For most people, Google is synonymous with search. The word google is literally an accepted verb. However, an increasing number of people are exploring alternatives (1, 2). Some people are noticing a decrease in the quality of their search results. Others have privacy and monopoly concerns.
If you are ready for something different, you should try DuckDuckGo.
Initially, DuckDuckGo was created because its founder, Gabriel Weinberg, was not happy with Google's search results (e.g., spam, lack of instant answers, overall bad user experience). By addressing these concerns in his own solution, Mr. Weinberg came to realize the importance of privacy and evolved DuckDuckGo into a privacy-oriented search solution.
Here are some choice quotes:
...when you do a search and then click on a link, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on (in the HTTP referrer header). We call this sharing of personal information "search leakage."
For example, when you search for something private, you are sharing that private search not only with your search engine, but also with all the sites that you clicked on (for that search).
In addition, when you visit any site, your computer automatically sends information about it to that site (including your User agent and IP address). This information can often be used to identify you directly.
So when you do that private search, not only can those other sites know your search terms, but they can also know that you searched it. It is this combination of available information about you that raises privacy concerns.
DuckDuckGo prevents search leakage by default. Instead, when you click on a link on our site, we route (redirect) that request in such a way so that it does not send your search terms to other sites. The other sites will still know that you visited them, but they will not know what search you entered beforehand.
Other search engines save your search history. Usually your searches are saved along with the date and time of the search, some information about your computer (e.g. your IP address, User agent and often a unique identifier stored in a browser cookie), and if you are logged in, your account information (e.g. name and email address).
With only the timestamp and computer information, your searches can often be traced directly to you. With the additional account information, they are associated directly with you.
Also, note that with this information your searches can be tied together. This means someone can see everything you've been searching, not just one isolated search. You can usually find out a lot about a person from their search history.
...search engines are not legally obligated to collect personal information in the first place. They do it on their own volition.
The bottom line is if search engines have your information, it could get out, even if they have the best intentions. And this information (your search history) can be pretty personal.
For these reasons, DuckDuckGo takes the approach to not collect any personal information. The decisions of whether and how to comply with law enforcement requests, whether and how to anonymize data, and how to best protect your information from hackers are out of our hands. Your search history is safe with us because it cannot be tied to you in any way.
When you search at DuckDuckGo, we don't know who you are and there is no way to tie your searches together.
When you access DuckDuckGo (or any Web site), your Web browser automatically sends information about your computer, e.g. your User agent and IP address.
Because this information could be used to link you to your searches, we do not log (store) it at all. This is a very unusual practice, but we feel it is an important step to protect your privacy.
Another way that your searches are often tied together at other search engines are through browser cookies, which are pieces of information that sit on your computer and get sent to the search engine on each request. What search engines often do is store a unique identifier in your browser and then associate that identifier with your searches. At DuckDuckGo, no cookies are used by default.
In response to efforts by the EFF and others, the major search engines have begun "anonymizing" their search log data after periods of time. Sure, this is better than not doing so, but you should note that this does not make your search history anonymous in the same way that it is at DuckDuckGo.
What search engines generally do when they anonymize data is get rid of part of your IP address or turn it into something that doesn't look exactly like an IP address. And they do the same thing for uniquely identifying cookies.
However, in many cases, this so-called anonymous data can still tie your searches together, which can be used to reconstruct who you are and what you searched for. Additionally, search engines usually are silent on what they do with the User agent, which has been shown to also have enough information to often be personally identifiable, especially if isolated to a particular search session (day).
Additionally, if you use our !bang syntax/dropdown, which bangs you use are stored in a cookie so that we can list your most frequently used ones on top of the !bang dropdown box. Just like the other settings, this information is not saved on our servers at all, but resides solely on your computer. There is also a setting to turn this off, which you can also set via a URL parameter. Particular searches are of course not stored. An example cookie might look like: php=2&yelp=19&java=4.
We also save searches, but again, not in a personally identifiable way, as we do not store IP addresses or unique User agent strings. We use aggregate, non-personal search data to improve things like misspellings.
Similarly, we may add an affiliate code to some eCommerce sites (e.g. Amazon & eBay) that results in small commissions being paid back to DuckDuckGo when you make purchases at those sites. We do not use any third parties to do the code insertion, and we do not work with any sites that share personally identifiable information (e.g. name, address, etc.) via their affiliate programs. This means that no information is shared from DuckDuckGo to the sites, and the only information that is collected from this process is product information, which is not tied to any particular user and which we do not save or store on our end.
...if you give us feedback, it may be stored in our email. However, you can give anonymous feedback (by not entering your email or other personal info on the feedback form).
DuckDuckGo generates revenue in two ways.
Advertising has become synonymous with invasive profiling and tracking. However, it was not always this way, and tracking is not required to make money from advertising.
Advertising on DuckDuckGo takes the form of sponsored links that appear above search results. The advertisements that are shown are based on the keywords used in the search, not the person that ran the search.
DuckDuckGo is part of affiliate programs for eCommerce sites like Amazon and eBay. When you visit those sites through DuckDuckGo and make a purchase, DuckDuckGo receives a commission.
DuckDuckGo states that this mechanism operates anonymously and that there is no Personally Identifiable Information (PII) exchanged between them and the eCommerce site. Also, DuckDuckGo says that these programs do not influence their ranking or relevancy functions.
DuckDuckGo's traditional search results are sourced from several partners, including Bing and Oath (formerly Yahoo!). DuckDuckGo's Instant Answers get results from hundreds of sources.
Regarding these partners and privacy, DuckDuckGo states:
Building a search experience on a strong foundation that emphasizes users' privacy and security is admirable, but the product still needs to offer useful functionality. Also, it would be nice if it was fun to use. DuckDuckGo does a good job at meeting these criteria.
DuckDuckGo offers an advanced syntax that can help you craft specific, customized queries.
By default, when you enter multiple terms into a DuckDuckGo search, a logical OR is used (e.g.,
free software is equivalent to
free OR software):
ex_term_1 OR ex_term_2
Pages are returned that contain either
ex_term_2, or both.
Keep in mind, if you explicitly use the
OR keyword in your query, it only operates on adjacent terms. For example,
free libre OR software searches for pages with
free and either
If you only want to see pages that contain all of your terms, use the logical AND operator:
ex_term_1 AND ex_term_2
Pages are returned that contain both
If you want to search for a complete, multi-word term, surround it with double quotes (
For example, instead of searching for pages that contain either
"free software" returns pages that contain the whole term
free software. If no results are found, DuckDuckGo will try to show related results.
You can combine double quotes with logical operators, like OR, to make more complicated search queries. For example, the following query returns pages that contain the term
free software or
"free software" OR "libre software"
If you are searching for multiple terms, but want to give some terms a greater or lesser weight, you can do so by using either
- and specifying your modified terms at the end of your search term list.
free +software searches for pages with the terms
software, but gives the term
software a higher weight. Conversely,
free -software searches for pages with the terms
software, but gives the term
software a lower weight.
You can use the
site:ex_domain syntax to limit your search results to a specific domain:
Multiple domains can be simultaneously searched if you separate them with a comma:
You can exclude a specific domain from your search results by adding a minus sign (
-) before the
For example, the following query displays results for
stashing from all sites except the git-scm.com site:
Selecting a site's icon in the DuckDuckGo search results will also do a site search for your query term(s) on that specific domain.
Results can be filtered via the use of special keywords. Some of the most helpful filters include:
- Ensure that
ex_termappears in the title of the page.
- Ensure that
ex_termappears in the body of the page.
- Ensure that
ex_termappears in the URL of the page.
- Ensure that results are mostly of the
ex_file_typefile type (e.g.,
For certain types of searches, there may be a specialized search engine or content source that provides a better answer than a general search engine. DuckDuckGo's Instant Answers tries to use these sources to provide the answer you are looking for, directly at the top of your search results. This way, you do not need to select a linked source to find what you are looking for.
For example, if you ran a query for
j'onn j'onzz, you would see something like this at the top of your results:
This Instant Answer was pulled directly from Wikipedia.
These kinds of results are also great for quick references, like a cheat sheet:
Or getting the addresses of Public DNS Servers:
Having this information in the search results can save you time.
Instant Answers can be used for more than displaying static content from sites. For example, they can handle conversions:
They can provide a handy Color Picker:
Or a timer:
You can peruse the available Instant Answers sources here.
You can use DuckDuckGo like a traditional search engine, but, with bangs, it may be more accurate to think of it as a meta search engine. A bang is a shortcut that redirects your search query to a different search provider (or to a specific type of search at DuckDuckGo, like an image search).
These shortcuts are called bangs because they start with the
! symbol. Bangs can be placed anywhere in your DuckDuckGo search query, and DuckDuckGo supports thousands of bangs.
For example, if you wanted to run an IMDB query for Attack on Titan, you could enter the following at DuckDuckGo:
!imdb attack on titan
This would work just as well:
attack on titan !imdb
Or, if you want to do a video search at DuckDuckGo for Hayao Miyazaki, you could do this:
!v hayao miyazaki
Here is a collection of useful bangs:
- Apple Maps
- DuckDuckGo Bangs
- Bing Maps
- Charity Navigator
- Mozilla Developer Network CSS
- The Free Dictionary
- DuckDuckGo Instant Answers
- Die.net Linux Man Pages
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Git Documentation
- Google News
- HTTP Status Codes
- DuckDuckGo Images
- Internet Archive
- IATA Airport Code
- Internet Movie Database
- Lyric Wiki
- Google Maps
- UNIX BSD Linux SunOS HP-UX & Perl Man Pages
- Mozilla Developer Network
- Mozilla Observatory Test
- DuckDuckGo News
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Packages Search
- Speedguide.net Port Lookup
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Stack Overflow
- Startpage Images
- Startpage Videos
- Package Tracking and Mapping
- Urban Dictionary
- Unicode Character Table
- Unicode Character Search
- DuckDuckGo Videos
- W3C Validator
- CSS Validation Service
- Internet Archive Wayback Machine
- Domaintools Whois
- Weather Underground
Keep in mind, if you leave off a search term when using a bang, it will load the search provider's homepage, instead. For example, entering
!gh into DuckDuckGo will take you directly to GitHub.
This is a great way to get to your favorite sites without having to type out the whole site address. Essentially, they are like built-in bookmarks.
The DuckDuckGo interface can be navigated with keyboard shortcuts.
- Move between search tabs (e.g., Web, Images, Video)
- Next search result
- Previous search result
- Go to search box
- Go to top
- Go to main results
- Go to highlighted result, or use right away to go to the first result
- Open a result in the background
- Domain search (if a result is highlighted)
Also, there are existing tried and true extensions that can protect and secure your browsing experience, so the DuckDuckGo extension may be redundant. However, the Decode Privacy Policies functionality it offers is a nice touch.
Finally, you can set DuckDuckGo to be your default browser search engine, regardless of what browser you use. This does not require an extension.
DuckDuckGo offers apps for both iOS and Android. On Android, you can set your default browser to a different app, like Mozilla's Firefox, while on iOS, you cannot. Therefore, mobile users may find more utility in DuckDuckGo's mobile app if they are iOS users.
The apps incorporate the same feature set as the DuckDuckGo browser extensions, including the previously mentioned Decode Privacy Policies functionality. Also, they make it easy to quickly remove all local data from the app with a slick animation.
Like on desktops/laptops, you can change your browser's default search engine to DuckDuckGo. The DuckDuckGo mobile app is not required to do this. For iOS Safari, you can accomplish this by going to Settings > Safari > Search Engine.
If you need to quickly access DuckDuckGo (e.g., you are using someone else's device and their browser's default search engine is not DuckDuckGo), you can use the ddg.co address to get there.