On DuckDuckGo

Okay, let's get this out of the way right now: DuckDuckGo probably won't become a verb. It doesn't roll easily off the tongue, "Hey, why don't you DuckDuckGo it?" That said, it's quickly become my preferred alternative to Google, and I'm optimistic about its future as a product, if not necessarily a business. There are three things that make DuckDuckGo an appealing search engine. The first is its aesthetic. The second is its commitment to privacy. The third is its key feature, the bang.

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First, the aesthetic. DuckDuckGo is simple, clean, and puts pertinent results front and center. There are no ads to get in the way of my search, no obstacles to obtaining the information I need. In many ways, its the spiritual heir to Google's original incarnation, before it became bogged down by feature bloat. Looks great. Works great.

Second, privacy. This is where DuckDuckGo really separates itself from Google and Bing with two policies: DontTrack and DontBubble. (The web abhors apostraphes.)

DontTrack is fairly self-explanatory. DuckDuckGo keeps no information about its users, doesn't drop tracking cookies, doesn't give information to advertisers, and doesn't save searches. Each time you come to DuckDuckGo, it's like starting over. That means losing some of the customized experience Google offers, but it also means peace of mind, and in a world where more and more personal information is becoming public, that's a rare commodity.

DontBubble is a little more interesting. The thought behind it is this: search engines that save searches and customize results for users do so by excluding information they think users wouldn't like to see. For instance, if you're politically conscious, you probably tend to click on search results that you think are going to presenr a perspective you find appealing. Your search engine is going to remember that, and the next time you're looking for political information, you're probably going to be served results with which you are likely to agree. The outcome of this is an information bubble, which isolates you from opposing views and decreases your awareness of what's actually happening in the world around you.

Because DuckDuckGo doesn't track search results or personal information, it can't serve you customized results by design. Everyone sees the same results, and while this does have certain drawbacks, it also ensures that you're not being isolated from valuable information or overloaded with a bunch of links that tell you the same thing. It's a fascinating concept, and while it makes DuckDuckGo less useful when searching for opinions, it makes it more useful when searching for facts.

Third, the bangs. Oh, the bangs. DuckDuckGo has a really unique search feature that sets it apart from its competitors. They're called bangs, and they allow you to access other search engines from DuckDuckGo. So let's say I'm looking for information on Batman, as demonstrated above. Then I want to buy something Batman related on Amazon. I type "Batman !Amazon" in the search field, and boom.

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In practice, this radically changes a users approach to accessing information. From one search box, any database becomes accessible. I think less now about where I need to search for information, and only about the information itself. That's powerful.

I don't think DuckDuckGo is going to replace Google, but it's the best alternative currently available. Check it out.