duck duck go

The rise and rise of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo

Feel as though your every online move is being monitored? You’re far from alone. With social media giant Facebook braced for a record-breaking fine following a major data breach last March, data privacy concerns have gone mainstream.

While Google Home knows your voice and routines, Google News knows the articles you read, Google Photos knows where you travel. YouTube follows people around the internet, and Google Maps knows about your travel habits.

So it’s perhaps hardly surprising that we’re increasingly reluctant to have our search histories made public, or to live through the ‘filter bubble’. (The process by which Google and co filter your search results based on your profile and what you are most likely to click on.)

For some, the sheer convenience of what Google offers is worth it, while untangling yourself from the seductive pull of this search giant can seem daunting.

But there’s an alternative, in the shape of the privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, founded in 2008. It provides anonymous local results thanks to IP look-ups, and discards data immediately while never storing user locations in its server logs.

It’s included in Safari and Firefox as an optional extension and search engine, while search ads are syndicated through Yahoo and Bing.

Community manager Daniel Davis told Forbes: “We don’t collect personal information – we don’t even have a concept of search histories.”

DuckDuckGo commissioned research revealing that nearly a quarter (24%) of Americans will consider privacy a vital factor in their next device purchase. Equally, most (65%) would switch to a search engine which didn’t gather information about them.

DuckDuckGo has become particularly and increasingly visible in the last six years or so, its popularity growing steeply from around January 2013, amid growing privacy and surveillance and concerns and awareness.

What has DuckDuckGo got going for it?

  • Privacy is stressed aggressively
  • The company doesn’t store a single byte of users’ search histories
  • Its extension means users can’t be tracked elsewhere
  • There’s a small team of 55 employees, and DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014
  • Advertising is based on search terms, not personal profiles or search history
  • All the elements are there, from news and videos to pictures and web pages – and you can search thousands of other sites straight from DuckDuckGo too, while all Apple Maps features are available for local and map-based searches

While switching to this search engine alone isn’t enough to alleviate all privacy concerns, it could be an important first step.

DuckDuckGo in numbers

  • Nine billion searches in 2018 – in 2016, it was four billion
  • In October 2018, it reported 30 million daily queries
  • More than 25 billion searches to date
  • On January 2, they broke their record for most queries in a single day, at over 34, 400,000
  • Year-on-year growth has been consistent at around 50%

Of course, market share is still small compared with the search giants. (It has roughly 1% of Google’s daily search volume.) But its playing of the privacy angle has been highly effective, and if it continues to grow at the same rate, it will become even more attractive to paid-search advertisers. So it’s definitely one to watch.

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