out of his own pocket in 2008.
But back to the warm, fuzzy dream of safely searching the web under the NSA’s radar, not under its watchful eye. Think simple, spam-free search results without all the sketchy spy stuff. Minus recording your IP address. Minus tracking cookies. No personal information collected. No personal information shared. Hallelujah, right? Or is it all too good to be true?
We’re pretty sure you’ll be hearing more than a few quacks about DuckDuckGo in the media soon. In the meantime, here are six key things you should know about the little search engine that can:
1. It’s big on privacy.
The words underneath DuckDuckGo’s search box read “Search anonymously. Find instantly.” Search anonymously isn’t an exaggeration. In this case, it means that DuckDuckGo doesn’t know who you are when you use it and can’t -- and pledges not to -- tie your searches back to you.
2. It doesn’t collect and save your identifying data.
Unlike its bigger, nosier brothers (ahem, Google, Yahoo and Bing), DuckDuckGo claims it never nabs your IP address -- ever -- giving you wings to freely fly the far reaches of the Internet privately. Oh, the places you’ll go! Or not.
Other identifying information that DuckDuckGo says it doesn’t save includes: login credentials for other services, like usernames and email addresses and social media logins, individual identifiers stored in browser cookies, dates and times of your searches and quite a bit more.
3. It doesn’t save or share what you search for.
Somewhat disappointingly, unlike Google, DuckDuckGo offers no “Search History” option. So, nope, you can’t go back and dig through all of your (or your 13-year-old son’s) past searches for stuff you wish you didn’t forget.
The often uncomfortably personal contents of your searches also won’t be shared with (or hawked to) third-party advertisers, insurance companies, college admissions officers, employers, and the list goes frighteningly on.
DuckDuckGo really, really wants you to know why it’s important to protect your searches, which the company explains in this eye-opening illustrated guide.
4. It doesn’t offer the joys of auto-complete.
It’s also notable that DuckDuckGo doesn’t offer a search auto-complete feature. You know, like that sometimes hilariously revealing one that’s so fun to rubberneck at on Google. Instead, DuckDuckGo filters out overly advertisement-cluttered results and mainly serves up relevant, refreshingly spam-free results.
5. Yup, you will run into ads.
6. It’s growing fast, but not fast enough to threaten Google, not even a little.
Sure, DuckDuckGo snagged a few sparkly headlines when it nearly doubled its usual traffic “pretty much overnight” after Edward Snowden let the NSA’s PRISM spying racket out of the bag.
And, yes, it’s notable that fledgling site last year pulled in more than 1 billion searches in all. Still, that’s a teeny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to Google. One billion also happens to be the number of searches the Google machine gobbles up in a single day alone.
Keep quacking, DuckDuckGo. Looks like you have some catching up to do, big time.