DuckDuckGo is not the most popular search engine. It only boasts around 100 Million daily searches while the biggest handles over 5 Billion. But when it comes to your safety online, don’t rely solely on a popularity contest. People have become increasingly skeptical of big search engines since they collect information about their users.
The need for privacy-focused services such as DuckDuckGo is apparent. But before you decide if you should switch, find out who they are and if they are safe. I may not be able to declare which is the best search engine. but after reading this article, you can decide which is right for you.
DuckDuckGo, Inc. is owned by founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg. It is an American company still owned by its original founder. DuckDuckGo accepts donations from outside entities raising questions as to their potential influence.
Who is DuckDuckGo Owned By?
DuckDuckGo was created and is owned by Gabriel Weinberg. The name of the company is DuckDuckGo, Inc. with Weinberg as the CEO.
There is a misconception that it was purchased and taken over by Google. This is not true. these two search engines remain separate and independent. There are rumors that a large company such as Apple may purchase DuckDuckGo. The thinking is Apple will purchase this search engine so that it can compete with Google and Microsoft. There is no definitive way to predict if this will happen.
The idea that Apple would make its own search engine sounds very plausible. However, as likely as this may be, there are a lot of variables. It is unknown if Apple would purchase an existing company or would start from scratch. Also, if they do take over an existing search engine no one knows which one that will be.
There are also questions about who is behind DuckDuckGo. This is different than who publicly claims ownership of it. Generally speaking, those who are funding DuckDuckGo also control it. There are fears of Russian involvement or extreme right-wing fanatical. So far this does not appear to be the case. The only thing this company appears to be fanatical about is privacy.
Founded 2011, DuckDuckGo is based in southeastern Pennsylvania. This is a long way from Silicon Valley.
They have a website, browser extension, and mobile app. You can enter questions and phrases in their search bar and the website will suggest relevant links that answer your query. This is the same kind of service provided by Google. In fact, DuckDuckGo is an alternative to this search giant.
But their focus is mainly on privacy and the lack of tracking. This is what DuckDuckGo is good for. The collection of information is something that Google and other popular search engines have been criticized for. This is why people use it. They are concerned about the information about them that other companies collect.
The history of DuckDuckGo is rather brief in comparison to its competitors. Because of this, it has far fewer users and services much fewer searches than others. But that reach is continuing to grow as people concerned about their safety and privacy online discover its benefits.
How DuckDuckGo Works
Throughout my testing of DuckDuckGo, I’ve found the search results to be helpful and relevant. It seems giving up basic privacy rights is not necessary to conduct queries on a search engine.
The weather immediately went to my location. A search for “traffic” was off, but a search for “traffic near me” was close. The first result is on-point then the remainder appears at random. The map feature is accurate. This is because they have made a partnership with Apple Maps for this purpose.
All of this seems to make your searching experience better. But it also highlights that without a proxy you may still be providing them with information about yourself. This can be your location or other information. This is something that can be fixed on your end. So it is not necessarily a negative about DuckDuckGo. I have an article where you can read more about proxies.
Also despite you giving them your location information, it appears they only use it for the purpose of answering your relevant query. So, since I asked about the weather it used my location. It is unlikely that DuckDuckGo will now know this information for subsequent searches.
This is as opposed to Google and other Providers. Now that they have your location they will use it not only for the relevant query but for subsequent searches. This has less to do with providing you with the best results. Instead, it is used for better ad targeting. so the basic premise is why the search engines collect this information. DuckDuckGo uses it to satisfy your question. Other providers use it for their own benefit like more targeting advertising.
Open Source DuckDuckGo
Overall not considered an open-source platform. But they do provide some resources and features as open source. They also accept recommendations for how to satisfy queries on the search page. This gives the searcher the information they are looking for without the need to click any links. Their goal is for this type of search to be the rule as opposed to the exception.
Does not have an email service. Maybe in a few years, you will finally be able to have your own DuckDuckGo email address. But until then, I suggest ProtonMail.com. It’s free but comes with limitations. If you don’t want to pay you can only send 150 emails per day. There are other limitations but if you’re just looking for basic email it’s a good option. But it’s encrypted and a good solution if you no longer want to support other companies.
DuckDuckGo Image Search
No reverse image search feature. This is a big drawback. When you were trying to provide a better service and someone else this is a problem. In order to convince people to use your service instead, you have to provide at a minimum the same features as the competitor.
The image result page shows the size of the image on a thumbnail. This extra bit of information is helpful, especially when looking for images of high quality. There is a one-click button to view an image at the direct link. This is a feature I miss from Google. The ability to right-click on an image and take you to the exact location of the image is no longer provided. I’m sure they have their reasons, but user experience Is not at the top of their list.
Can DuckDuckGo Be Trusted?
Many people want to know if they should trust DuckDuckGo. The best answer is it appears to be a legit company. They do care about the privacy of their users. The proof of this is seen in a few ways.
There is a saying that you are only as good as the company you keep. DuckDuckGo collaborates with a lot of other organizations that are also privacy-driven. They do not track your searches, collect or sell any information about you. They are also active in petitioning for changes in laws and regulations that force others to respect user’s privacy.
As far as picking up malware or viruses by using DuckDuckGo, they are safe. They are not the source of any spyware or adware. Their purpose is simply to supply links to websites from around the world. They can not control what happens once you leave their search engine. You can use their search on the website, the extension, or the mobile app without a problem. What happens when you leave their site is up to you.
Can You Be Tracked?
Searches are not encrypted. If you are not using a secure internet connection, someone can steal your information. A hacker can trace your DuckDuckGo activity but they can also do worse harm. This has less to do with the search engine and more to do with a weakness in your network security.
DuckDuckGo does not automatically hide your IP address for you. You would have to use a proxy on your own to do this. And this is something I recommend you do anyway. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can track your activity, but there’s little reason for them to do so. A VPN will help prevent any prying eyes on your traffic.
DuckDuckGo does not have a search history. Therefore there is no history for you to clear. However, your browser may be a different story.
Although your search history is not saved, there are some things that might give you away. Your browser may save the history of the websites you visit. This is not a flaw in DuckDuckGo. This is another piece of software that is giving away your privacy.
Another pitfall is that the color of the links you have already visited will turn a different color. Someone who is looking closely will be able to tell links you visited apart from links you have not.
One way to avoid both of these pitfalls is by opening and starting a new session in Incognito mode. Now your searches will be private even to other people who use your device.
DuckDuckGo has a partnership with huge companies such as Yandex, Yahoo, Bing, and others. If you’re not familiar with Yandex it’s a Russian search engine. They joined forces with these companies to help provide more comprehensive search results. Without their help, it would be nearly impossible to catch up to Google. The Yandex partnership, just like the Yahoo partnership means results from these sources are now accessible through DuckDuckGo.
Who Uses DuckDuckGo?
Since DuckDuckGo does not collect information about its users, you can only guess the number of users. First, consider the number of daily searches being in the ballpark of 70 million. A conservative estimate of 50 million users would be close.
An obvious political affiliation cannot be observed through normal use. It is often feared that search providers skew the results to favor an agenda. There have been accusations they provide money to liberal organizations. If this is true, it probably has more to do with that organization’s stand on privacy laws.
DuckDuckGo wants to support people and groups who are like-minded and will benefit from online privacy. You do not need to agree with everything an organization says or does in order to accept them as a whole. Therefore, it is not clear if they lean more conservative or liberal. And that’s a good thing.
Is DuckDuckGo Legal?
DuckDuckGo is legal and even goes above and beyond in some cases. Countries like Switzerland have very strict privacy laws. They are able to meet a strict standard because they do not collect information about its users.
But just because it is legal does not mean that some places will not block it. Some places could cause DuckDuckGo to be blocked. It’s possible that particular schools and businesses Have a network policy that prevents its use. The same thing they may do for websites such as YouTube and social media. Mostly this is done in fear that they are losing the student or workers’ attention and productivity.
There is nothing particular about their content that these organizations would want to block. That’s because the information on there is served by DuckDuckGo but belongs to websites that are otherwise accessible from other sources. One way that a user could get around these blocks is to use a proxy. That way the school or employer will not know which website you are obtaining the data from.
Should You Use DuckDuckGo?
The decision if you should switch to DuckDuckGo from your current search engine is a matter of preference. If it bothers you to have information about yourself shared with strangers trying to sell you thing, then switch. For people who believe this is a normal activity in a capitalistic society, feel free to continue as normal.
Pros and Cons
There are some problems with DuckDuckGo you should consider before switching. The search results are not as comprehensive as Google’s. In a decade or so it’s possible they could be more competitive. This is not a reason why DuckDuckGo is bad. Google just has the advantage of being around longer.
Another disadvantage of DuckDuckGo is the lack of a reverse image search. This is a cool feature where you can find similar pictures to anyone you provide. You can also check what other websites are using your images. Or you can find a better quality picture than the one you already have.
There are also plenty of reasons why DuckDuckGo is good. One quality that is a pro in their favor is their focus on the user. They are more likely to be receptive to feedback. They already accept recommendations for instant answers for searches. You do not have to feel so small using a service by a giant corporation like their competitors.
How DuckDuckGo Makes Money
The DuckDuckGo business model includes advertisements focused directly on search input When you search for something related to a piano, the advertisements will relate to pianos. When your very next search is about cats, it will be about cats, cat food, or cat litter. The second set of ads will not be about pianos.
This allows the same companies to advertise on DuckDuckGo as any other platform. Only their ads will only appear when the user makes a relevant search.
Due to these advertisements, DuckDuckGo is a profitable company. Just how much money they make depends on operation costs such as employees and hardware.
What Does it Cost?
You do not have to pay for DuckDuckGo. There is no push to click on any advertisements unless they genuinely appeal to you. DuckDuckGo is free. There is no cost. But they do accept donations.
If you want to contribute, the best thing you can do is spread the word and do not block ads.
DuckDuckGo and AdBlock
AdBlock is a browser extension that can stop the display of advertisements on websites you visit. As I state above, ads are how DuckDuckGo makes the money to support the work they do. For this reason, they respectfully request that you continue to view ads.
However, they are one of the few companies that to their own detriment they permit adblocking. What’s more, is they make it very easy to do so.
There is an option in their settings to completely stop ads. This is much quicker to implement. And it is also more effective and less risky than using third-party software.
However, ads are the primary way that DuckDuckGo can remain profitable. Some people believe viewing ads is a small price to pay for such a great service. This support allows them the resources to continue to improve their services.
Net Worth of DuckDuckGo
There is no price tag set in stone. Think of how a painter prices their artwork. The value of something is only what someone is willing to pay for it. DuckDuckGo has never been bought or sold.
Worthofweb places the value of DuckDuckGo at close to 1 billion dollars. This a valuation of the website alone. They base this mostly on the amount of traffic. This has nothing to do with the amount of revenue they generate.
This does not account for expenses, earnings, and net profit. The most recent figures are they have more than 100 million dollars per year in revenue. Make them an offer, if they accept, you’re closer to your answer.
One this is for sure, with the exponential growth of DuckDuckGo, it is worth a fraction of what it will be years from now.
If you’re looking for a place to buy DuckDuckGo stock, stop looking. Anything you find that suggests the stock price or market share is fake. You may find scammers who will take your money and never invest it. This is similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fake broker used your money for their own personal gain. I have an article with more detail about Ponzi Schemes.
You cannot invest in DuckDuckGo because they are not a public company. There is no stock. They are not a publicly-traded company. The services they provide are public, but the company has private owners.
Hopefully, at a future date, DuckDuckGo will announce an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Whether or not they will ever have an IPO is unknown. but it would raise a lot of money. They can use these profits to more quickly grow their internet presence.
How to Use DuckDuckGo
There are a lot of opportunities to use DuckDuckGo no matter what kind of computer or browser you use. It is compatible with Windows, Mac iOS, and even Linux.
DuckDuckGo itself is not a web browser. It is a search engine that offers a website, an extension for other browsers, and a mobile app. All of the major web browsers allow for the extension. What browser you should use with DuckDuckGo depends on which one has the most features you use.
Best Web Browser for DuckDuckGo
If you are basing your decision strictly on privacy the best web browser for DuckDuckGo is Firefox. For the paranoid, the Tor Browser would be even better, but less convenient. But you always have the option to use it with Chrome, Safari, Edge, and others.
The great news for iPhone and Android users if you can DuckDuckGo on these mobile devices. The application acts like a normal browser but includes the privacy you would expect from DuckDuckGo.
DuckDuckGo is not a VPN since they do not protect or encrypt the information you send and receive from the internet. The main difference between DuckDuckGo and a VPN is the secure transmission you get with a VPN. DuckDuckGo on the other hand simply does not collect and store the information you do provide.
You do not need a VPN in order to use or protect your privacy on DuckDuckGo. But I do recommend the use of a VPN for some uses. Read our article about the safety and privacy of VPNs here.
Access Through Tor
The difference between Tor and DuckDuckGo is that Tor is a much more secure process. It is a browser, not a search engine. It encrypts the data you send and receive when visiting websites. This is almost like a VPN. But instead, it passes through a lot of different servers or nodes. When it does, it is decrypted and encrypted each time. Tor is like a combination of a VPN and a proxy on steroids.
You can visit DuckDuckGo on Tor through the address below. This DuckDuckGo onion address is not accessible through the normal internet.
Alternatives to DuckDuckGo
There are other browsers like DuckDuckGo. Some may even be better than it for your purposes. The best alternatives to DuckDuckGo I’ve found are as follows. These other search engines are divided by popularity and then by privacy considerations.
The difference between DuckDuckGo and DuckDuckGo Lite is the load time. The lite version helps for poor internet connections. It is also less distracting. Since it has text-only search results, it looks like something from the 1990s.
DuckDuckGo vs Google
Despite popular belief, Google does not own DuckDuckGo. At least not yet. I could see a scenario where Google buys DuckDuckGo. This can be once they begin to see a decline in users due to the competition. So far it is not a big enough competitor but the gap gets smaller every day. One day DuckDuckGo could beat Google if they are not bought first.
Most people know Google uses its own web crawlers. But most people don’t know how DuckDuckGo finds the websites it displays. They use a combination of other organizations such as Yandex, Yahoo, Bing, and others. DuckDuckGo does not use data sources from Google.
The difference between DuckDuckGo and Google’s incognito mode is sneaky. Google still collects your information, it just makes it more difficult for others using the same device to see your history or past searches. Your information is still collected, shared, and used by Google.
Google is a far superior search engine. DuckDuckGo is better than Google only for privacy considerations. Whether you should use one instead of the other depends on how useful you find the results on DuckDuckGo. You might try it and find everything you need. In that case, keep using it for privacy protection.
Best Privacy-Focused Options
Difference Between DuckDuckGo and Startpage
Startpage was formerly called Ixquick before it was merged in 2016. In the battle between DuckDuckGo vs Startpage, I find it’s a close call. DuckDuckGo shows me the weather forecast right away while Startpage shows links I would need to click.
There is an awesome feature where you can click on a privacy button to view websites already in a private mode. However, the real decider is Startpage was noticeably slow for me. It bothers me too much to use for the long term.
Qwant vs DuckDuckGo
Qwant is a search engine from France that focuses on privacy. While both have an autosuggest feature, there are three reasons I like DuckDuckGo better.
Qwant generally posts three ads at the top taking up the entire screen on my mobile device. DuckDuckGo has fewer ads and some relevant results are immediately visible. Also, the main page on Qwant has news by default. This is distracting to me but probably useful to normal people. Finally, a search for weather on DuckDuckGo shows the weekly forecast at the very top. This is opposed to Qwant with links I find less helpful.
Yacy is unlike any of the other options. They are a peer-to-peer network like the filesharing programs you hear about. This means the service they provide is completely decentralized. The best part is the software is completely open-source which makes it a safe option.
I give a lot of credit to the idea of how Yacy works. But as far as Yacy vs DuckDuckGo, I think Yacy is still developing. Its best time is still ahead of it. Hopefully, it will continue to grow and so will its helpfulness as a search engine.
Ecosia is a search engine option that is considerate about privacy. They use some of their profits for the purpose of planting trees. However, I think they lean more towards saving the planet than actually making sure your data is safe.
They seem to be a good company that does not go out of their way to collect your information. But I would not trust them to keep your information private. When deciding between Ecosia vs DuckDuckGo, I would say the latter. That is unless you are more concerned about planting trees.
Ghostery provides free and open-source privacy solutions. So far this includes a browser extension and mobile app. But soon they will be releasing their own browser which includes a search engine. It is currently in Beta testing mode but something to look forward to. It will be interesting to see if it can catch up to DuckDuckGo in popularity.
There is a free app you can download from your mobile device. You do not have to download DuckDuckGo in order to use it. You can simply visit their website from your current browser and add DuckDuckGo to your favorites.
Visiting the main website is the best place where you can download and install the DuckDuckGo browser app. This is because you can get the right version of the download based on the device and software you are using.
DuckDuckGo is a trustworthy option for protecting your privacy when using a search engine. It will not keep you safe when visiting websites, but it will not collect your personal information like the alternatives.
The best way to use DuckDuckGo is through a VPN or a proxy. I recommend using more than one layer of protection for your privacy. And make sure you keep all software you use up to date.
Continue reading about VPNs so you can further protect your privacy online.