A Week With Duck Duck Go

January 15, 2012

As I posted in my other p̶o̶s̶t̶ rant, I have been steadily displeased with changes to Google’s search.

With the introduction of prioritized Google Plus listings and their Google Your Search program, I decided it was time to try something different.

I thought it was a good time to give Duck Duck Go an honest try, as in the past I had only played around with it. So, I changed out my main Google Search button in my browser bar for a Duck Duck Go one and was ready to go.

Before going further, I think it is important to point out that some(many?) of Duck Duck Go’s options are built upon the API’s of other companies, including some search engines, so this is important to keep in mind when reviewing their service. I discuss this more in my Concerns section.

As an aside, breaking the inclination to search out that Google logo when I was needing to search took a little work and, to make it easier, I moved the Google button to a sub-folder in my link bar, so the only one visible is Duck Duck Go icon.

What is Duck Duck Go?

For those that haven’t tried or heard of it, Duck Duck Go is a search engine that, in many ways, aims to be what Google once was. It provides a simple uncluttered interface and, per their Privacy Policy, they do not track or share user data.

They also go out of their way to show how the way other search engines use tracking data can be quite dangerous.

This is preaching to the choir for me, but many people don’t realize how much even just the search data can be used to identify a person. For example, even without allowing cookies or scripts, often, a user’s user-agent or IP address is enough to uniquely identify them and provide insight into their search/life habits.

Duck Duck Go offer SSL search and have a rule already present in the default HTTPS Everywhere plugin ruleset.

As mentioned in the introduction and in more detail in the issues/concerns section, it should be noted that, according to Wikipedia, much of their service is based up the API’s of various companies, including a heavy reliance on Yahoo’s Search API.

Search Quality: Google vs Duck Duck Go

Overall, I have been really happy with Duck Duck Go’s search quality and have not really had any major issues finding the right information using Duck Duck Go.

When I have compared results, which I did more so during the first few days of using it, those from Duck Duck Go have been quite similar or, IMHO, sometimes better than Google’s.

With that said, there are a few times where irrelevant results show up for some terms, but this is not a problem unique to Duck Duck Go and Google also has this if you find the right query, not to mention some crazy spam in google, which I will probably post about at a later date.

Their index, or what they allow you to search for, appears to be much smaller, I think, than Google’s. There have been a few rather unique search queries that have either returned only a few results or even none at all, but these were rather specialized. I did not check the results within Yahoo, so I am unsure if this is specific to Yahoo or Duck Duck Go. Some of the spam present in Yahoo’s search is also present in Duck Duck Go, but some of it is removed too, like removing eHow spam.

However, most of the time when I go to a search engine I am trying to find the answer to something technical, like refreshing my memory on an API or something, and Duck Duck Go has done a good job in this regard.

Concerns and Issues

While I have found that for the majority of searches, Duck Duck Go provides accurate and relevant results, according to Wikipedia, their service is largely based upon Yahoo Search APIs.

I have always been distrustful of Yahoo search, as very long ago, I noticed that they included advertisements in their search results. After working in a marketing firm, I later found out you could quite literally pay Yahoo to appear in their SERPS, so I have never held their search results in any high regard. They discontinued this paid to rank service a few years ago, or possibly changed the name of it, but as a result of this sort of philosophy, I will always have difficulty trusting yahoo results.

With their relationship with Microsoft/Bing, Yahoo’s search is further complicated and I see this a potential pit-fall to Duck Duck Go’s service. There is also the question of what will happen if/when Yahoo pulls the plug on their API, as they are already treading water financially.

I would love to see them develop their own index, although I realize this is no simple undertaking.

Having said that, when comparing several search queries from Yahoo to Duck Duck Go, it is clear they are, at minimum, tweaking the results and removing some of the irrelevant spam, like ehow, from listings.

You can, however, still see Yahoo’s influence in their results and, I would imagine, even if Duck Duck Go might not be tracking you, Yahoo is certainly tracking Duck Duck Go!

Aside from the Yahoo issue, they can also be a little slow, with some queries taking a little longer to return. This could tie into the Yahoo or other API issues or be something that has to do with their backbone, but hopefully as they increase in popularity, both of these issues can be addressed.

Some Differences and Things I Like About Duck Duck Go

Aside from the quality and simplicity of Duck Duck Go, which is often lacking these days from other search engines, there is a some differences unique to Duck Duck Go that I like.

One of the neat things about Google is that it is often more than such a search engine. For example, you can use it to do math or find out the weather. Duck Duck Go does this as well, and, in many cases I feel, does so in a more useful manner

For example, they automatically pull info from Wikipedia or Wolfram Alpha for certain searches, so if you were just looking for the first few sentences of a Wikipedia article to get a basic explanation of something, you don’t have to go any further than a single query.

There are also some neat features that Google doesn’t include. For instance, searching for an IP will return the basic location info of the IP and, it also will tell you what your IP is if you do a search like “What is My IP,” although Google does do the former as well.

Final Thoughts

I haven’t been using Duck Duck Go long enough to say for certain, but I have been so far been fairly pleased with it.

I like it enough that I disabled ad-block on it, with their advertisements, by the way, being much less obtrusive than Google’s. Their advertisements, at least the ones I checked, appear to be from MSN, but do not require loading additional MSN scripts.

The issues outlined in the concerns section above, which largely are based on their reliance on Yahoo results/API, as well as speed, are my only main concerns at this time.

I, of course, can’t escape Google completely, nor can it be ignored, as I touch on in my other post. Especially since with Android, Google effectively slid their services into a default spot for the vast majority of android users, not to mention the millions of people that will continue to use Google without seeking alternatives.

However, for my personal needs, which include finding the answers to my questions, without being bombarded by unnecessary fluff, as well as, at least according to their posted policy, not being tracked as aggressively, Duck Duck Go provides a pretty good alternative to Google! I still have much to learn and have only begun looking at some of their more advanced query options, but overall I am quite happy with them!

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