The curious case of DuckDuckGo

I am searching for a search engine that doesn’t make me worry about privacy as I search. Why do I worry about privacy? Because this scale of private information on evil hands can create a havoc. I am not saying search engines today are evil. I am saying that this data may one day fall on evil hands. Here is a link to one cause of the fear: Google Hack Attack Was Ultra Sophisticated, New Details Show.

Enter DuckDuckGo, a search company that mentions “… does not collect or share personal information” in their privacy policy that also provides a link to an illustrated guide to the current privacy vulnerability. Sounds promising.

But how about the search itself. Is this one-man show at all comparable to the multi-billion dollar competitors? I think DuckDuckGo does beat them in several front. In fact, two searches that I did over the past week led me to this write-up, not the privacy debacle.

Case I: Google over does search

I searched Google for “College or UnCollege?”, the topic of my previous post, to see if my blog post shows up in the Google search result or not. The result was different from what I expected:

Google thought I misspelled my search query and showed results for “College or College?”. This must be because Uncollege is not in Google’s dictionary yet. The case in point: Google decided that I typed a wrong query and went ahead to show results for what it thought I meant rather than asking me if I meant to search for what it thinks was the correct query.

I did the same search in DuckDuckGo and I got results as expected. Simple.

Case II: Google doesn’t do enough

This one was a test that I came up with. I searched the word “Java” in Google. Google returned results in 0.11 seconds and all results on the front page related to Java, the programming language. But, aren’t there different meanings of the word Java? What if I was searching for place Java of Java Coffee fame. I would need to scan through the search results, spanning multi-pages (second page in this), until I came across the one that related to Java, the place.

I searched “Java” in DuckDuckGo. And guess what? DDG showed this “Get results for different meanings of Java” box that showed different meanings of Java that you could select to refine your search. ”Java is the most populous island in Indonesia” was the text suggesting the place reference of the word Java. DDG did take about a second to bring the results (which is 10 times longer that Google’s response time) but since I did not have to go through results to find out whether the results were related to my search context, I arrived at the desired result faster. Google has made search responses blazing fast, but not necessarily the process of you reaching your desired results.

To conclude, I am impressed by DuckDuckGo as pro-privacy search engine with nifty features that seem to be better than Google in certain circumstances. I am definitely going to try switching from Google. That would make a great post no matter what the outcome :)

 

PS: Please join the discussion at Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2911175

13 thoughts on “The curious case of DuckDuckGo

  1. So your one time particular use case of a word that is not common should take precedence over the 99% likelihood in all other cases that a misspelling does occur? I tried giving DuckDuckGo a one week exclusive trial, it failed. I need to get my job done and done right and fast access to correct information is what I need. Google is still the best search engine, and the competition needs to realize that people search for information, not privacy.Also, I would like to propose the concept that good precision of search results is inversely correlated to privacy: consider that in order to get me what I want you have to understand me and my context — there goes privacy.PS, this "Also post to: F" thing is ridiculous, it obscures my typing… who designed this thing?

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  2. i have been using duckduck for about a year and love it. I am seeing the searches get better each month

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  3. Camron

    Google knows what you search by storing preferences. Get a coffee-lover to Google "Java" (who does not do programming or computer stuff) and see what happens.This article stinks of hidden advertisement.

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  4. filterfish

    I’ve been using DDG for about 2 months now and have no intention of going back to google.DDG doesn’t try to be all things to all people: if it doesn’t know the answer it gives you the option of using one of the other search engines.The !<blah> syntax is also very useful, once you’ve been using it for a while you get to know when google is better and you can just prefix your search with !g.

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  5. Duckduckgo is great and very useful. I am using it more and more as time passes.@Camron: you’re missing the point. We don’t want search engines to store info about us. We prefer privacy and search tools that don’t decide for us what we want or need.

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  6. Shishir Bashyal

    @victor, one does not need to understand me to give me the search results. It can guide me through the disambiguation process to help me reach my destination. The only thing privacy is inversely proportional to is the advertisement money.@camron, this write-up may stink of advertisement. Word-of-mouth is an advertisement, a good one at that.I have seen comments emphasizing DDG’s bang feature. I love it so far. I didn’t write about bangs in this post because I was comparing different results for same search.I was not simply promoting DDG. I was comparing it.Thanks everyone for your participation. Please keep it coming :)

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  7. Ereid Gjergji

    Actually there are many search engines that are very useful and better somehow for our purposes, that’s why is important to check them all. Anyways Google is still a giant and remains the strongest with Yahoo/Bing just like Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia.The point is what do you use the search engine for… is it for personal research about a given topic or to see you website ranking?If you care about privacy you might consider also:[url=http://www.ixquick.com/]Ixquick[/url]also google itself has an encrypted version:[url=https://encrypted.google.com/]Google Encrypted Beta Version[/url]

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  8. anon

    NO Mention of Tin Foil hat you are currently wearing to prevent the evil forces from reading into your brain.Frankly if there are any "evil" forces, they would go after much more useful data (financial, social, health, etc.) rather than search logs.Also even if someone hacks in, the amount of bandwidth and computation needed for successful exploitation would be enormous.Finally society grew because information was shared, Duck Duck Go is just using privacy scare as a marketing ploy. If we need a reform, it is the judicial reform which is needed to answer privacy questions posed by current information systems.

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