Why I Switched To The Duck Duck Go Search Engine

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 2, 2012
Updated • Feb 18, 2014
Internet, Search

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.

search engine

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.

chrome default search engine

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=.

firefox search engine

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.

What's Missing?

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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  1. C.Dee said on April 18, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    I switched to Duckduckgo because my tinfoil hat wasnt cutting it. LOL. But seriously; to get to ddg I still had to use Chrome, Edge or one of the other major names. Saving it as my start page still requires me to use one of these portals. What options do I have there?

  2. Ashish Kumar said on April 24, 2019 at 7:12 am

    I feel Duck Duck Go is far a better search engine than Google. Even I use it more than Google and recommend it because it is not involved in deceptive practices. Plus, It commits for greater search privacy.

  3. Greg137 said on February 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    I keep getting irrelevant search results from duckduckgo… completely unrelated stuff.. Google is the same, and so is bing…

  4. Mike said on March 15, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Used Duckduckgo for a couple of days. Eventually having every url I enter become a search instead of directing to the page I typed became a PITA so google is back for the near term. Startpage sounds interesting Duckduckgo to the scrap heap.

  5. DuckDuckGoogle said on January 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I switched to DDG after being blocked from using Google for not agreeing to their so-called ‘privacy policy’. It was great for exactly three days. After which, despite having turned off ‘search suggestions’ and even having saved my settings to the cloud as they suggest, those b-awful ‘suggestions’ started jumping up and down under the search box as I was typing, just the same as Google. And just like Google, despite altering the settings (switching the relevant setting on and off again etc) I could not turn them off. I’m beginning to wonder if DDG is just Google in disguise. It certainly acts like Google as far as ignoring your choice of settings. I might as well agree to having Google keep a record of everything from my inside leg measurement to the contents of my weekly shop and to hell with it.

  6. Noitidart said on June 26, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Is there an Im feeling lucky version to ddg? I swithced to it from bing recently. But ddg only has bang. So like if I typed !mdn services.jsm its taking me to search of services.jsm on mdn, i want it to go to the first hite

  7. Alexis said on April 7, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    The trouble I find with *ALL* search engines is that when i am searching for websites and / or information on topics is that I find alot of the stuff posted to search engines is nearly a hundred years old and no longer relevent or even working anymore. Alot of websites and their links are dead air links or missing altogether as well as outdated if they are even working at all. This kind of stuff is fraustratng and time consuming. I hope someday someone will come up with a way to monitor pages for relevency and if they aren’t they will be deleted automatically or at least updated, making it easier for all of us *SEARCHERS* of information!!! :) that’s my review!!!!

  8. Marco said on February 26, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Hello Martin,

    Nice discussion of DuckDuckGo; we started using this search engine after Google started lumping all of our emails with our private domain together. Too much of an invasion of privacy!

    Then we started having difficulty logging into our accounts with there security verification, saying that
    they did not recognize our login credentials. Just a waste of precious time for us attempting to carry on business.

    The latest ingression was when we went to log into DuckDuckGo and we guess we accidently
    typed http://duckduckgo.co: well it took us right to the Duck Photo page – try it!


    1. Rocky said on February 27, 2015 at 10:55 am

      @ “The latest ingression………” It is hardly Googles fault if somebody has registered a name which is very similar to DuckDuckGo ?

  9. Anonymous said on December 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I recently switched from google to the duck for the same reasons mentioned above in the article, and I do like duckduckgo but there is one annoying thing about them is that everytime you open it it opens an extra tab to a home improvement website .
    Anybody having the same problem? How can I prevent that?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on December 4, 2014 at 8:41 pm

      Are you sure this is caused by DDG? I never heard of this and this sounds a lot like a misbehaving extension or program.

  10. Just another spaceduck said on August 28, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Ducking the web with DuckDuckGo is more fun.

  11. Rocky said on August 15, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Just researching non-Google search engines and am looking at DuckDuckgo. I came across your article. It is two years old now – I am wondering if you are still using DDG ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 15, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      Rocky, I’m using Startpage.com now.

      1. Rocky said on August 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm

        Thanks Martin for the reply.

        I too had a look at startpage.com . It seems to have no function other than anonymising Google searches . I feel it is a little disingenuous ( no criticism intended) to use Google search but “behind a mask”. At least DDG has its own engine ?

        Also in the course of researching some of this I saw the question asked – why is it that Google does not block startpage ? or DDG etc for that matter.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 28, 2014 at 1:56 pm

        There is no official answer to that question. My take? It is probably insignificant when it comes to traffic in Google’s eyes.

  12. OMU2014 said on May 12, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Nice article. I used Ixquick as an alternative to Google before but now I use DDG more often. The simplicity is just refreshing.

  13. Sylvio Haas said on March 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    It is obvious that the guy who criticized your English found a pretext to inveigh you: that is pure jealousy – you are a deserved successful blogger, respected and deared by many people around the world, which is something he wishes for himself but can only dream about. Forgive MY poor English, I’m from Brazil, where you have lots of fans.

  14. Grammer Nazi said on February 18, 2014 at 3:28 am

    It’s not “on pair with Google”

    It’s “on par with Google”

    People like you are what is leading to the wholesale destruction of the English Language. Please learn some Grammar, and/or common usage. I recommend reading. Lots. I read about a book a month from age 8 to 20, that means about 12 * 12, or about 144 or more in that time period, and I am still an avid reader today. I recommend some George R.R. Martin if you are into Fantasy, or maybe some Oryx and Crake from Margaret Atwood, just stated into that novel, and I am really enjoying it.

    So, read more, I promise your writing will improve! :)

    1. Anon said on March 9, 2014 at 3:04 am

      For heaven’s sake, what a rude comment.

      First of all, among _your_ multiple grammar and spelling mistakes, you did not spell “grammar” correctly in your subject line, and in the body of your message, you capitalized “grammar”, which is incorrect in English.

      Secondly, Martin’s English is very, very good for a non-native speaker. Additionally, it is obvious from his blog that he is intelligent, careful, thoughtful, and well-educated.

      Thirdly, many native English speakers in modern times are actually pretty bad at spelling, grammar, sentence construction, punctuation, etc. Education in the larger English-speaking countries has taken a nosedive in the last 30 years. If mistyping the word “par” as “pair” is the worst editing oversight that you can accuse a blog writer of, that speaks to the high standards of that blog writer (no matter what his or her native language is).

      I studied German for many years in high school and university, plus I lived in Germany for quite a while. Nevertheless, Martin’s English when he was eight was probably as good as my German is now!

      I expect that he also studied one or two other languages in school besides his own language and English, which is seldom the case with native English speakers. English may even have been the third or fourth language he was instructed in at school. That kind of extensive language training, which many German children are fortunate to receive, is unheard of in the American and British state-sponsored school systems, and is even rare in many private American and British schools.

      Martin: Thank you for the effort, time, knowledge, and care you put into your blog. It is appreciated by many people!

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 9, 2014 at 8:20 am

        Thanks! I learned Latin in school as well :)

        We traveled to England often in Summer when I was a kid and that certainly helped improve my skills in this regard. Still, the number one factor is this blog and readers who explain to me — nicely — that I made a mistake.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 18, 2014 at 8:51 am

      Well, my English was not really that good at the age of eight, so, I read mostly German literature at that time. I do read the occasional history / religion book in English, but that is about it. Not because I do not want to read more, but because I do not have the time to do so.

  15. tommy said on April 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

    after using duck duck go for about a year i’ve switched back to qrobe.it all of duck duck go’s searches have become irrelevant. it’s almost futile to try and find any relevant results without having to dig for them using DDG. i’ve tested this out the past several days and finally decided to change back. qrobe.it has similiar shortcuts and the results are extremely better.

  16. Michael S Brown said on May 21, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Great write-up on Duck Duck Go.

    I recently switched over because of all the ads on Google. The are actually countering what their start up policy was and beliefs are… Google founders actually believed that ad-based search engines were not the best way to show the best results… they’ve obviously changed.

    I also agree that Google is not very kind if you want to keep your privacy….

    Plus recently, Google has been showing enough completely irrelevant search results after their penguin update.

  17. schrodingersGato said on April 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Why are my search terms being displayed in the header on duckduckgo even on https??

    Okay, I’m only bringing this up because it’s obvious to me. I was a huge fan of scroogle for two reasons:
    1. It allowed me to use google’s powerful search engine anonymously (i could care less about blocking the ads as long as they aren’t targeted).
    2. My search terms were displayed as a random string which prevented my isp, snoops with access to my computer,governments etc. from viewing my search terms. The disadvantage was that I could not look over previous searches with my web history.

    I wish ddg would allow me to turn on this feature for us “tin-foil-hat” types. I have also switched alost completely to ddg, but I would like this feature pretty please!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Do you mean in the address bar? Check out the Settings http://duckduckgo.com/settings.html

  18. Sagar said on March 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

    DuckDuckGo is really impressive, better than Bing but cannot match Google.

  19. jcubic said on February 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Try to search !bang it will show all direct searches that Duck Duck GO support there are lots of them.

  20. Paul said on February 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    FYI – Bing powers DuckDuckGo results.

  21. jcubic said on February 15, 2012 at 12:17 am

    It’s awesome, I know about DDG but never about those features. You can even use !image !video and !map to search google image, YouTube and google map. site: is working like in google.

    DDG have some problems with localized search, google is better in that but I can search using site:pl to search only on Polish websites (but not all of them are in pl top domain).

  22. batman said on February 10, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I am confused; I used duck duck go’s “contact” form, to send a message to the developer, Gabriel Weinberg.

    I received a reply from SUPPORT@ duckduckgo.com shortly afterwards.

    While expecting the email headers, I couldn’t believe my eyes:
    He’s using gmail’s mail servers to host his duck duck go.com mail!!

    Is it just me or is that a complete contradiction of what his website is all about ( anti-google campaign )?!

    Try it yourself and see! Today is february ninth 2012.

    1. anon_pingu said on February 12, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Well, maybe you should ask him about this too!!

  23. zanuts3 said on February 7, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Nice article- I think many are looking for Google alternatives due to obvious privacy concerns. I do like ixquick: For each link, it offers option to open url using it’s proxy- which allows even more privacy.

    My 18 -year web search engine history was: Altavista (94-99); Google (99-2010);
    and currently Ixquick/ DDG (which admittedly are meta-engines)

  24. SFdude said on February 4, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I like the security (green / yellow / red colored rings),
    which WOT shows next to each link
    in the Google Search Results page…

    How to make WOT (Web of Trust) Firefox extension
    show these markers
    also for Search Results links in:
    a) DDG ?
    b) Startpage ?

    1. Anonymouse said on February 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

      (with javascript) You can go into the DDG settings and change the “site icons” section to show all of WOT instead of just the warnings:

      or you can use the URL parameters from here:

      which are these:
      Favicons: kf =
      b for Favicons + WOT warnings
      1 for Just favicons
      w for Just WOT (trust) ratings
      fw for All WOT + favicons (both)
      -1 for Off

      For ixquick you can use a firefox addon like LinkExtend to show them on links, but I have not used linkextend in a while:

      hope that helps =)

      1. SFdude said on February 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

        Thanks Anonymouse,
        Your clear instructions really helped.

        Using the “settings.html” page,
        the WOT rings now appear next to each Results link
        in DDG.

        Thanks again!

  25. Virtualguy said on February 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Duck Duck Go = duck the tracking, duck the bubble, go to unfettered results.

  26. Anonymouse said on February 3, 2012 at 6:56 am

    I remember back in the beginning when google first came out, but even back then I didnt care for its results and preferences. Back then I used Dogpile or Metacrawler, because I could delete my search history and such. later on I found Ixquick, but saw a linux page that talked about DuckDuckGo and have been using the lite version of it since. especially on dialup DDG is faster than most other search engines I have used.

    I had found Ixquick on this page when looking for other metacrawler search engines: http://www.pandia.com/powersearch/index.html Its a great list of a lot of search engines incase you want a specific engine for a particular matter. I used it when searching for things in college. but in all my time DDG seems to be the best and easiest to me.

    As a linux user DDG is great because if you look up a linux related item it will sometimes post the text of it in a short blurb before the web results. (at least in the lite version I am using) A lot of the time that little blurb it shows is exactly what I am looking for. So DDG saves me a lot of time.

    I have been trying to get others to convert to DDG and even linux. but most of the people I know still use google because of the shopping or news features it has. For image searches I will still goto ixquick, but rarely do I ever do that.

  27. Anonymous said on February 3, 2012 at 2:15 am

    For a noscripted version I use:


    as my keyword.url in firefox

  28. Lesley said on February 3, 2012 at 1:41 am

    I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for months and I would never dream of switching back. They don’t track you, bubble you, simple to use, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. I’ve been trying to switch people over, but they’re still Google lovers. Hopefully all will change now with Google’s new privacy policy. The only Google product I use is Android, but I use DDG on it and it’s rooted.

  29. Crodol said on February 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Trying it for a few days as of today. Thanks for the idea.

  30. Jim said on February 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I’ve made a few positive comments about DDG over the past few weeks. It has been my go-to search engine for several months now. I can’t remember the last time I used Google on purpose. With Google’s recent questionable privacy actions, I’m glad I already started moving away from them.

    A big +1 for DDG :-)

  31. bastik said on February 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Secured connection:

    Version that works without JavaScript

  32. Robert Palmar said on February 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I have been going to Duck Duck Go more and more
    and with Martin’s endorsement I will go a lot more.

    Duck Duck Go is a strange name to say the least.
    I wonder if it is derivative of the children’s game
    of Duck Duck Goose which involves picking
    a “Goose” among many ducks or whatever.

    Of course, there was a time when
    Google was considered an odd name.

  33. me said on February 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    I use DuckDuckGo and StartingPage for searches. When I disable java script using the QuickJava plugin in Firefox the DuckDuckGo will not work while StartingPage keeps on ticking. Both of them have plugins for the Firefox browser.

  34. Virtualguy said on February 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I, too, have been using duckduckgo for several months. However, Startpage looks very interesting as well. I think the days of Google’s search engine dominance are dwindling.

  35. Heraclitus said on February 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I agree about the aesthetic impression DuckDuckGo gives to the user. Why this has taken so long to be discovered by myself and others I’m in touch with boggles me. I like the fact that the box that appears directly under the search bar draws information from wikipedia and other largely relevant sites to my search query. I’m stuck on DuckDuckGo for the forseeable future. The heck with Google.

  36. Tyler said on February 2, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Duck Duck Go is awesome. The simple idea and concept is what I always thought Google should be (the path they are now deviating way away from.)

    Plus the name is fun and reminds me of childhood!

  37. kalmly said on February 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I’ve been pretty happy with Ixquick. My experience with DuckDuckGo was disappointing but that was a long while back. Time to try it again. I didn’t know about Startpage. Thanks for the info.

  38. Roy said on February 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Found DuckDuckGo a while back and it’s a very good alternative for non-Google results.

    I use it as a backup but still use Startpage for normal searches as it combines the benefits of Ixquick privacy/proxy with search results from Google.

    1. DuckDuckGo fan said on June 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      Duckduckgo has some search results you just can’t find with Google.

  39. Selva Kumar said on February 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I just switched to Duckduck Go a few days back before ghacks author did. I am not impressed by googel search engine auto suggest feature.

    And more over it eats up my bandwidth

  40. Yoav said on February 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve been using startpage since someone suggested it in the comments on Ghacks and it’s been very good.

    1. Reggie said on February 3, 2012 at 12:52 am

      I switched to Startpage recently (startpage.com) after reading about it on Bill Mullins’ Tech Thoughts site and have not looked back. It claims to offer you Google search results in complete privacy. They’ve also made a Firefox plug-in. Definitely worth a look, IMO.

  41. Ken Saunders said on February 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Duck Duck Go is a good service, but I’m still using Startpage as my default.
    It’s from the same company that makes Ixquick, so you get all of the same great privacy features (Proxy Service, SSL, etc), but it uses Google for searches. So, you get Google results without the privacy concerns, and all of Google’s products being thrown at you.


  42. Bee.K said on February 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Even tho I’m a huge Google fan otherwise, I agree with DDG and its approach in simplicity. Google Search is still tops, but I like DDG’s results screen more.

  43. Anonymous said on February 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t see DuckDuckGo under Manage Search Engines in my Chrome browser..
    What could be the problem ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      If you do not see it, you need to add it manually. Just select any name and keyword, and use the following url https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%s to add it.

  44. ódio said on February 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    i dont like the results i’m gettin with Google, but DDG its not very good for portuguese results

    1. Mushaf said on February 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      This is the sole reason why I use Google. No one returns better search results when it comes to localized search.

      1. DuckDuckGo fan said on June 14, 2014 at 9:57 pm

        Duckduckgo is much better than Google at search sorry to say this to the Google fans.

      2. Anonymous said on May 28, 2014 at 3:36 am

        That’s the upside to Google knowing exactly where and who you are, if you’re comfortable with that.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Odio, this is a problem that all “Google alternatives” share, their localized results are not on-pair with Google’s results.

  45. Nitrox said on February 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    in firefox for keyword.url use https://duckduckgo.com/?q=!+ if you want to have i am feeling lucky feature.

    The only change from what martin mentioned is addition of !+ which adds a ! plus keyword from search bar.

    In a nutshell, if you type in ghacks in awesomebar, it will take you to ghacks.net

  46. Roebie said on February 2, 2012 at 11:37 am

    There are some Firefox addons that install the search engine for you. You can find links to them here: http://help.duckduckgo.com/customer/portal/articles/216441-firefox
    Most people probably want the first one.

    1. Midnight said on February 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

      Yep! Just added the Addon plug-in and it’s all set to go.
      I dumped several others, which I don’t need.

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