Friday, 8 July 2011

DuckDuckGo Search Engine

In season two of Tuxradar podcast the group challenged themselves to use an alternative search engine to Google for a week. Sadly they all reported back on a terrible week being forced to use Bing, Microsoft's search engine. This got me thinking: have we come to rely on Google so much that we can't even use the internet on a daily basis without it? After a browse around for various search engines I discovered DuckDuckGo.

The front page has been heavily influenced by the classic Google homepage, simply a white background with the name and logo above it. To further enhance this theory that it's influenced by Google's design: the badge is modified regularly to correspond with the relevant date (sounding similar).

One of the first things I noticed was the lack of a search for news, images or videos. Something that we have become accustomed to with the Google search engine. However upon a bit more digging I discovered that DuckDuckGo uses a facility called Bang commands, some of the most popular these can be accessed by clicking on the arrow beside the search box, most need to be entered directly into the search field. The bang commands include:
  • Amazon !a
  • Google images !gi
  • !identica
  • IMDB !imdb
  • map !m
  • news !n
  • Open Clipart !oca
  • Wikipedia !w
  • YouTube !yt
For example to search Amazon for a Drupal 7 book you can enter !a drupal 7 into the search box.

However the bang commands listed above don't even make up the tip of the iceberg, a full list of the bang commands can be found here.

DuckDuckGo also has a policy of not storing information, unlike Google, and using it for advertising. Of course DuckDuckGo does include advertising, most search engines can't survive without it, however it keeps no record of your searches. The adverts are purely based on the text you have entered into the search box. OK, you may be thinking "That's a load of paranoia", fair enough but your search bubble isn't; that is real.

From the time you've started using Google a record is kept of what you look up. So if you frequently search for baking competitions, photography and open source software in the UK whenever you type anything into a Google or Bing search it will focus it's search around you, often not giving you the most relevant search results, but what it wants to, these will also change depending on what part of the world your in. For a more depth look at the search bubble take a look at

The final feature of DuckDuckGo that I really like is the filtering system, it cuts out a lot of pointless sites that just lead to a download of some pointless file you didn't want. But more importantly, especially to me as a father, it filters out adult content by default. Take a look at the example below of the same search, using default settings on Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo:




Of course you can switch this feature off on DuckDuckGo and I assume turn it on with the other two, but the fact that it is there by default gives me comfort. This makes DuckDuckGo an ideal search engine to be used at work and in schools.

So far I've been using DuckDuckGo for a month. I've been really pleased with the quality of the searches and it has now become my homepage and also my default search on my browsers. I've noticed that some of the Linux distros have started using it as the default search engine. It really does have a mountain to climb in order to convert users using Google and (to a lesser extent) Bing. But this is a worthwhile task in my opinion.

You can test out DuckDuckGo directly from this site: take a look in the top right of the page and you'll find a DuckDuckGo widget, give it a try for yourself.

Don't Google it, Duck it!