Some time ago I started to look into Google Search alternatives. This had a number of reasons, from too much noise on Google results pages over deteriorating quality to privacy concerns. I first switched to Bing, the most prominent alternative market share wise. And while it proved to be a solid search engine, especially for English queries, it failed to impress when it came to more advanced queries. I'm often researching issues, like "how to improve font rendering in Firefox", "DVD drive letter not showing up in Windows Explorer" or "how to uninstall plug-ins in Microsoft Office". Bing's result were not impressive and I often had to switch to Google to get better results. I'm not saying that Google's results were perfect, but they usually listed one or two results on the first pages that I could work with.
I moved to Ixquick and liked what I saw in the beginning. It too had the same issues that Bing had unfortunately. Complex search queries usually yielded results pages that would not help me in my research.
I switched to Duck Duck Go about two weeks ago and have not looked back since. Let me start the review by saying that I still have to switch to Google or Bing sometimes to get the results that I want. But that's true for every search engine. There have been searches where Google could not provide me with results that I was looking for.
What I really like about Duck Duck Go is its simplicity. It is what Google has been a long time ago, a search engine that concentrates on search, and not on shoving advertisement and Google service promotions down the user's throat.
The search results - often - begin with information at the top that are taken from Wikipedia. It is a quick one-liner that provides you with basic information about the site, service or name. The box links to Wikipedia and the official site, as well as related categories on the Duck Duck Go search engine. You can disable that box in the search settings.
Below the box is either the official site, outlined with a special button for better visibility, or a sponsored link result. This sponsored link is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the results.
Search suggestions on the right can help you redefine the search. For Ghacks, you find suggestions such as software, windows or Google listed there that can be appended to the search phrase with a click.
Search results are not personalized, and users are not tracked when using the search engine.
The search engine offers access to so called !bangs that you can use to redirect your search directly to a supported site.
You can for instance enter !youtube phrase to be redirected to YouTube's search results page for the phrase you have entered. Hundreds of bangs exist, from searching popular blogs like Arstechnica or Lifehacker over Chrome, Firefox and Opera add-ons and userscripts to software downloads or company websites.
You can furthermore use \ in front of your search term to be taken directly to the first search result.
Interested users can check out the goodies page which highlights some of the advanced capabilities of the search engine. This includes conversions and calculations that you can make directly in the search engine, dates that you can look up and other interesting stuff.
There is also a list of keyboard shortcuts, that include navigating back and forth with j and k, t to go to the top or m to highlight the first result (which you could then open with a tap on the enter key).
Switch To DuckDuckGo in your browser
Google Chrome users need to click on the wrench icon in the upper right corner, and select Settings from the menu that opens.
They then need to locate Search on the first page and click on the Manage search engines button. Locate DuckDuckGo in the list, hover over its entry and click on the Make default button that appears.
Firefox users need to enter about:config into their browser's address bar. They then need to filter for the term keyword.URL, double click the parameter on the results page and replace the value with http://duckduckgo.com/?q=.
Microsoft Internet Explorer users can head over to the Internet Explorer Gallery to install the Duck Duck go search provider plugin which adds the search engine to Microsoft's browser.
Duck Duck Go does not maintain its own image search engine. If you want to search for images, you can either use a !bang to start the search on Duck Duck Go, or open an image search engine to search there directly.
The search engine does not link to cached versions of a page listed in the results. It is sometimes the only way to access information posted on the site, for instance if it is temporarily or permanently down.
Some searches still require you to switch search engines to find suitable results. My personal experience was that I had to switch engines less often than when I used Bing or Ixquick.
I have not looked back yet after switching to Duck Duck Go. It is definitely an improvement over Bing or Ixquick. And while it may not be on par with Google, it is close enough to justify the switch. I can still switch to Google or Bing if I cannot find a solution or answer in the search engine, which is even easier when using !bangs.
I'd encourage you to try the search engine for a week or so, to see if it meets your expectations. If not, you can still go back to Google or Bing. If it does, congratulations and welcome to the family.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.