When Snowden revealed the massive spying program of the NSA back in 2013, Internet users started to turn to privacy focused search engines.
Search engines like DuckDuckGo or Startpage saw a jump in user traffic after the leaking of the data. While still just a tiny fraction of the traffic that the behemoth Google Search gets, or its main competitor Bing Search, it is clear that more and more users are using search engines that promise better privacy for some or even all of the searches they run.
The rise did not come out of nowhere though. Both DuckDuckGo and Startpage tap into the data of bigger search engines, Bing and Google, and while that is limiting somewhat as they have to deal with whatever data they get, search results are for the most part similar to what users get when they run searches on Google or Bing directly.
The core difference is however that users are not tracked when they run searches.
We looked at how well DuckDuckGo and Startpage are doing back in 2015 for the last time. Back then, both search engines did quite well and saw a noticeable increase in traffic year over year.
If you look at data provided by Alexa, a company that Amazon bought years ago that tracks website popularity among other things, you will notice that privacy focused search engines continue to do well.
DuckDuckGo broke into the top 400 sites this year globally for instance, while it sat in the top 800 sites a year ago. Startpage too went from a global rank around 3000 to 1249 in a year, and newcomer Searx rose more than halved its rank to position 195,000 now.
Both DuckDuckGo and Startpage publish traffic information that are publicly available. DuckDuckGo's traffic continues to rise and sites at about 16,700,000 average direct requests per day. One year ago, the average number of direct requests was 11,100,000 which means that requests increased by about a third in a year's time.
Startpage sits at about 5,200,000 average direct requests per day right now. The search engine's traffic page does not reveal historic data however other than a graph, but growth seems to have slowed down.
It is good to see that privacy focused search engines continue to do well. In fact, I'm a bit puzzled why they don't do a lot better considering that privacy is still one of the hot topics on the Internet and even in traditional media.
Is it because these search engines are known only to a small subset of people, because of convenience and the fact that most tracking happens without user knowledge in the background, or because of technical or functional reasons?
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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.