Does the name “DuckDuckGo” ring a bell? Unless you are a Redditor or a HackerNews reader, you can be forgiven for thinking that it is the name of a kids cartoon show. DuckDuckGo is actually a little known search engine. Don’t let the queer name turn you off, because it is actually pretty good.
I have been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine for the past couple of months. While my initial intention was to simply try it for a week or so, review it and then be done with it, I have started to grow a fondness for it.
As I understand it, DDG is maintained by a single guy – Gabriel Weinberg. Its results are fetched from multiple sources including Bing, Yahoo! BOSS and the DuckDuck bot (DDG’s own webcrawler). DDG has loads of unique features to keep you interested. Some of my favourite ones are:
Zero-click info: This is somewhat similar to the onebox Google has been experimenting with, but is often more useful. It basically provides a quick snippet, which gives you an idea about your query without having to navigate away from DuckDuckGo.
Information Search: If you are looking for information on a specific topic, Information Search can be a real timesaver. Just have a look at the screenshot below to grasp what DDG’s information search has to offer.
!Bang: This is probably the best feature of DDG. You can directly search dozens of popular sites from DDG. For example, if you want to search download.com for WinRAR, just type “!download WinRAR”. DDG will directly take you to the appropriate page on download.com. The full list of supported queries is available here.
Loads of goodies: If you thought Google has some nifty tricks, you should really check out DuckDuckGo. Want to generate a random password? No problem just type “pw”. Want to check your ip address? Once again, DDG can take care of it. Everything from weather reports and time zone conversions to complex calculations and unit conversion is supported.
Disambiguation pages: DDG automatically offers disambiguation pages for terms with multiple meanings in Wikipedia style.
Privacy Aware: Not only does DDG have a secure mode (https), but it is also more privacy conscious. Your ip address isn’t stored, neither is your full user agent. In fact, DDG doesn’t even pass on your query string to the referred website. Although I don’t like the later feature (since if it becomes popular among search engines, it would paralyse web analytics), there is little doubt that DuckDuckGo takes privacy seriously.
Infinite Scrolling: While there are userjs/greasemonkey scripts to achieve the same with Google, DDG supports it out of the box. DDG automatically loads additional results as your scroll down the page.
Keyboard Navigation: Once again, most pro users would appreciate the advanced keyboard navigation supported by DDG.
Relevant Search: Of course none of these fancy features would matter, if the results delivered by DDG weren’t accurate. Fortunately, I have found them to be really good. In fact, there have been occasions when I was better served by DDG than Google.
In the end, is DDG a perfect search engine? No. Its biggest disadvantage is that it has a learning curve. While computer savvy users would appreciate the advanced functionalities offered by DDG, most users would simply fail to grasp some of DDG’s best features. I am also not a big fan of the website’s visual appearance. I understand that DDG doesn’t want to take itself too seriously, but that’s no excuse for looking like a website from the late 90s. Another area where DDG can improve upon is speed. Most of the time I am stuck on a pathetic Tata Photon Whiz connection. Unfortunately, the JS heavy DDG doesn’t fare too well on slower connections.
In spite of all the shortcomings, DDG is the best Google search alternative I have seen in recent times. It’s amazing how a single guy has managed to make super hyped start-ups like Cuil look outright dumb.