In contrast, the fortunes of a relatively unknown search engine focused on privacy, called DuckDuckGo, have never been better.
DuckDuckGo, which promotes its simplicity and strict privacy protections over competitors, has experienced a record surge in traffic over the past three months, up 227 percent to nearly 1.5 million unique searches daily.
DuckDuckGo’s founder Gabriel Weinberg said that he knew the tide was turning when his four-year-old search engine saw a million searches per day on February 14.
“After we broke that record, we really started to hold that traffic,” he told TPM in a phone interview, pointing to DuckDuckGo’s annotated traffic results page.
In terms of U.S. search market, DuckDuckGo only accounts for an estimated 0.1 percent of all search traffic, according to results from tracking firm comScore. But it’s worth pointing out that fully half of DuckDuckGo’s traffic comes from overseas, mostly Europe, according to Weinberg.
Weinberg told TPM that the sudden flocking to his search engine in the past three months was reflective of a growing anti-Google fervor and renewed focus by searchers on protecting their Web privacy, but added a visual redesign of the DuckDuckGo website in mid-January 2012 didn’t hurt, either.
“What I think that did was enable a higher chance of users sticking on the site,” Weinberg told TPM.
And more DuckDuckGo home improvements are on the way: Weinberg revealed to TPM that the website plans this year to launch a distinct “News” results section specifically to show the latest information pertaining to searches, but in a way that doesn’t push down or exclude older, more informative links on the history of a subject.
“There will be a separate news block up at the top of the page instead of changing all the links on the whole page to be recent,” Weineberg said. He expects the news section to be launched “in the next month.”
Another big change coming: DuckDuckGo plans to launch redesigned mobile apps for iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android devices within the next 5 months.
DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008, when Google’s stranglehold on the global search was reaching its current plateau.
Although Weinberg previously admitted to TIME Techland that privacy wasn’t at the forefront of his mind when he started the search engine, it’s since become DuckDuckGo’s centerpiece, with the company actively promoting the fact that it doesn’t capture any identifying information about a user from searches, unlike Google and Bing. It also doesn’t personalize search results whatsoever, unlike Google, which has been criticized for creating a “filter bubble” by showing different results for every user of its website, based on their prior searches and clicks.
That said, DuckDuckGo has received venture capital funding but makes money primarily through advertising next to search results, the same approach that fuels Google’s sprawling business. Specifically, DuckDuckGo puts a “sponsored link” to companies at the top of the results page after certain searches are performed. Google also engages in this practice.
Asked whether DuckDuckGo was wary of following Google’s path toward increasingly targeted advertising or launching other products such as a social network, Weinberg told TPM he was sure his company could avoid the pull.
“That’s not in any kind of future I can see at the moment,” Weinberg told TPM.Carl Franzen
Carl Franzen is TPM Idea Lab’s tech reporter. He used to work for The Daily, AOL and The Atlantic Wire (though not simultaneously, thankfully). He’s never met a button that didn’t need to be pressed. He can be reached at email@example.com.
“flocking to his search engine”
I’ve been using ducksduckgo (recommending it) for a good while now, perhaps about a year. I really like their advanced search options. Much more powerful than google … they’ve taken on suggestions made to google for years now and which google has chosen to ignore.
Examples, goodle recently made it very difficult to set preferences, such as unfiltered search, turning off google instant and setting a results page to 50 or 100 results at a time. I live by those settings. Google decided to hide the links, and the only reason I can still set those preferences now is that I actually remembered the exact URL to find that settings page, and promptly bookmarked it.
Duckduckgo has all that, and quite a bit more. And, it does not have that insanely frustrating google instant “feature,” which needs to be burned out of existence with very hot fire.
Best yet: once you set your preferences, you can save them as a URL, which you can bookmark and use across many different machines/platforms/OSs. I regularly clear cookies, and constantly have to go to googles preferences page to reset preferences.
With duckduckgo, I click on a saved URL which I’ve located in several very convenient places around the Interwebz. Bam. Exact filters and settings with one click.
Duckduckgo returns radically different results than google, also. So, I don’t rely on any one search engine .. I actually (again! after years of only one choice!) have more than two now that use fairly different search algorithms and I no longer constantly get the same five results at the top, or nothing but commercial SPAM in the top ten.
DO NOTE, that duckduckgo does base a good bit of its patterns from Bing/yahoo, but they seem to be doing something else with it that appears to be generating more interesting hits. I feel like back in the days of five to ten years ago when submitting a search string was more like an adventure with all sorts of useful, esoteric and exotic results kicking up that I would never have found.
All in all, check it out experiment with it. Highly recommended as a left-handed monkey wrench that actually hands out value-added content for the effort.
You mean to say there are other ways to search for porn besides just typing in “porn”?
This “bubble” concept is the most backwards possible way to interpret personalization of the web. What’s the alternative to living in a “bubble” of personalized search results? The way it was 10 years ago — when everybody was in the same bubble. This isn’t good for diversity, it’s bad for it. The only way to get your web page noticed _by anybody_ is to get it into the top 10 in the world. This is what created SEO abuse in the first place.
Unless you only want to look at the top 10 websites in the world for any given topic (good for Politico and TPM, bad for thousands of bloggers) you don’t want this. And if you’re a web publisher, unless you’re already in the top 10 of your category of web sites then this is bad for you. That’s why most of the search engine world has been working on going in the opposite direction.
nklopfen The initial attraction of Google was that you’d get the links most relevant to your search request, without qualification. If everybody gets different results from the same search, somebody is not getting the MOST relevant links.
Until recently I had a job in which I did hundreds of Web searches a day. Google has been getting progressively worse in recent months, forcing me to drill down to the third or fourth page of hits to find what I needed (and I have Google set to return 20 hits on a page).
Then there’s the increasing tendency to return hits with synonyms of the search term – which is often useless – coupled with the silent discontinuation of the “+” search delimiter, greatly reducing usefulness.
I recently did a search for the legal term “replevin.” I got a number of hits for Congressman Sander Levin (D-MI) – “Rep. Levin.” That’s a joke.
nklopfen Suffice to say, I think there’s a useful space for both personalized search results and naked ones.