DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that doesn’t track you. This alternative to Google, Bing, and Yahoo is growing fast. Here’s an introduction to DuckDuckGo and a look at how it protects your privacy.
What Is DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo is a search engine focused on privacy. To use it, you just head to duckduckgo.com instead of google.com or bing.com. Then, you search just like you normally would. But DuckDuckGo promises to protect your privacy and not to track you—we’ll explain what that means in more detail.
You can also make DuckDuckGo your default search engine in browsers like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge. Whenever you search from your browser’s location bar or new tab page, you’ll be taken to DuckDuckGo instead of Google. DuckDuckGo is built into modern web browsers as one of the default options, and switching just takes a few clicks or taps.
DuckDuckGo looks a lot like Google. It can search websites, images, videos, news articles, and shopping web pages. It has built-in maps with navigation powered by Apple Maps. It has dictionary results, Wikipedia integration, and other instant answers, just like Google does.
Of course, DuckDuckGo doesn’t offer the exact same search results that Google does. DuckDuckGo’s results will be different.
How Does DuckDuckGo Protect Your Privacy?
Google has an account system, and a history of your searches on Google is stored in your Google Activity by default. Google also uses your activity to customize your search results, attempting to deliver more personalized, relevant search results. Even if you’re not signed in, Google remembers your search history and ties it to a browser cookie.
Of course, Google also tracks you across other websites through Google Analytics, tracks the YouTube videos you watch, knows about your movements through Google Maps, and so on. Google tracks a lot of data that it uses to customize your experience—and show you personalized advertisements. Lots of this data feeds into Google AdSense, which shows you personalized advertisements on many websites you visit. (You can view much of this Google account activity data and delete it.)
Because it doesn’t track any information about you, DuckDuckGo also doesn’t serve you customized search results based on your browsing. In other words, there’s no “filter bubble” showing you different search results from the ones other people see.
How Does DuckDuckGo Work?
According to the DuckDuckGo Help Pages, DuckDuckGo gets its results from over 400 sources. For example, some “Instant Answer” results come from Wikipedia.
As DuckDuckGo’s documentation puts it: “We also of course have more traditional links in the search results, which we also source from multiple partners, though most commonly from Bing (and none from Google).”
So DuckDuckGo isn’t just Bing—it’s more than that—but much of the website’s search results are sourced from Bing’s website-crawling data. DuckDuckGo says that it never shares private information with any of its partners. When you search on DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckGo’s servers talk to Bing (and its other partners), and those partners don’t see your IP address or know anything about you. They can’t track individuals.
How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?
DuckDuckGo is free. So how does it make money? Simple—through advertising.
These ads aren’t personalized at all. They’re just associated with individual searches. So, when you search “lawn mower,” you will see ads for lawn mowers in the search results. Then, when you search “dishwasher,” you’ll see ads for dishwashers.
You won’t keep seeing lawn mower advertisements following you around. You won’t wake up the next day and see ads for combination lawn mower plus dishwasher bundles in your specific area. DuckDuckGo doesn’t even remember what you just searched for.
It turns out that showing ads just based on search results pays the bills.
And, for many results, DuckDuckGo has even fewer advertisements than Google itself.
Who Owns DuckDuckGo, and Is It Safe?
DuckDuckGo is owned by a company named Duck Duck Go, Inc. The company is based out of Paoli, Pennsylvania, and it has 124 employees around the world as of January 2021.
This search engine was launched in 2008, more than a decade ago. Since then, DuckDuckGo’s traffic continues to climb to new heights. As of January 19, 2021, more than 102 million searches are being performed on DuckDuckGo each day.
DuckDuckGo is as safe as a search engine can be, and it’s legit—it isn’t some new, fly-by-night company. It’s one of the few search engines offered as an option by default in all major web browsers and is widely trusted.
Is DuckDuckGo Good, Compared to Google?
DuckDuckGo isn’t identical to Google—as its documentation points out, many of the web results come from Bing.
Whether DuckDuckGo is a good replacement for Google depends on what you’re searching for and where you live. If you’re interested in switching, there’s only one way to find out: Try using DuckDuckGo, and see how it goes. Switch your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and see if you’re happy with the results.
Bear in mind that the results won’t be personalized to you based on your history. Google does a lot of personalization based on your past activity, and you might have to be a little more specific in your DuckDuckGo searches to find exactly what you’re looking for.
But, as of early 2021, DuckDuckGo’s results are better than ever. If you’d like to keep your searches private, get away from services owned by huge tech companies, and avoid hyper-personalized advertisements and search results, DuckDuckGo is the search engine you should try.
Want more privacy for your online conversations? Consider switching to Signal, the secure messaging app.