Should you ditch Google for DuckDuckGo?

Anton P. | April 9, 2021

DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that has managed to leave its mark in the digital world. Its mission is to serve search results without unnecessary and unpleasant tracking. Each new search will be back to square one, with no memory or automatic suggestions. Thus, it is a breath of fresh air that does not store user information and IP addresses. You are welcome to try it and see how it compares to Google. If you still have doubts, let’s discuss DuckDuckGo in more detail.

What is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is a search engine and, at first, might seem no different than Google, Bing, or Yandex. Its appeal and edge do not come from any ground-breaking technology. Instead, the alternative search engine focuses on one goal that many services and companies struggle to achieve. It addresses the concerns we all have about the endless ways digital entities use to track us online. But how, you ask?

Essentially, DuckDuckGo abandons the trend of personalized content and does precisely what we expect: delivers search results. Thus, it is fair game to say that premise here outperforms Google. DuckDuckGo does not store information on your searches, nor does it track you across the web. This absence of query logging means that the search engine does not personalize its content. Hence, your every search starts with a clean slate, uninfluenced by your previous activities.

You can use DuckDuckGo simply by visiting its search engine. However, you can also install its Chrome extension or its application on iOS or Android. Currently, it holds a 2.44% share of the search engine market. In January of 2021, it celebrated reaching 100 million daily searches.

Advantages of not personalized search results

As mentioned above, DuckDuckGo does not collect your information for advertising or personalization purposes. This decision means that the company has little means to affect the search results it generates.

Personalization can be helpful, such as supplying users with relevant and contextual information. However, one of its side effects is the filter bubble, a term introduced back in 2010. It means that personalization reinforces the idea that you must find like-minded content and people. However, this strive for relevance makes it difficult for users to access opposing opinions challenging their own beliefs. With DuckDuckGo, the filter bubble does not exist as every user receives the same search results regardless of their previous actions.

Is DuckDuckGo as efficient as Google?

But how does DuckDuckGo compare to Google in terms of functionality? Will you be able to explore the internet as seamlessly? Well, it depends. Google has mastered its routine, working with the freshest index of websites and the best search algorithms. Hence, it is impossible to deny its advantage of generating the most up-to-date search results.

However, it does not mean that DuckDuckGo can’t be just as useful. It uses its own web crawlers to serve users relevant content. However, the chances are that it will take longer to find something highly-specific or recently published.

As seen in reports on using DuckDuckGo, the alternative search engine has everything you need without the fancy get-up. Most of our searches are rather general, and the personalization or extra algorithms prove to be redundant. The chances are that using DuckDuckGo will be just as seamless. It might need some more hand-holding in regards to finding more specific content. For instance, it might not fully understand your intentions from a single word like Google. However, if it means exploring the web without having your searches logged and monetized, it is a small price to pay.

Why DuckDuck may or may not be your cup of tea

Advantages of using an alternative privacy-focused search engine include:

  • Enhanced privacy online. Since DuckDuckGo does not log your search habits, it won’t share any information with third parties.
  • Simple use. There is nothing particularly difficult about using DuckDuckGo. You can either access its page directly or install its app or browser extension.
  • Equal access to information. Your previous search queries will not influence the results you see. Thus, it gives people access to the same content unswayed by previous actions and current location.
  • No more targeted ads. Ever felt like Google had chosen an ad exclusively for you? With DuckDuckGo, the ads are rather generic, primarily based on the entered search query.

Of course, depending on your needs, there might be some disadvantages to using it:

  • No personalized ads and search results. For some, the targeted content might be a plus. Thus, by embracing this search engine, you will no longer receive personalized content. It is an advantage from a privacy standpoint. However, there are chances that you will see it as less convenient.
  • No usual auto-suggestions. While DuckDuckGo will have auto-suggestions, they won’t be as precise. Google predicts your search queries based on the previous searches you made. Hence, they are bound to be more accurate. DuckDuckGo will instead base its auto-suggestions solely on what you have entered.
  • Less up-to-date results. It might take longer for this search engine to crawl new content. Therefore, you won’t necessarily receive the freshest index possible.
  • Not a one-stop service. Google offers many services directly from its main page. DuckDuckGo is essentially a search engine, and it does not supply services beyond that.

How does DuckDuckGo make money then?

As a business, DuckDuckGo does not harvest profits in the same way as Google. Since it does not collect your data, it needs to focus on other means for income. As a result, its main source of revenue comes from keyword-based advertising. It essentially means that DuckDuckGo generates ads based on the queries you enter. Thus, if you search for apartments, you will receive ads on that. If you purchase something via the sponsored links, DuckDuckGo will also receive its commission.

So, should you use DuckDuckGo?

Despite minor downsides, there is no reason to discourage you from using DuckDuckGo. It can serve you just as well, if not better, than Google. For one, you won’t have to worry about advertisers constantly getting insights into your browsing habits.

If DuckDuckGo does not tick all the boxes for you, there are alternatives to it as well. Many smaller search engines attempt to gain traction in the market, such as StartPage or Swisscows. However, while a privacy-focused search engine is a step in the right direction, it does not mean you won’t be tracked online.

There are many ways digital entities use to keep tabs on you, such as cookies or browser fingerprinting. Various browser extensions can improve the way you browse the web, both security, and privacy-wise. Additionally, the choice of the browser itself can open doors to safer internet use.

Lastly, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can also help you avoid some of the most intrusive tracking practices. The application scrambles the information about your traffic, meaning less personalized content for you. Additionally, it will conceal your IP address to make it easier for you to find and access global content.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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