With Google search data being a hotter topic since NSA’s Prism scandal, the door has opened for new competitors like DuckDuckGo (DDG), an app that does not track IP addresses or internet search results. DDG’s niche marketing is clear, concise, and effective. They call themselves “The search engine that does not track you.”
At least a dozen search engines have come and gone since the early dot-com era but Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, changed the playing field. Since starting their business in a friend’s garage in 1998, Page and Brin’s one-stop search engine has become the default location for a huge portion of the internet population. Although NASA’s Prism scandal likely plays at least a small role in how much hotter Google’s competition has gotten, many competitors like DuckDuckGo have been able to make a splash by looking at what people want out of a search engine in today’s market, and working hard to give it to them.
When looking at the increase in DDG searches over the last few years, it is clear that the NSA scandal has likely pushed multitudes of people toward the app. DuckDuckGo’s search numbers went up nearly 600 percent between the beginning of 2011, when Google made the announcement they were retaining user data and the middle of 2013 when Edward Snowden and the NSA shocked the world.
DDG’s policy of “Zero Click Info,” means no cookies are used by default. There are no ads above your results in a DDG search window and they do not save your search information. Everything you look for is private and your IP address is never retained. That being said, they do have a nifty “goodie” that lets you find out your IP address by typing “IP” in the search window. DDG provides their results as more of a brief summary than the search giant’s more extensive search. While they are not a replacement for Google, DuckDuckGo is certainly very viable niche alternative, particularly for the privacy-conscious.
Any settings that users save remain on their own computers, rather than the DDG servers. The computer savvy can turn this setting off as well. Particular searches are never saved and if a cookie is required or a non-personal search saved, it is not personalized, looking instead like php=3&amazon=18&java=5. Although DuckDuckGo would have to comply with all legal requests, they do not expect subpoenas since they do not collect personal information.
DDG and its founders feel that internet search histories are deeply personal. The company’s founder, Gabriel Weinberg, said, “I am not surprised that governments seek that information. As far as Google storing so much data about individuals, they are the parent company of DoubleClick; their money is made by what users type in the search box.” That is simply not the behavior DuckDuckGo chose to engage in as a company.
DDG has a Mozilla add-on that is easy to install. Although the company president complains that Google has attempted to make DDG’s Chrome install more difficult, most users can use the app inside Chrome within five steps; alternatively, it is easy to set DDG as a homepage. DuckDuckGo also has an active community in the form of forums where users can jump in and make suggestions, provide geekery assistance through hacking, and help translate from one language to another.
When comparing Google’s 13 billion daily user searches versus DuckDuckGo’s three million searches a day, DDG currently seems to barely be a blip on the larger company’s radar. However, DuckDuckGo and many other up-and-coming search engine competitor outfits are on fire and burning hotter since Google played a starring role in NSA’s Prism scandal. It will be interesting to see if the public’s quest for privacy pushes DuckDuckGo into a larger share of the search engine market.
By Jenny Hansen