Could Sites Like DuckDuckGo Actually Compete With Search Giant Google?

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Unless you’re a search engine or online privacy geek (which we are) you probably haven’t heard of the search startup DuckDuckGo, but the engine is quietly building buzz and momentum on the tech scene, having been featured on best-of lists in publications like Time and PCMag.

The search engine, which launched six years ago but has gained most of its attention in the past six months or so, has styled itself as a more relevant and, perhaps more importantly (to us, at least) private alternative to search giant Google. DuckDuckGo makes clear in its incredibly detailed privacy policy that, in no uncertain terms, it neither shares, nor even collects, users’ personal information, including aggregating or “bubbling” your searches.

But does it really work as well as, or better than Google? We put the two side by side and came up with the following pros and cons for DuckDuckGo.

Pros:

  • More privacy. This one is a big deal to us. The main reason we can see for moving away from Google for our search engine needs is that it basically tracks our every move and knows way, way too much about us based on what we search, and which results we click on. We trust DuckDuckGo when it tells us those things aren’t happening on its site.
  • Less clutter. Google something like “bankruptcy,” and your results are crowded with advertisements and sponsored sites (those dreaded yellow highlighted results at the top of all Google pages). A DuckDuckGo search for the same phrase turns up just one discreet sponsored link, and no sidebar ads. Plus, the top box on the search page contains helpful hints like a definition of the term and related searches “bankruptcy alternatives” and “creditors’ rights.”

Cons:

  • No autocomplete. Take the bankruptcy example again. Type “bankr …” into Google and it suggests a litany of possible searches, including “bankruptcy,” “bankruptcy process” and, in my case, being a Tucson, Ariz. resident, “bankruptcy in Arizona.” While it’s a little eerie that Google knows where you live, it can still be incredibly helpful to get those tailored search suggestions. While DuckDuckGo is working on an autocomplete option and offers an open-source plugin, it still doesn’t work as seamlessly as Google’s type-ahead results.
  • It’s just a search engine. There’s no denying that Google’s bevy of other products, from mail to calendar to documents to apps for business, make our lives easier, if less private. DuckDuckGo is just used for search; nothing is personalized or added on except some super-geeky extras for hardcore tech and coding nerds. In a way, it’s beautifully simple, but it’s certainly not as complete a package as the Google behemoth is able to offer.

The verdict:

DuckDuckGo is cool, especially if you’re fed up with Google’s increasingly outrageous privacy issues. At the same time, it’s just not Google – the user experience isn’t as seamless or as all encompassing. And while DuckDuckGo’s search results seem just as complete and accurate (maybe more so due to the lack of spam and ads), we can’t imagine that many people are going to migrate their whole online lives away from the great and powerful Google.

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