We have entered the world of data collection giants. Every time you type a question into Google or ask your Alexa what the weather forecast is, that data is absorbed, sorted, and archived. Don’t think that it disappears into a deep dark abyss somewhere- picture instead a library brimming with notes on all of your habits, semantics, and preferences. That library exists, and all of the information is probably housed by a search engine giant like Google. Sometimes that library can be an enormous help to us. If you search for a trip to Hawaii in your search engine, you are likely to later receive a full helping of Hawaiian vacation ads on everything from Facebook to Google itself. If you needed that information, you’re the one that benefits. And the company that successfully served the ad that won you over? Winner winner, chicken dinner.
But not everyone cares to have their every movement and search query tracked. Enter DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo was founded in 2008 and is currently based in Paoli, Pennsylvania. With their fewer than 100 employees, DuckDuckGo has tackled the problem of data collection giants, much like a modern-day David. A David with a software engineering degree. DuckDuckGo(.com) is a search engine that protects the searcher’s privacy over all. Say goodbye to awkwardly personalized search results. This search engine is available on both desktops and mobile devices, and immediately upon installation offers you an array of privacy settings.
That’s right- privacy settings. You decide. You can even decide to… gasp… turn off the ads. Instead of having your every word- literally- scraped and organized, consider each search a fresh start. You decide what you’re looking for, and DuckDuckGo will serve you the best possible answer, according to that one query. Some of DuckDuckGo’s source code is even available as free software, although naturally not all. That would be too greedy of us to ask for.
DuckDuckGo considers itself an open source project. It generates search results from over 400 individual sources including the much-lauded Wikipedia and other fellow search engines. Its Instant Answers is community contributed, like Wikipedia itself. Anyone can get involved with DuckDuckGo’s Instant Answers. Admittedly, this makes the task of creating a library for Instant Answers to pull from infinitely more laborious than creating an algorithm to search and sort those answers for you (ahem, Google).
And that really leads to DuckDuckGo’s greatest downfall: a shortage of search results and “instant” answers for the searcher. However, it can only be considered a shortage when drawn up next to engines like Google, which, surely, has more than a handful of employees in Pennsylvania and across the world operating it.
Ultimately, if you love the personalized and localized answers you receive from giants like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, look the other way. DuckDuckGo is not for you. But for the consumer concerned with protecting their digital privacy and the purity of search results to their queries, DuckDuckGo is a pretty incredible option. It may seem like a “scrappy” search engine start-up at the moment, but their user base has expanded dramatically since their inception, and with the latest wave of digital privacy scares it is certain to grow even more.
Thanks, DuckDuckGo. We appreciate having the option to take back our searches for ourselves.