Why I use DuckDuckGo, and you should too

Posted: February 13, 2012 Comments(3)

Why I use DuckDuckGo, and you should too – Clif Reeder.

A few weeks ago I followed along with Ben Brooks and ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. I’m not a privacy zealot and I know that my usage of Google is for their sole purpose of getting to know me better in an effort to send me more targeted advertisements. I get it, but I never used Google websites aside from Search and I’ve become so conditioned to ignore ads I hardly ever noticed them. I guess I was fine with what Google was doing because it had little to no effect on me.

But I like competition. Google’s search process hasn’t changed all that much in recent memory (instant search, sure) and I liked some of the details bubbling up about DuckDuckGo.

I’m about 3 weeks in and so far I’d rate DuckDuckGo about a 7 out of 10. The search takes longer, and results are not what I expect. I often find myself hitting the 5th or 6th link instead of the first I found very common when using Google.

Perhaps it’s the profile of me they’ve collected over the past decade that helps with that, I’m not sure, but at the end of the day the results are faster and better.

One of the biggest things people like about DuckDuckGo is outlined in this article, their bang syntax. I see the value and think it’s a genius idea, but in practice (for me) it falls short.

For instance, if you bang search !wordpress you end up at the Codex search which is… a Google Custom Search. That’s a very circular approach to me. I’ve found with many other sites as well that the on site search is rarely (if ever) better than what you’d get should you use a proper search engine. I could be missing the boat here, but my bang searches haven’t been all that assistive and in fact felt very cumbersome.

I’m going to stick it out another week or so, and I love DuckDuckGo’s approach, but there have been times in the past couple of weeks where I’ve consciously thought “I can’t wait to switch back to Google for this”.

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  1. I’ve thought about switching from Google on numerous occasions, simply just to try something different again. However, I really, really wouldn’t want to lose my search history – that’s the one thing that’s truly kept me at Google for this long. I recently found out that Bing also offers search history.

    I think if I seriously gave any other search engine an opportunity, it’d have to be Bing. DuckDuckGo’s features seem more like toys to me than actual features. Toys are fun, there’s no denying that, but *to me* at least they don’t seem to empower me much. (If it helps others, then I’m glad for both them and DuckDuckGo!)

  2. Jonathan,

    I, too, made the switch to DDG a few weeks ago when I read Ben’s post, and I have also had middling results with it. Like you, I find myself having to parse through many more results before finding a relevant answer to my query.

    In order to give them a fair shake, I have attempted to re-build my queries when I have some time, but it reminds me of the webcrawler days prior to Google’s birth when it would take multiple refinements of a query before actually finding a good set of results. Google’s algorithm did away with that.

    The issue that DDG has is that it relies on multiple search engines and their algorithms which may or may not be as good as Google’s. I’m still not sure how many of the results provided are based on DDG’s own algorithm, or if they are simply performing as a webcrawler. If you use the bang modifiers, this is a non-issue, but then you are just performing a specific search on another engine, not DDG directly.

    Regarding the Google Custom Search hand-off when doing a !wordpress search, I would think that since DDG is the proxy that there should not be any transfer of information that would be privacy issue; however, I’ve not drilled down to verify this.

    Of course, if you are using the Chrome web browser, you are likely already being thoroughly tracked by Google (and will be agreeing to their new combined privacy policy on 3/1/2012 if you continue to use it), so that nullifies some of the privacy advantages.

    I switched to DDG for the features, not privacy concerns, since I am a Chrome user. I’ve been trying to switch back from Chrome, but Firefox was a memory hog that ran slow and morphed into something that is almost a clone of Chrome, but crashes too much for my liking. Safari lacks the extensions I want and use, and like it’s cousin, iTunes, runs horribly and crashes a lot on my Windows machines. And ye ol’ Internet Explorer is getting better, but also suffers from odd performance issues, lack of extensions, and no Mac OS X version.

    That said, DDG cannot hope to keep me around on the privacy selling point. I’m hoping they continue to improve it, and I will keep it as my default for the time being, but I do find myself falling back to Google on the odd occasion.

  3. “The search takes longer, and results are not what I expect. I often find myself hitting the 5th or 6th link instead of the first I found very common when using Google.”

    This is exactly why I have to cringe when I hear people complain about “search bubbles.” If you want to know more about an opposing viewpoint, just search for it. For instance. I can’t stand this Santorum guy. When I search for politics, he’s probably not going to be high up on the list of search results based on how much I avoid Fox News and various tea party/radical christian web sites. However if I search for him, he comes up. No big deal.

    At the end of the day, Google provides a service. A free service, for me. I am under no obligation to pay, but clicking a link that gets them paid through advertisers is in their best interest. If they can do that AND make me happy by providing me with search results I find pleasing (aka, not Santorum), I’m all for search bubbles.

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