Is DuckDuckGo a Worth Alternative to Google? My 6 Months Test

If you’re here I suppose you already know the DuckDuckGo search engine, it’s a free search engine that doesn’t track you and cares even more about your privacy.

Here there are my thoughts about its pros and cons.

Why I started using DuckDuckGo as my search engine

I first met DuckDuckGo many years ago when it was less mainstream and privacy was something almost unknown.
This doesn’t mean that I was on the edge of the new discovery, quite the opposite.

I tried DuckDuckGo but it was too early and I wasn’t motivated to use it.

After a few years, Seth Godin wrote that he uses it, so I decide to try it again, but after 1 month I go back to Google, something wasn’t still quite right.

I remember a few months ago to look back at my bookmark list and notice the DuckDuckGo bookmark. Given the fact that Google was invading my life I thought it would be nice to see what did changed.

Did I choose it for the privacy? Yes, a little bit.
Although I’m not the type that worries about privacy too much. But given the amount of information that constantly leaks about us I, for once, worried to be the owner of it, even if for a tiny part.

What did I like about DuckDuckGo

Speed.

I always got an outstanding speed out of it. It’s blazing fast, much faster than Google IMHO.
Also, the fact that you don’t have redirects in between tracking you helps keeping things faster.

There were times when I could literally compare the difference between the two and notice how DuckDuckGo search was faster.

No annoying “Are you a human?”

I work in a web agency as a web developer, and guess what? We have a static ip, and we all use google.

When 30 people use google from the same ip, from time to time, a terrible screen will pop-up asking you a captcha. It literally break my workflow and frustrated me.
I know google is right in doing this, but since DuckDuckGo is less common, I don’t ever get this issue.

It’s hackable

Do you want to extend the functionality of DuckDuckGo?
If you got the balls, then you can.

DuckDuckHack is the place where you can learn how to extend DuckDuckGo by adding new instant answers.
The nice thing about this is that sometimes you’ll be surprised.

From a developer point of view this is fantastic.
You can search an hex color, get the direct result from stackoverflowstart a timer, and even get info for pressure cooker recipes.

Even though some of these instant answer are somewhat “WebDeveloper-related”, I think there’s potential here.

Bangs

Bangs are one of the nicest addition to DuckDuckGo and are a way to make your search faster in the websites you love.

For example if you write “!a headphones” it will redirect to amazon searching headphones on amazon.
You can also use it to translate “!wrenit headphones” will translate headphones in italian (en->it) from english using WordReference.

Or, if you don’t trust the DuckDuckGo results, you can add the !g bang, which will redirect you to the search in google.

What I didn’t like or could be improved

News

One of the things that’s really nice is when you want to have more news about an event that’s happened in the last hour or that’s happening right now.

I’m talking about small and big news, from local to global.
Those are nice because it happens that you search to know more, to get more information.

I didn’t found a way to make DuckDuckGo play well in this case yet, maybe there is and I’m unaware of that, maybe there’s not.

TimeFrame search

Recently DuckDuckGo added the ability to search within a timeframe of 1 month maximum.
Thanks to the yahoo partnership this is a dream come true.

When I started writing this blog post (so many months ago), the feature didn’t exist.
Now it’s real.
It’s a super-nice addition, but it’s still not on the top.

While I don’t care about searching in a perfect timeframe, I’d love to also search in the last year, while right now DuckDuckGo can select “yesterday/last week/last month”.

Why is it important? Because for example I often search for new tools or alternative, and a month isn’t enough.

When I search for a new app or webapp, one year is enough to find the latest one, more the one year is useless because you’d read something too old.

Compare with google

The strangest thing is… many many times I thought: The search result in DuckDuckGo is worse than google.
Then I added the !g bang, and found out it wasn’t so bad.

Yes, google had some different websites DuckDuckGo didn’t have, but all in all it wasn’t a bad result.

Now, I think DuckDuckGo really improved in the last years, and it’s actually been my default search engine for more than 6 months.

So, the improvement I’d wish for (and sadly I know it’s technically hard to achieve), is something that will raise the awareness of the searcher about “These search result are 95% equals with the ones in google”.

Yes, those 95% can’t consider the change in the results you get from searching with a logged google account. Your preferences count and make the difference, but all in all, sometimes I lost faith in DuckDuckGo and I was proved wrong, the results were good.

Group by website?

Google automatically groups search results by the website that contains them. This is quite useful when you end up searching data on a forum, because they are usually topic-related, so you want to dig into that website.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t do that.
Maybe it’s an implementation choice, but I found that this feature was quite useful and I miss it a little bit.

Local Information

The things that really make Google search stand out is the Business information it has. Telephone numbers, locations, etc.
If I’m searching for a business telephone number, it’s easier to do it in google mostly because the information is already available.

Does DuckDuckGo works well for a non-english search?

Last thing: I’m Italian.
Which is not important for you, but it’s important for me as I often search in that language.

Few years ago the search results in Italian sucked. A lot.
Now? They’re good. Maybe not perfect, but I must say that using it daily didn’t made me regret the choice.

Conclusions

Searching is a quite personal thing, and I love the fact that DuckDuckGo is moving towards a faster, more secure web.

I love its customizability, its features.
I admit that I still use google at least 15% of the time, even though it would be awesome to have some kind of statistics about it also to understand how often you rely on the !g bang.

It could be a feature of the DuckDuckGo Chrome/Safari/Firefox extension, so that no data is tracked outside your browser.

That said, it’s good, and it’s getting better.
I think there will still be people not happy with it, and that the search results can be improved in cases when you’re searching for a needle.
It would be super-awesome if, together with the partnership with yahoo, DuckDuckGo could settle a partnership with WordReference for making the translation even easier (at the moment this would be out of question because WordReference doesn’t allow such use of its API).

All in all, I won’t go back to Google anytime soon.

List of the small features I’d love
  • % of the time I used the !g bang on local browser
  • Ability to restrict the results in the last year
  • Grouping by website (maybe, maybe not. I’d love to know their take on this)
  • Business numbers/telephones/addresses
  • Ability to search the news
  • WordReference partnership for translating
  • Compare with google (could be done by the extension)

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