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Is the DuckDuckGo search engine the new Google?

Author
Victoria Affleck | 31 Aug 2018

Digital marketing executive. Creative wordsmith with an inventive mind. Partial to a brew, or two.

In September 2008, DuckDuckGo search engine founder Gabriel Weinberg created an anonymous search site emphasising protecting searchers privacy and avoiding personalised search results. Their motto is: "the search engine that doesn't track you” and promises to not use cookies to follow users or collect any personal information on those who use it. 

In recent years, searching privately on the web has become a priority to many, and is why alternative search engines to Google have grown significantly in popularity. Today, with the added worry of government surveillance and heightened worries over personal data, there has been a distinct rise in the number of people using ‘private’ search engines. DuckDuckGo, in particular, have seen a sudden spike in users using the site – especially after Edward Snowden endorsed the use of private search tools for their lack of tracking back in 2013, when the number of searches via DuckDuckGo grew by 600%. Recently they have hit a daily direct search record of 25,568,558 private searches – a huge success and why it is considered one of the best private search engine websites.

However, there has always been a DuckDuckGo vs Google argument – can it really overtake such a prominent household name?

How is DuckDuckGo different?

Photo credit: Sharaf Maksumov / Shutterstock

When you visit the biggest search engines, such as Google and Bing – even in private mode – the search terms are sent to the site you are visiting in the HTTP referrer header. As soon as you visit the website, your computer automatically shares information, including your IP address which can be used to identify you as it pinpoints your location and computer. 

DuckDuckGo calls this “search leakage” and prevents it happening by default on its search results, making it a unique search engine site. 

What makes the DuckDuckGo search engine so different is that, unlike other major search engines, websites know that you have visited them, but they don't know what search terms you entered beforehand to reach the page, nor can they use personal information to identify you. The founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, doesn’t understand why search engines need to share personal data, and claims Google user search tracking is “unnecessary”.

Investment into the private DuckDuckGo search engine

Photo credit: Sharaf Maksumov / Shutterstock

Over the last few years, popularity of the search engine has increased considerably, leading to the company receiving a $10 million investment through a partnership with OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) – one of Canada’s largest pension funds – to help the search engine continue expanding its privacy protection worldwide.

OMERS decided to invest as they believe that the public is now starting to realize what it’s giving up as a result of other tech giants misusing customer data and user privacy. OMERS said: “[DuckDuckGo] is the leading company that’s figured out a different business model. It’s proving that, in search, it’s possible to both make money and respect privacy and data sovereignty.” And the numbers show that DuckDuckGo does have it “figured out”, having been a profitable company since 2014.

Privacy is important to Canadians, so it is unsurprising that OMERS have invested so highly into the anonymous search engine. In a July 2018 survey of 667 Canadian adults, 43% have taken a significant online privacy action, such as installing “browser extensions to block web trackers”, so there is definitely a growing market for private search engines. In addition to the DuckDuckGo search engine itself, it is also available through mobile apps and a browser extension that comes with tracker blocking, encryption, and website privacy grades.