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DuckDuckGo Donates $300K to Raise the Standard of Trust Online (spreadprivacy.com)
340 points by AdamSC1 on Feb 16, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

Disclaimer: I work at DuckDuckGo and this is on our company blog at spreadprivacy.com

At DuckDuckGo our overall goal is to raise the standard of trust online. To do that we've focused heavily on search, but try and support organizations that push privacy forward in other ways.

For the 7th year in a row, we've announced our donations to organizations and FOSS projects that help keep everyone a little safer in our digital world.

Donation Recipients:

$100,000 - Freedom of the Press Foundation

$75,000 - World Privacy Forum

$29,000 - Whisper Systems

$25,000 - Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

$25,000 - Tor

$25,000 - Electronic Frontier Foundation

$5000 - American Civil Liberties Union

$5000 - Access Now

$2500 - The Calyx Institute

$2500 - Center for Democracy & Technology

$1000 - Restore the Fourth

$1000 - Patient Privacy Rights

$1000 - Online Trust Alliance

$1000 - Tech Freedom

$1000 - Demand Progress

How does DuckDuckGo make money and, if not confidential, what's revenues?


I doubt you could get reliable revenue numbers

This is great, thank you for doing this!

I just made a donation to EFF on the back of your announcement. Thanks for bringing this up.

I love everything about DDG (except Perl :-P ).

Stay strong :-)

Fist bump x 1000

I'm sincerely confused by people saying that DuckDuckGo has vastly inferior search results. Mind you, I search mainly programing related things so maybe DDG better services that niche? What types of searches are people doing that DDG doesn't provide suitable results?

My success rate with DuckDuckGo searches is noticeably lower than Google. I always search on DuckDuckGo first and then fall back to Google if I can't find what I'm looking for, which is about half the time. So I'm actually confused about why you don't have problems with the search results!

So the search quality doesn't keep me attached to it. The main reason I keep using DDG is because of the "bangs" feature:


So I can search for " !bgp" or things I've used bangs for in recent searches like "ascension kit !nhw", "dark brotherhood !uesp", or "samaxwelladams mass effect !yt" and instantly get what I'm looking for without having to add a bunch of special search engines to my browser.

I don't know why it never occurred to me to try putting the bangs at the end of the result, but you definitely just saved me a lot of future time I would have spent jumping to the beginning of searches to edit them.

Seriously, thanks.

You can actually put them pretty much anywhere and it still works.

+1. I can't believe I didn't know that.

I do the same, searching DDG and falling back to Google if I can't find what I'm looking for, and I only need Google about 10% of the time, rather than half.

But I never realized bangs worked at the end of the search. Glad you mentioned that.

!sp has google results without google tracking you. Start page I think it's called

They actually work anywhere, even in the middle.

I remember realising this and being astounded at the keyboard efficiency gains such a small thing can bring

> I always search on DuckDuckGo first and then fall back to Google

Why? Why the extra steps? What is the success rate on google? For what I search for for example (which is a wide variety of things) I have great success and really don't have a need to get the type of results that I have gotten from ddg. So my question is if 'success rate with ddg searches is noticeably lower' why do you continue to do that?

I can't answer for who you replied to, but I use DDG because I support what they are trying to do. I will often support something even if it is a bit more inconvenient if I feel like they support my moral and ethical standards.

Google has something like 10+ years of my saved search history. its just ridiculously good at finding exactly what I'm looking for (which quite often is something I searched in the past).

I tried DDG for a month or 2 and just couldn't get over how generic the results felt. Google results (for me) feel much more personalized and way more likely to include exactly what I'm looking for.

Ahh but generic results are exactly what I am looking for every single time. It is MY job to figure out what I want.

Pretty sure his post was sarcasm. ;-)

Why would you think that? I was being 100% serious.

Then I'm wrong. I for one cringe when others are so passive with how much privacy they are willing to give up.

Your experience is so different from mine! One of the attributes which initially made Google feel trustworthy, back when I first encountered them, was the fact that they didn't nag you to create an account and log in. I loved the fact that I could just go to google.com and search, get good results, and not feel like I was being strong-armed into some commercial relationship in the process. I just wanted to browse the web, after all, I wasn't there to build a relationship with the search company. At the time, this felt like a breath of fresh air; it was part of what I took "don't be evil" to mean.

Of course that quality faded away over the years, but I never grew comfortable with the idea of logging in to Search; it was just too creepy. But eventually it just got ridiculous, and the relentless pushiness of the whole Google+ fiasco was a big part of the reason I switched to DDG.

> Google has something like 10+ years of my saved search history. its just ridiculously good at finding exactly what I'm looking for (which quite often is something I searched in the past).

This is the opposite a lot of the time for me. If I found what I was searching for last time, I wouldn't still be searching but google thinks that because I clicked on it previously, it's what I'm after. If google gets it wrong the first time the wrong results become self reinforcing.

Somewhere around 12-18 months ago, I tried to switch, and it was awful. I had to continuously go back to Google.

2 months ago, I tried again, and since then, I've only had to go back to Google maybe 5% of the time. So, either DDG has really stepped it up recently, or Google has gotten really bad.

( I'm an engineer and mostly doing tech research, and this opinion is only regarding standard search. For image searches or specific-domain searches, I still use Google.)

Local or user-specific results; which is sort of the point of DDG. Google has gotten users used to their own search contexts.

I agree that Duck search is pretty good. In fact, the only thing I miss from Google is the function "translate:".

(I just tried "translate:this" and it didn't do anything, so I'll assume that's not how it's supposed to be used and that it translates something on google translator)

The '!gtranslate' bang does that

The main thing that I miss is "Last Year." For many topics (e.g., Mac OS issues), I want to eliminate legacy results. But "Last Month" is too tight and sacrifices quality.

1.) DDG results tend to be way spammier. Search a product name, get garbage results, rather than links to product pages at various stores.

2.) Index isn't as complete. I very frequently do site: queries on my blog/other people's blogs to find years-old posts that I vaguely remember. Google's indexed them, DDG hasn't.

3.) Google is way better at reading my mind. Vague queries, queries that aren't literal text strings, etc.

Pretty sure reading users' minds would violate our privacy policy.

> 3.) Google is way better at reading my mind. Vague queries, queries that aren't literal text strings, etc.

I also find that DDG results are often unusably bad. But I wish Google would give you the option to restrict your search to being interpreted as a search for that literal text. Those unsolicited magic results can really get in the way.

I think surrounding the query with quotes will do that.

In my attempt to switch over to DGG, I found its programming-related search results to be particularly bad. Searching DDG would give relevant results of questionable quality, or completely unrelated results (like links to tennis racket information when searching for help with the Racket programming language). The same search on Google would return relevant Stackoverflow threads and blogs which seemed more reputable.

I still use DDG about half of the time, and can't think of any egregious examples I've encountered recently. Perhaps they've gotten better, or I've learned to write better search queries.

Sites on tennis rackets are 100% valid results when searching for the term "racket". DDG isn't doing anything wrong there. The only reason you're getting the results for Racket the programming language only, as you wanted, from Google is based on the information they have on you and your past search habits.

DDG explicitly places an emphasis on privacy and non tracking. You cannot expect the same targeted, contextual results that Google gives you if you don't want to give up some degree of privacy. People who do not want to give up that level of privacy and use DDG do so with the understanding that they lose that level of personalization.

You may be happy to provide personal information (browsing habits, clicks, etc) in exchange for better results. If so, then Google is the search engine to use. Some people do not accept that tradeoff; this is the market that DDG is for.

I'm pretty sure they meant Racket-specific queries that have enough context to make clear it's the language, not just plugging the term "racket" into the search engine. The point being that Google is better at picking up the context of queries, even when they don't have your search history.

When it comes to search-engine tests I do the obvious thing, I search for my name! Google gives me my site at the top. Duck Duck Go puts my site in place 10-15.

I share a name with an American baseball player, so I'm not surprised I don't come universally top.

(Yes I know that Google does personalized results, but even without that I "win".)

You're the 25th result on Google for me. How are you testing non-personalized results on Google?

It could be that it's localising the results geographically better. DDG's results have improved enormously for me recently, to the point that I completely forget it's not Google these days, whereas I used to use the !g bang about 80% of the time, but the one thing I do still fall back to Google for is local non-US-centric content.

I've tested in the past using private browser windows, mobile phones - not running android - and at web-cafes.

Surprised I'm not there, but I guess these things change over time.

All of those probably geolocate your IP to the same region, unless you were travelling the world at the time. You really need to use proxies or tor to get a genuinely non-personalised Google.

I switched to DDG about 3 weeks ago, I'm having to !g quite a lot still and sometimes even switch back to non-encrypted google so they can take account of my past searches.

I can't believe you're not aware of the gulf between DDG searches and google ones, they are, to me at least, noticeably better.

OTOH, I've tried DDG before and this time I haven't switched back, it's now good enough that !g is enough for the 10% of times it fails. The loss in relevancy is now small enough for me to be happy to gleefully accept the gain in privacy.

I've realised that whenever a query is particularly complex, DDG is going to fail. I almost know which queries to !g even before typing them. Niche programming questions especially. For example, I've been doing a bunch of i18n for a client in .Net and anything past the most basic questions, the content available online for doing it well is surprisingly sparse, I guess it's something most .Net programmers don't have to deal with. Google has been providing much better links to complex questions. Also a few weeks ago I wrote a purposefully very lightweight widget without jquery and questions like "do X in javascript without jquery" or "do X in javascript with IE8 support", google seems to be much better at respecting the "without jquery" and "with IE8 support" bits of the query.

I also don't see the point of their other bangs. SO search, reddit search, etc. are so awful. Just so utterly terrible when you compare them to google that you wonder what the point of those bangs are.

Personally, I think their extension that shows the top SO result is more annoying than it is good, it almost always cuts off the actual code, you have to click once to see the rest of the answer anyway, generally speaking you get much more insight from the actual SO page as you see the other answers and I'd far prefer the SO result to be at the top to click than suddenly a huge, virtually pointless, chunk of text which cuts off half the actual code being at the top of the search results.

I also, quite guiltily, miss being able to search a film title and get the local listings or other location based searches, I know google are spying on my location, but damn is it much better on google. As someone who believes in privacy quite ardently, I feel I am actually keenly aware of the benefits you give up by not disclosing that information. I admit I only just found the DDG setting to set your country, but they really should make such an important setting much more visible rather than assuming everyone new is in the US, getting amazon.com results when you want amazon.co.uk results is very frustrating. Google automatically redirects you to google.co.uk with the option to switch back.

Google is also much better at mixing relevant video and image results with your search when appropriate (e.g you search a celeb's name or you search for something like "fallout 4 settlement management mod" google will show a mix of links, images and videos).

EDIT: though, again, I'm not finding myself switching back, I do urge anyone privacy conscious to give DDG another go for a few weeks, it really is very good now and you can prefix queries with "!g " if you want to google search instead.

Kudos to DuckDuckGo for supporting these organizations which are trying to keep everyone a little safer. HN readers who agree should donate to the organization(s) with which they resonate. Even small donations can make important differences.

DDG has been nailing it lately - really digging their Twitter feed too; they do not pull punches.

I switched a few weeks ago from Google to DDG. I didn't switch because of privacy reasons but because I am now finding their search results superior.

That is helped by searching for things that are on Stackoverflow and DDG presenting the answer clearly at the top.

DDG has 300K to donate? I guess they're doing much better than I expected. How in the world do they make money?

Advertising and affiliate revenue. They show ads based on search terms.


This is what I think when I first saw the title. Is DDG profit making?

Great. I think you should consider Let's Encrypt as well.

That's a good point. We actually recently starting using them for internal/dev resources. I'll definitely make a note of it for next year.

For anyone who wants to donate to directly support Let's Encrypt, its parent entity is Internet Security Research Group, a 501(c)(3) charitable entity. You can make donations to ISRG at https://letsencrypt.org/donate/. Businesses can also become formally recognized sponsors at https://letsencrypt.org/become-a-sponsor/ (though that might not match the giving patterns or preferences of DuckDuckGo).

Thanks to DuckDuckGo for all of its donations this year and other years.

When I read the title, I thought immediately on Let´s Encrypt.

I just recently (last week) switched over to DDG; it's been solid- I've gotten really great results versus last time I tried them out (5 or 6 months ago?)

I love their vision, the services they provide, and what they've done here (with the donations) <3

I've moved all our devices to DDG recently. It used to be goog on all our idevices. Mainly I was just to lazy. But I like DDG results and the engine and that they give back. Also they use FreeBSD which is a plus.

Seems like a great company and search engine to me.

"Our devices"? I don't understand. Do you mean your company's devices? Your family's devices? Your household's devices?


The one thing that is mildly disturbing about DuckDuckGo is its founder did not have privacy in mind while building. In one interview about a couple of years ago he told explicitly that DuckDuckGo became privacy focused because of the market for privacy and not because of his personal belief in privacy.

That's fine.. If the idealism-based push for privacy isn't doing so well, maybe the business-based push will. We can definitely fight through all available avenues.

yes. But for that we must be aware of the historical context. I was just biased that some one like RMS (Richard Stallman) who is both capable and strong willed has started the project but surprised to find market drove it. But surely market for privacy got created because of the idealism-based peoples sacrifice.

I've been using 100% DuckDuckGo in combination with Brave browser for the past 3 months and have not looked back.

Can you talk about using Brave Browser, and what you like about it over Firefox? Why should I make the switch over ff + ublock + umatrix?

The fact that a significant subset of websites are broken in mobile Firefox.

It seems the fastest way to spread privacy is to bring a sudden stop to its erosion. My suggestion: ban all acquisitions by the top software companies for the next 5 years :-)

As a bonus, you will foist some competition on the market as companies which thought they were on an acquisition path will now be forced to show real profits.

More than two years using DDG on every device, very satisfied. I'm suggesting it to everybody.

Great to see support for all those important projects, but maybe DDG should use that money to hire someone who makes their Search Results better so we would not have to go back to Google on every other more sophisticated search.

I have to say, I use DDG regularly for search and switched about a month ago. Honestly, I have had little issue with it besides the occasional switch to Google when searching for super random very niche things.

The real trick, is to just start using it and force yourself to. It's really not too bad, and there is always startpage, which you can use as backup.

For reference, I use Firefox on mobile and desktop and when I type in a search I can select which search engine to use. By default I have DDG, and with one click I can get startpage or Google.

What's the advantage of DDG over StartPage? They both rely on outside sources of data and both anonymize your searches.

Yes, I can't say that there's much I love more than forcing myself use a tool that's "not really too bad." DDG seems like they're really providing a stellar product.

Their product is search that doesn't track you. The search portion is not too bad, as in it does it's job and I feel happy to use it (although not super excited).

However, search is essentially a commodity.

DuckDuckGo has provided additional value which is that you aren't tracked. That, in my opinion, is what makes this a good (stellar) product, that I want to use every day.

The use Bing ads and affiliate links to monetize. Nice, that "they" don't track me, but as soon as I click a link there I will be tracked. That argument is utter Bullshit. Only real plus point is, that even if they track it's not in Googles Data Silo.

Yeah, I'm sure two extra employees this year would have made all the difference.

They're doing pretty well at an impossible problem. I'm cool with them giving back to the global community.

For what it's worth, I switched to DDG some time ago, and it took some time to get accustomed to, but I know find most of its results to be better than the ones of Google. Maybe except for one search or two that involve special chars, such as an error message. But I'm impressed, overall. Plus, it's not completely unlike Google with the resources it had a few years back.

What do you need to get accustomed to? Is there anything that you'd need to do different while using DDG than you'd do with Google?

Sorry, I call bullshit on this. I love DuckDuckGo and have used it as my default engine for over 5 years but the search results are consistently absolute garbage.

They hired someone in September:


At least their traffic acceleration suggests they were able to lift off from the 10 million plateau at around that time.

i too wish ddg had better search results but i think most of what makes google's results better is the tracking...

In my experience, google results are better in incognito.

The tracking of everyone else still affects the view in incognito.

I suspect that if they went open source, they could get a lot of help from academia and others. Their search quality could skyrocket.

Or they could start a contest, like the Netflix-prize.

Which module contains the source for the core search engine?

Try startpage.com, it gets Google results and claims to be more private.


bang bang, I'm happy.

!g why would ever go back to vanilla google?

Great idea, but it seems like it's going to take a lot more than $300k, right?

Very true. Have you considered donating?

Maybe I should.

Where do you go to donate?

DuckDuckGo most likely tracks everything users do. Their founder sold his previous startup along with all its user's data. Outside of the cozy story they spin, I don't know why users think this company is a champion of user privacy.

There's a difference between "tracking everything users do" and "tracking everything each user does". Which are you accusing it of doing?

Do you think they're lying on their privacy policy? Isn't that illegal?

Oh no! Not illegal!

If you're going to make a statement like that, at least offer some proof.

What search engine do you suggest?

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