Since its introduction to the world, DuckDuckGo has been slowly gaining popularity, even among non-privacy advocates. The company recently claimed it had surpassed 98 million searches per day — no small feat for a service competing against Google, which processes more than 8.5 billion searches per day.
If you’re ready to give DuckDuckGo a shot, here’s everything you need to know about the privacy-focused search engine.
What is DuckDuckGo?
What you search for is your own business, which is why we simply don’t store it.
Why Use DuckDuckgo?
Given the popularity and power of Google Search, you may wonder why to consider an alternative like DuckDuckGo. There’s a lot to love about DuckDuckGo, especially if privacy on the Internet concerns you.
1. DuckDuckGo is Safe and Secure
DuckDuckGo automatically applies encryption to all searches, so your search terms are never exposed to their servers or anyone else’s. It also blocks hidden trackers that follow you around the Internet to collect information about what you do online.
Even Edward Snowden (a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked government documents), recommends DuckDuckGo.
2. DuckDuckGo Tracks Less Than Google
With DuckDuckGo, you can search the web without compromising your privacy. Google knows a lot about you. It knows where you are (by tracking your phone’s GPS signal) or any device’s location tag.
It knows what you’ve searched for and which links you click. It also likely knows your name, address, and credit card numbers. On other search engines and sites, it’s pretty common for personal information to be linked with searches. For example:
- Your name and searches are linked if you’re logged in (e.g., Google Web Search and YouTube)
- Your IP address and searches are linked if you’re not logged in (e.g., Google Web Search)
- Your email address and searches are linked if you’ve subscribed to a site’s newsletter or mailing list (e.g., CNN)
This linking of information can enable tracking your activity across multiple sites over time, including private browsing modes where cookies are deleted after every session (e.g., Google).
3. DuckDuckGo Doesn’t Filter Results Based on Your Searches
Unlike Google or Bing, the DuckDuckGo search engine doesn’t save your queries or tailor results based on past searches. It also doesn’t even have country-specific domains like Google and Yahoo!
The other significant difference is that DuckDuckGo tries to give you better results by aggregating from different places — Wikipedia, Bing, Yahoo!, etc. In other words, if Wikipedia has a good article on a subject, it will show up as one of the first results.
DuckDuckGo vs Incognito
How DuckDuckGo Compares to Using Incognito Mode
Anyone who’s spent time with a web browser knows what incognito mode is: the privacy-focused feature that doesn’t store your browsing history, cache, or cookies. It’s supposed to be a way to ensure your internet activity isn’t tracked.
But it turns out that’s not entirely true. Sure, your browser won’t keep track of visited sites or downloaded files, but there are plenty of other ways websites can monitor your online habits — and incognito mode doesn’t do anything to stop them.
Incognito, or private browsing, isn’t as private as you think. But DuckDuckGo provides complete privacy protection for all your searches — whether you use private mode or not.
Why Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Others Track Your Searches?
Search engines like Google track your searches. You can see this very obviously when using them. The big question is why? Are these search engines just tracking your data to help make their product better (as often claimed)?
The answer is deep down inside the complex world of online search engines – and there’s a lot of tracking going on. Google (and others) collect data from your searches to target ads to you and build an ever-more clear picture of who you are.
Google uses this data to sell ads and gain an edge over its competitors. For example, Google can now use your past searches and history when suggesting new products or services to you. Now you know why you see ads that mirror your search terms all the time.
To give you a better idea of the money involved in these shenanigans, Google earned $209.49 billion in 2021 alone. That’s a lot of money.
How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?
DuckDuckGo makes money through direct advertising and affiliate marketing, but it does things slightly different from search engines like Google and Bing. These engines display ads relevant to your searches, and they make their revenue through clicks on those advertisements.
DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, displays ads based on the general location of its users, so they might not be relevant to your searches. Advertisers pay DuckDuckGo when you view their ads or click on them. DuckDuckGo uses this revenue to help keep its site running and secure.
DuckDuckGo is thriving, with strong backing from investors. As late as 2020, the company gained over $100m in back-end investments.
How to Use DuckDuckGo for Search
The essential part of using DuckDuckGo is understanding that it’s a search engine. If you’re used to using Google search, type the DuckDuckGo website address instead of www.google.com.
You can set DuckDuckGo as your preferred search engine to make things easier. If you’re on a PC, this is easy. Visit www.duckduckgo.com, and on that page, you’ll see a button labeled “Add DuckDuckGo to Chrome” (or whatever browser you’re using). Doing so will install an extension that automatically redirects your Google searches to DuckDuckGo.
The folks at DuckDuckGo have created a few apps for Android, but none of them let you set the search engine as your default. Fortunately, there is a workaround: Use Firefox. The latest version of Firefox for Android enables you to choose from several different search engines, and DuckDuckGo is one of them.
On Apple devices, you can set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. Open the Settings menu on your iOS device, then tap Safari. Next, tap Search Engine and select DuckDuckGo.
Should I be Using DuckDuckGo?
By now you’re probably wondering why the whole world isn’t using DuckDuckGo and how come Google Search remains popular. While Google is kind of dastardly, it also offers an incredible number of free services to people.
All of these products are tied to each other. For example, you can use your Gmail address to log in and use other Google products like YouTube. That makes many popular services extremely convenient.
But if you’re tired of Google storing your search queries and serving you targeted ads—or if you just want a change of pace—DuckDuckGo is a great alternative to consider. YOu can make the switch at any time but remember – signing in to any Google services will result in Google still getting data from you.
DuckDuckGo vs VPN: Which is Better for Privacy?
Compared to using DuckDuckGo in an attempt at privacy, a better solution will be to sign up for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. These services allow you to connect to encrypted servers worldwide.
In addition to helping mask your location, the servers also tend to obfuscate websites trying to read, copy, store, or otherwise grab your data. All you need is to sign up for a service, download an app, then connect to a server.
With that, you can protect all data flowing to and from your device. Of course, even a VPN will only work if you don’t willingly provide information to websites and services online. Still, if that’s something that interests you, make sure you sign on with a reputable VPN service.
I highly recommend Surfshark for its great combination of excellent performance, no-logs service, and reasonable pricing. It’s a service I’ve used for over two years now and there have been no problems to date.
Final Thoughts on DuckDuckGo
Just because any service is great or ultra-convenient doesn’t mean it’s always the most suitable. The essential thing to remember here is that you have a choice. You may want to consider using some or all of the tools and services discussed here depending on your needs.
It can even be randomized depending on your online activities. The key is not to put all your eggs in one basket and entrust your privacy to a single brand. Take charge of your digital privacy, and don’t believe everything these companies say.