The concerns of internet users regarding their privacy grew immensely in recent years. It is no wonder that privacy-oriented search engines such as DuckDuckGo have a significant rise in their traffic and popularity amongst those who are seeking anonymity while surfing online.
What is DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo is a privacy-oriented search engine which Gabriel Weinberg founded on February 29, 2008, named with a reference after a kids game - Duck Duck Goose.
This alternative search engine is more privacy-oriented than any other before. It doesn't collect any of your data while browsing the internet and, at the same time, displays relevant results. The interface is nice and clean, with one results page you can continuously scroll down. Also, there are the Instant Answers, which are similar to the Featured Snippets that Google shows. These answers come from WikiHow only and are shown on the right side of the screen, next to the results.
Is it really more private?
DuckDuckGo does not collect any personal information such as IP address or any other personal information and forces sites to use encrypted connections when available.
The browser prevents search leakage by default, and you can be sure your search history is safe, and it cannot be tied to you in any way because the browser doesn't create any profiles of the user and the IP address from which the query comes stays unknown for DuckDuckGo.
How do they make money?
The company has been highly profitable since 2014, even though they are not storing or sharing any personal information about its users. Their business model is simply to earn money from their advertising and affiliate revenue programmes.
The primary business model of DuckDuckGo is keyword-based advertising. Search advertisers are bidding on keywords for their ads to be shown high in the SERP. If you are browsing for shared web hosting, you are more likely to respond to an ad that is an exact match to your search, rather than something you have been browsing for in the past week.
The other revenue model of the company is by participating Amazon and eBay affiliate programs, where it receives small commissions after a customer purchases on those sites through DuckDuckGo.
Basic comparison between DuckDuckGo and Google
When browsing the internet, we all reveal personal information that can be used to influence our decisions without even thinking about it. This is why we should be aware of how the search engine of our choice is working and how our personal information is stored and used.
Needless to say, Google is the largest search engine on the market and is the dominant one in Europe and the US. Simply explained, the algorithm browses the web with automated programs called crawlers. After a page is found, the search engine tries to understand what the page is about. This is the so-known process called indexing and after that comes the serving process which determines the highest quality answers by several factors that are used to identify the most appropriate answer to the user's query. (As you can see, there is no actual need for personal information to be used to deliver relevant search results for the users' queries, which raises many questions and doubts.)
Some of Google’s main characteristics are the user profiles it creates and the cookies which are used to keep track of our searches. Based on the knowledge of our behaviour and queries, the algorithm presumes what our interests are. Then relevant adverts related to our profiles are shown across the giant’s partner network and all of its products such as YouTube, Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and more.
DuckDuckGo works similarly to any other search engine, Google included. To complete a search result, it uses its own web crawler, DuckDuckBot, and up to 400 other sources, including search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex, and crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. Google works exactly the same, albeit on a larger scale. The most significant difference is that DuckDuckGo doesn't store any personal information about its users, including their IP addresses, offering the most private search engine on the market.
What do you give up when you choose to surf the internet from a private search engine?
Using Google is really convenient. Users can create profiles and enjoy using all additional products that are developed to make a pleasant and intuitive experience while browsing online. Passwords and information for the profile are kept, and you don't have to log in while switching between YouTube or your email. Google Drive is another great product that allows users to store data online and have access from multiple devices, etc. But all this has a price, and that's your privacy.
What do you gain using DuckDuckGo?
By switching to DDG, you gain your privacy back and no data initiated with your personal information or searches will be collected or stored. You won’t be chased by adverts from a website to a website while surfing the internet because there are no personalized ads. Furthermore, the only adverts you will see are those related to the search terms you enter. Using the private browser means that no more social engineering techniques will be used based on your searches and interests. Because profiling and targeting aren’t present in the algorithm of DDG, each search with a particular keyword is getting the same results as all other users.
If you are concerned about your personal information and the idea that the algorithm of Google might know way too much about your behaviour and sees everything you do online, it's time to start thinking about switching your current browser to a more privacy-oriented one.