DuckDuckGo – Search without leaving personal information.

After announcing a partnership in November 2011, DuckDuckGo is the default search engine in Linux Mint 12. The revenue that comes from Mint users clicking on adds will be shared, so, as a Mint user, I willingly had a look at it.

DuckDuckGo_Screenshot
DuckDuckGo – Source: Wikimedia

It is first of all refreshing to see a new model and possibility in the search-field area. Google search is excellent, but not prefect, and since Google is growing its influence rapidly, it is nice to see an alternative.

DuckDuckGo is different because it claims not to track searches, or, as a consequence, not to adapt search results to the user. They explained these two concepts rather convincingly on those two pages:

http://donttrack.us/

http://dontbubble.us/

It takes a little time to get used to DuckDuckGo, with its main strongpoint the “!bang” syntax. This is a kind of shortcut to another page and can be pretty convenient. Especially to get away from DuckDuckGo. The search “Linux” will give you the best results DuckDuckGo could find on the internet, “!g Linux” will lead you straight to Google, showing the results Google found.

Since DuckDuckGo is not a finished project yet, users of this search engine will often use these !bang shortcuts to get good results. DuckDuckGo can’t show a image- or videosearch result for example, and their map functions, which is working well and is useful in Google, is almost non existing. “!n”, which stands for “news”, also goes straight to Google News.
(Side note: The same kind of “!Bang” shortcut can also be made for the Firefox-addressbar when using the right mouse-click “Add a Keyword for this Search” in a search field of a page).

DuckDuckGo hardly produces its own search results, but its merely using the results of other search engines, like Google, Bing, Yahoo an many (>50) more sites.

It then tries to put those results in the order it thinks is most relevant, but this isn’t always a success. DuckDuckGo also states that “there is usually a vertical search engine out there that does a better job at answering it than a general search engine. Our long-term goal is to get you information from that best source, ideally in instant answer form.”

Those “instant answer forms” are indeed quite nice, and often work well. This is a little info box at the top of the search results, giving links and information to searches it is sure to know the answer of.  However, such a box appears when I search “Linux” or even “GoHome” (a search company from Zagreb), but not when I type “Linux Mint” (though it shows up, in between other results, when searching for “Mint”).

Conclusion:

DuckDuckGo‘s strongpoint, which is arguably its only strongpoint, is the fact that it doesn’t track search result.
The results are usable for simple queries like finding a homepage, but it is by no means near the results and possibilities Google offers. I have now used it for a while, but at this present point of development, I think one has to be an ideologist, or someone very concerned with privacy, to keep using it.

It is nice to try something different and, in my case, the revenue from advertisement clicks will be shared with Linux Mint. Though as I only click on advertisements I am truly interested in, I have yet to click my first.

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