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DuckDuckGo, Google, and Android choice screens (wired.co.uk)
390 points by x32n23nr on June 8, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments

Does anyone here understand how it is that Bing is powering DDG?

Does DDG just generate lots of Bing searches and scrape the result? If so, why wouldn't MS block them?

Or did they strike some sort of deal? If so, how can that be in Bing's interest? They're just creating a Bing competitor, right? Given that Bing reasonably wants to be the #2 search engine, supporting a formidable competitor striving for the same spot doesn't sound like a winning strategy for Bing. Right?

What am I missing? :-)

Microsoft offers a Bing API [1]. So Microsoft is getting paid by DDG for using Bing. Given Google's domination of the search market, I think it makes sense for Microsoft to sell their search API and let other companies help chip away at Google's user base.

[1] https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-service...

Correct. The list price for the Bing web search API is $30/10,000 searches. I wouldn't be surprised if DDG was also able to negotiate a volume discount.

In addition, DDG serves ads from the Microsoft ad network, so they will also make money there.

Also, worth noting that Google provides the same type of service through API. I built a search engine [0] where Google web results are one of many sources used.

[0] https://www.runnaroo.com

If DDG gains sufficient marketshare, MS may just buy them out, for a steal perhaps since they have the ability to tighten the screws. So DDG is little more than an MS proxy aimed at Google’s search business. It’s not really an underdog, just two behemoths fighting for control of the search business. Sounds more like “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

This is only true if DDG isn't investing into its own backend as it grows.

If all the users go to DDG.com, it won't matter if Bing has a great backend or not.

I've recently lived this experience in another context. We built a great backend for a partner that was good at publicity. When they redirected users to their internal backend, we were dead in the water. It didn't matter that the partner struggled with their backend and ours was better. We hadn't invested resources in independent publicity, so users couldn't find us. It was a hard lesson to learn.

And to that point, DDG does have its own crawler, and I believe leverages other third-parties as well (I know Yandex was historically in the mix, for example). So if Microsoft did try to strongarm DuckDuckGo, DDG would have other options, even if less-than-ideal.

There’s no one close to Google in the US. After a big drop, there’s no one REMOTELY close to Bing for 2nd best results. Bing dropping DDG in 2020 or 2021 would be a death kneel for them for US search results. Probably many other countries too. Yandex is too far off right now to be a replacement. I haven’t checked Yandex in a bit of time though. Perhaps they drastically improved.

People in tech circles always say DDG has a crawler. I know they do. No one ever says how big it is. I have a hard time believing it’s crawling more than a couple percent what Bing is crawling.

> No one ever says how big [DuckDuckBot] is

One complicating matter is that it specializes in DDG's "Instant Answers"; apparently¹ the "source from other search engines" approach really only applies to the traditional results list, while DuckDuckBot is focused specifically on the Instant Answers, effectively optimizing for the absolute most relevant first result possible. So in its current state DuckDuckBot ain't exactly comparable in purpose.

Still, I don't see much that'd be stopping DDG from ramping this up and having it generate the traditional list of results, too. Yeah, obviously the results for quite a few queries will be far from ideal, but if the query already hits one of DDG's curated data sources, I suspect the results might already be better if anything.


¹: https://help.duckduckgo.com/duckduckgo-help-pages/results/so...

DuckDuckGo is ddg.gg not ddg.com

However, I believe they are also duck.com

> for a steal perhaps since they have the ability to tighten the screws.

You think they don't have some tight contractual relationship with built in renewals and extensions? This is really similar to how corporations lock up retail real estate locations. They don't sign a 1 or 2 or even 5 year lease and then hope the landlord doeesn't rake them over the coals when there is no where else to go to. (Which could often be the case..) You build in renewal options as part of the deal. Those can last a long long time. May even have (probably does) a 'right of first refusal' and so on.

I believe DDG used other solutions pre-Bing; it’s just that, after they switched to Bing, it seemed to work well enough that they kept it. Could they afford the hit in result quality resulting from switching away, if MS started playing rough? That’s a good question, but I’m sure the DDG folks have thought about it.

Depends on the user I imagine. Most of my searches start on DDG and I just got used to expecting certain types of "human phrase searches" to be !g'd, or more recently for me, !s'd.

So if DDG degraded in quality I'd be fine, because I don't expect perfection. Though I suppose it depends on how much, of course.

I believe DDG used other solutions pre-Bing...

DDG used the Yahoo Boss API [0] originally. It was pretty good, but Yahoo shut it down and Bing now also powers their search engine.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_Search_BOSS

Wasn't Yahoo! Bing powered at that time? :)

DDG launched in 2008, and according to the below, the deal between Yahoo and Microsoft didn't happen until 2009 at the earliest.

In July 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced a deal in which Bing would power Yahoo! Search. All Yahoo! Search global customers and partners made the transition by early 2012. The deal was altered in 2015, meaning Yahoo! was only required to use Bing for a "majority" of searches.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/?curid=4325491

That’s not clear if DDG’s US and European results were using Bing or not in late 2009.

I know for sure people have said DDG is better over time. I can’t imagine it was very good in 2008 or 2009.

DDG was still working significantly with Yahoo! as late as 2016: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12013264 . The links are dead but you can desume from the conversation what it was about.

Note: I know Yahoo is Bing behind the scene - I'm just saying the technical implementation at the time was not tied exclusively to "bing.com".

Good point. Though my bigger point was that DDG has essentially always been dependent on Bing/Microsoft.

2016 is the year Yahoo was sold to Verizon. 2 years later, Verizon writes down $4.6B of the AOL Yahoo subsidiary. A year after that they sell Tumblr in a fire sale. Verizon stopped caring about their web media empire when they did the write down/sale too. Effectively throwing in the towel as a major web advertising hub even though they are likely still top 5 in the west after Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon. That’s peanuts to Verizon though.

I can’t imagine Verizon cares much about their deal with DDG. If Microsoft cared, it makes sense that they could have Verizon and Yahoo do what they want over lawsuit worries from DDG.

I’m being pedantic at this point and totally guessing with my assumptions. I admit the continuous praising of DDG on the web has gotten to me and likely making me feel and react this way.

Maybe DDG is hoarding the results of every API call to Bing to build its own database. Then one day they can turn off the Bing integration and nobody will notice.

1) search results need to be dynamic over time

2) MSFT has clauses in its contract to address this. If a commenter on HN thinks of this one minute after reading the article, you can be sure that their legal team has thought about it too.

You can't hoard search results since they change. The same search in March may be different in April.

Now I'm curious, how many search queries does the average person make per month? I've been more and more dissatisfied with results I'm getting and would happily pay $10-20 per month for search. Especially if that means I'm not getting tracked and not seeing ads. Or maybe just seeing ads that aren't being in-lined.

$30/10,000 Bing searches seems like a lot of money for DDG to pay, and from what I read below, Google is even more so.

Would ad revenue for 10,000 interactions actually offset this cost for DDG?

Can't answer that question, but it's worth mentioning they also add their affiliate tag to Amazon product links and possibly others to get some revenue.

For those curious, "[Google] Custom Search JSON API provides 100 search queries per day for free. ...Additional requests cost $5 per 1000 queries, up to 10k queries per day."

It seems runnaroo would therefore be limited to 10k searches/day?

That sentence could also mean "$5/1000 applies up to 10k queries per day (and you get to talk to a sales rep if you do more than 10k queries per day)".

Not necessarily. Startpage uses Google for all of its results.

> You can’t beat Google when it comes to online search. So we’re paying them to use their brilliant search results in order to remove all trackers and logs. - https://startpage.com

Does anyone know how one can get whatever deal Startpage has?

Startpage is descended from Ixquick (launched 1998). I believe they have an old, uniquely favorable contract with Google as a result.

If I am willing to write a wrapper for this API, I can avoid all the ads (but not tracking)?

Does this API still return paid results near the top?

Just wondering, are you a one man show running a search engine. That is extremely impressive. I did some relevant local searches and was able to find what I was looking for in the first page.

Right now, it is just me. Thank you. For the local search it is pulling from Yelp.

So Bing results plus Bing ads. Why does no one use Bing then? Just the branding? Microsoft uncool?

DDG doesn't collect personal info, and the ads aren't based on your ad profile, they're based on just the search terms. This is DDG's differentiator.

Plus hashbangs and the results are not exactly bing for every term.

Some people do. I do. On places with vocal minority (or in general sometimes) like HN, reddit, Twitter, you’ll see many more people tout the trendy/cool DDG. As you said Bing/Microsoft aren’t cool.

I’m talking about the majority of these people who outside of basic ad/tracker blocking and using DDG, don’t stick to caring about privacy above most other things.

A lot of what I’m saying doesn’t count for HN’s crowd as much as other bigger sites.

I don’t have any backing for this statement. Just what i believe from common sense looking around.

Like your search engine!

That's news to me, wouldn't Microsoft's hacky JavaScript ads be able to snoop on DDG users browsing habits?

I remember that being my favorite search engine over 20 years ago. . . Crazy it's still around.

It's a pretty great deal for Microsoft, because they get paid twice. Once in dollar value for access to their API, and once in user queries. Even anonymized user queries have value in terms of learning what users are interested in for search purposes in general.

Revenue isn't Bing's only goal.

Bing also gives Microsoft: - a relational knowledge graph - a way to annoy Google

"Annoy Google" is a "commoditize the complement" play.

Bing (and the Bing powered Yahoo + DDG) create a viable alternative where otherwise there is none. Google now has to constantly spend to keep their search tech ahead, and Mozilla and Apple can now threaten to switch default search engines forcing Google to pay protection money. Altogether, Bing forces Google to burn around 15-20 billion per year. This is money Google can't use to poach Microsoft engineers, or push G-Suite against Office, or Chromebooks against Windows, or Google Cloud against Azure.

Microsoft already has open sourced many key Bing technologies, and actively pays consumers to search with Bing. The primary goal isn't revenue, it's commoditizing search.

Do you have a source for the "15 - 20 billion" number?

$12 billion for Safari is the main component of this - https://fortune.com/2018/09/29/google-apple-safari-search-en...

...wouldn't that be $12 billion that Apple has to poach MS engineers with, then?

Sure. Which tells you which company M$ considers the more central threat.

Yep, but with the msft focus on the cloud, their priority is to take from goog.

Additionally, people buying OSX computers isn’t really a bad scenario for Microsoft. MS office is quite popular on OSX and iOS and people spend more on that than they do on operating systems.

If Apple really invested in OSX it could be a threat to windows, unfortunately, combined with the high cost of the hardware, OSX's downslide means it's stuck to its current pro market...

Apple is making investments in OSX: Catalyst, T2 chip /security, Touch bar support, iPad mirroring, airplay, arm64 support (speculating), SwiftUI. Metal/GPUs. Core apps: logic pro, xcode, playgrounds and brining more iOS apps (news, stocks, apple tv app, apple arcade with subscriptions). I also suspect with arm64 will come better cameras (lidar perhaps), beefier GPUs and neural cores. all of this running on macOS.

What kind of investment do you think they need to make to be a threat with Windows? If you think they should be trying to "match" windows with things it does, it would be a bad strategy that isn't winnable. Throwing away money. At least with their current approach they are levaring strengths (verttical integration, mobile dominance, etc) to build something that could leapfrog windows one day. Especially if the user journeys that span into other products (hw accessories, phones, etc)

DuckDuckGo pays money to Bing to use their API [1], presumably enough to outweigh any loss of revenue. DDG also uses Bing's ad network, so Bing makes money regardless of what engine a search is made on.

Also, there's speculation that Microsoft is starting to give up on getting wide adoption for Bing among consumers [2], and given Bing's low market share, Microsoft has probably determined that Bing is never going to get widely adopted enough to the point where having a deal with DDG would be a bad idea.

[1] https://help.duckduckgo.com/results/sources/ [2] https://futurism.com/the-byte/microsoft-giving-up-people-usi...

My guess is the companies DDG partners with (I believe Yandex and a couple others, in addition to Bing) need the revenue from such a deal, and probably consider the enemy of their enemy their friend. Google having a search monopoly hurts all search engines that aren't Google. So any search engine that cuts into Google's share is helpful to all of them.

I imagine Microsoft and friends are also still getting some idea what queries people making on DDG, if those queries are being forwarded to them to get results. Not user-correlated, and hence, nowhere near as valuable as if someone searched on Bing while signed into their Microsoft account. But it's probably got some general value to them on search behavior.

Well, not user-correlated via traditional means. DDG is proxying user queries over to MS, but unless they're taking steps to actively fuzz the queries, there's all kinds of secondary signal MS could possibly be sampling out by correlating queries across time (especially since DDG also vends Microsoft-provided ads in the sidebar; it's unclear what signals MS is receiving about a user's session from DDG via server-to-server communication, or how MS might correlate that data. If MS vends an ad and the user clicks through, and MS gets signal that the user clicked on the ad from DDG, MS can correlate that the user who saw ad Y did search X).

I assume they use the official Bing Search API and have a deal cut with Microsoft.


DuckDuckGo also have their own indexer/crawler too.

Yahoo Search does a similar thing AFAIK.

Yahoo Search does a similar thing AFAIK.

Yeah, Yahoo used to have their own search index, and very developer friendly search API called Yahoo Boss. That was actually the main source of DDG results originally.

Yahoo has since given up on Search, shut down the Boss search API, and is now also fed by Microsoft Bing.

Presumably DDG either pays MS for the search feed or has some sort of ad sharing agreement. So MS makes money either way and is banking on DDG cutting more into Google than Bing market share. Strategically I suspect MS cares more about Google not having a search monopoly than the money Bing makes them.

You are missing the entire point, "search" is sadly about advertising, not about the search itself :-)

Bing is interested serving DDG, Qwant, Ecosia and a lot of other unknown search engines because of the aggregated reach they provide for their ad network. Ad-networks only work if the aggregated audiences are massive, otherwise advertisers do not bother putting their ads there, only the top-3/5 ad networks get to see any action. So Bing wants/needs a bigger audience just to be on the game. They can grow in 2 paths: 1) increase Bing search reach (difficult), or 2) use partners with different value propositions.

Bing charges little for 1K query, 1USD officially but it gets cheaper, to zero :-) The real thing though, is that if you display Bing ads, you get a 70%-90% rev-share of the ad-revenue, which varies from country to country, something between $5 to $20 per 1K queries.

So, DDG basically gets around 5$ to 10$ net for each 1K, and can spend all that money on distribution and marketing so that they get even more users. Bing gets the rest, money, and what's more important, their ad-network continues to be competitive.

Everybody wins, right? :-/

Search is so cheap 1$/1K queries and people makes 2/3 queries per day, so $1/year/user (average). It makes no economic sense to build an alternative. Unless of course, you are building out of "ideals".

I'm pretty sure DDG is just using Bing's Web Search API https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-service...

I think they also use Bing to serve (and earn a commission on) Bing ADS too, but I don't see that documented in the Search API so it may be separate.

I work in the search engine space. Pretty much everyone is either Google or Bing under the hood, including DuckDuckGo. Deals are made on ad revenue shares generally. If I recall correctly DuckDuckGo just monetizes on product affiliate links though.

Fun fact: DuckDuckGo used to use Yahoo, but Yahoo just has a deal with Bing. In other words, DuckDuckGo paid Yahoo, to pay Bing, to deliver Bing search results. :)

DDG started out using Bing.

Now they use other resources as well, and also have their own internal web search.

Yahoo search is largely powered by Bing, as well. That's kind of funny since MSFT wanted to buy Yahoo at one point.

Also, there is the concept of dependent competitors. In old days, GM sold transmissions to American Motors, for example. So American Motors was a dependent competitor of GM.

The majority of results still comes from Bing:

> We also of course have more traditional links in the search results, which we also source from multiple partners, though most commonly from Bing (and none from Google).


Note that their own crawler is only mentioned in the context of Instant Answers so it doesn't seem it's actually used for any regular search results.

That kind of stuff still happens with automakers -- maybe even more so these days. Heck, sometimes competitors buy an entire platform from another manufacturer and put their own branding on it.

DuckDuckGo is good, I've used it for a few months at a time in the past.

Always end up switching back to Google because of local results (I live in the UK, DDG's results are very US-centric even when local results are turned on). Maybe it's gotten better recently. I've seen lots of billboards for DuckDuckGo recently around my hometown in Paisley, Scotland; not a very techie place so they're clearly trying to gain a reach!

I've been using Bing for the past few months and been quite happy with it, only switching to use Google for Maps results and the odd very niche query.

The bonus of Bing is that it pays you in supermarket shopping vouchers where Google doesn't. Sold!

The other day I was trying to remember a specific children's song - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alouette_(song). At the time I forgot that it was about a lark, and thought that it was about a goose. (In my defense, I'm pretty sure this is because a parent told me it was about a goose when I was little because they didn't want to explain wtf a lark was)

So I went bing.com, ddg, and tried something like

nursery rhyme about plucking a goose

Both were filled with pages and pages mother goose links, none of which had anything to do with what I wanted.

Typed that into google and it had an immediate answer, because it correctly surmised that I'm a dumbass and forgot that it wasn't a goose all along.

> Typed that into google and it had an immediate answer, because it correctly surmised that I'm a dumbass and forgot that it wasn't a goose all along.

The problem with Google is that it will always assume that you didn't mean what you asked, and when you did actually mean exactly what you said this gets old really fast.

Funny you said that, today I noticed DDG seems to have changed some location thing.

At the top bar, it seems to state specifically the UK being the location. Searching for things like amazon seems to also return amazon.co.uk rather than amazon.com.

Searching Amazon, on DDG, in UK local mode, I get as my first results:

- Amazon.co.uk (UK)

- Amazon.com (US)

- Amazon.in (India)

- Amazon.com / prime (US Prime)

- Amazon.ca (Canada)

On Bing conversely I get:

- Amazon.co.uk (with links to sections of the site like books/today's deals etc. etc. underneath)

- Amazon.com/uk (US site but redirects to UK site)

- Amazon.co.uk Your Account Section

- Amazon Prime (UK)

- Amazon Deals (UK)

Bing's results are clearly more UK centric and therefore more relevant to me as a British citizen.

For that reason I can't really make the full-time switch to DDG as I keep !g'ing to get UK results and it becomes a pain.

If you're happy with Bing's direct results, you can !b instead of !g also.

I'm aware of that. But it's the same issue of having to do an extra step every time. It grinds after a while and the amount of times you end up doing it you realise you may as well just use Google/Bing!

I've (unexpectedly) seen billboards in western North Carolina for DDG in the last few weeks.

Huh, interesting. I've seen them here in the Netherlands as well (and heard they were present in France too), but I'd assumed that that was in preparation of being shown in the choice screens in the EU soon, to get them top of mind when relevant. If it's in the US as well, then it seems like it's just a regular ad campaign.

Same in the greater Boston area.

They were running ads at a mall where we live in Sweden. Not even in Stockholm!

>I live in the UK, DDG's results are very US-centric even when local results are turned on

Are the local results even supposed to do anything? I tried finding a store carrying a certain video game. I turned on the local filter from under the search bar and nothing. All of the results are the exact same as without. I could not find a single result that was actually local to my country even after going through the pages.

Advanced search on Google definitely brings up local results for me with the same term, so it's not that there are zero results.

Billboards last few months? While everyone was inside? Feels like a bad approach..

Probably cheaper. And people still need to go outside for essentials etc.

Two interesting things I've noticed about Google lately (as a logged in user in Norway):

- less breaking news stories (I realized this the other day as I was looking for a breaking news story that would typically have been at Google a year ago, with link to local newspapers, but I cannot say exactly when this change happened since I mostly left Google behind as default search engine a good while ago. )

- more relevant search results when I search for technical content. The last two or three months search results has actually been improving for me for the first time since probably somewhere between 2007 and 2009

I like DDG, but this is strange rhetoric. DDG is as much for-profit as Google. It's not *fighting back", it's trying to make a profit by trying to position itself in a way that's different from Google and in a way that it's hoping is compelling. So far, it's mostly failing at that and only serves a niche population. A growing one, though.

>> it's trying to make a profit by trying to position itself in a way that's different from Google and in a way that it's hoping is compelling

Looks like DDG is "fighting back" the right for people to have privacy online.

This is what is compelling, to me, about DDG. It isn't the profit that bugs me about Google, it is the data collection. It isn't even that I think Google is doing anything nefarious with that data, but the difference is that I'm giving something to Google and not to DDG and DDG's results are good enough to not warrant giving Google anything (i.e. DDG works great for >90% of my searches).

Agreed - although we should still heavily support the alternatives because a healthy ecosystem for search does not mean having one near-monopoly.

I'd rather have two companies fighting for search results instead of one. There's a sense of choice.

> It's not *fighting back", it's trying to make a profit by trying to position itself in a way that's different from Google and in a way that it's hoping is compelling.

In that case, please start a Google/DDG competitor that's just as good and uses a non-profit model. I'll happily use your service.

“we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”

-- Sergey Brin and Larry Page:


How is DuckDuckGo funded?

Ads. However, DuckDuckGo does not run their own ad network. The ads you are shown are only based on the current keyword from your search.

edit: Here is a quora answer from the CEO at DuckDuckGo posted a couple years ago talking about how the company is funded. [0]

[0]: https://www.quora.com/How-is-DuckDuckGo-funded?share=1


Google got rich finding the information you wanted.

And many here are too young to remember the hellscape of competing search engines predating Google: Infoseek, excite, yahoo, altavista, etc.

Their poor experience and dubious practices likely spawned Google's internal motto: "don't be evil"

metasearch.com was my bread and butter to mitigate that hellscape, though altavista was probably the best in the mid 90s. Ask Jeeves if I was feeling particularly sophisticated.

>Their poor experience and dubious practices likely spawned Google's internal motto: "don't be evil"

Sure, I remember the bad ol' days. But Google has (IMHO) become the thing they set out to disrupt. The quality of Google results has declined dramatically in the last 5 years or so.

It's all marketing bullshit now, just as Altavista or whomever was. Finding content I want, as opposed to content advertisers want me to find, is becoming very difficult via Google.

You could argue that the quality of the web itself has declined in much the same way. SEO is a billion dollar industry with the singular goal of analyzing everything search engines do to push whatever crap they want to run ads on.

As Google is the market leader, every website is optimized for its ranking. Much like leading operating systems have the most malware issues.

Many people on HN complain that blogs and personal websites aren‘t prioritized in results anymore compared to bigger news sites. I imagine it‘s incredibly difficult to separate legitimate, trustworthy posts from useless blog spam and agenda/conspiracy-pushing crap in a reliable automated way.

I don't think Google has declined because the quality of the web has declined, I think Google has fostered laziness and a optimistic reliance on algorithms that has caused the quality of the web to decline.

In the early days, algorithmic search wasn't the only way you found stuff. Links had a lot more use, and people would spend time looking at, cataloguing, and grooming lists of resources.

This doesn't scale well if you want a one-second answer to any possible question, but the SEO-gamified Google world is far from perfect in that regard either.

Maybe we just need to give up on that "any answer to anything at your fingertips in one second" goal.

It was the same spammy environment when google started. But it was title/keyword spam. Google introduced pagerank and that made the search experience better. People tried to game that so google introduced 300 datapoints that change every few months.

Personal websites are mostly agenda pushing because they are personal. It might be that this good was fun or Dad got a sunburn but some agenda is being pushed.

But identifying blogs are easy that is how google can depriorize them easily. News sites are easy to identify as well. Assigning a qualities to news sites is a problem. What is trustworthy? What is legitimate? Who is the user using the service how do they define these?

And the insight is that knowing what you want is as much about knowing you as it is about knowing what's on the internet.

Not really, no. That's not what they got paid for at least.

yes, they get paid to connect users to what they want to buy. They don't get paid anything for showing users something they don't want.

No, they got rich with good web search, then became dominant, then stopped doing good web search and started doing user intent targeting via payola search results.

And now they don't find it, because of bubbling and removal of "non authoritative sources" - whatever the fuck they decide those are this week.

It’s funny. I’m currently having some hardware problems, figuring out what the problem is, I reinstalled windows. A lot. And every time FF defaulted to google (because apparently Search Engines are not synced). And holy hell. Google Germany results are utterly unusable. For anything I searched that had an original download site, google gives me some scammy German site that either relinks the original site after several (ad-riddled) clicks or even worse, has their own installer, presumably bundling the original with adware.

I always read here about people complaining about how bad DDG’s localized results are. Considering they usually talk about switching back to google, I can’t comprehend that.

I am one of the complainers about the bad ddg localized results, espacially for french ones.

But one day, I experienced what it was to use Google without ublock origin, by mistake. It was a horrible mess.

Then it hit me: the main benefit of DDG is that it's clean, even if you don't know anything about ad blockers.

Funnily enough, the clean thing is what really kick-started google (at least for the group of people I know). Going from the unholy mess of links on Yahoo! to google with their single search box and a couple of links was a giant step forward.

Even more funny they had a decade of my searches and online activity before I started adblocking and supposedly some of the sharpest minds of our time employeed to make me click on ads and I can't recall buying a single thing from a Google ad, mostly because the ads where ridiculously misplaced.

Facebook on the other hand, a company where I only have a minimal profile since I utterly distrust them[0] manages to serve me not only less annoying but sometimes actual useful ads (as: I've bought things from Instagram or Facebook ads that have saved me money and improved my quality of life).

[0]: Google I just dislike and treat with caution. They seem competent with data security and obsessed with protecting all their juicy data even if - at least to me - they seem so utterly incompetent at uskng it to match ads to profiles that I have suggested it might be some sort of scam against ad buyers ;-)

I've been using DDG for a year now and don't miss Google. I feel like I often get worse results on Google as I have to sift through more ads and click bait.

The only thing I worry about, is if DDG gets too big, what stops them from becoming Google-like?

If DDG gets big I would argue Google will still be in play, and by that time I think the discussions around search engine options in the general populace will make it such that the space is more competitive.

Nothing, just move on to the next upstart.

I've used DDG as my default search for both desktop and mobile for about a year now. It's good enough in a lot of cases, though I still find myself using Google for a lot of local searches and current events-related searches.

If you consider it moral to block first party ads on Google, most adblockers should prevent ads from being loaded. Are you using one?

I am not against the need for data privacy, protection, etc., but got this question when looking at this.

How much people got rich from Google - by quickly accessing the relevant blogs, articles or information, finding answers to the questions, code snippets and so on?

This is an interesting question. There's an economic value aspect to the issue, in that way. There's also an ethical and emotional aspect. Those who learned about these last two aspects later may feel like they could have done just as well had they explored alternatives. Instead they unknowingly went with the service that was not as transparent with them as it should have been.

In this way I think it's fair to say that while individuals may consider the trade-off totally worth it or not worth it, they also have grounds to complain. Just like in society in general, one economic solution does not unmake all the ethical problems. Human culture has been working hard at transcending this dichotomy and people just expect more creativity and ethical intelligence these days. The attention given to DDG is I think a testament to this kind of market voice.

I also agree that this is a people problem. But moving to DDG is also not a reliable solution according to me. When we imagine DDG at google scale and quality, DDG will need so much resources and money to maintain their service at that scale and there is no guarantee that their current business model will be enough to continue their operations. Between closing out the business Vs increasing revenue, I am sure majority of businesses will choose the later. At least for now we can say it is focused on privacy to take some market share out of Google.

I wish that DuckDuckGo would focus more on their search engine. DuckDuckHack was responsible for instant answers, but they discontinued it in favor of developing their browser extension.


Their browser extension sucks. It’s just a bunch of different privacy extensions (Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, TOSDR) which have been watered down and mashed together. And it automatically changes your default search engine to DDG, which was the real intent for developing the extension all along.

Instant answers are important. Ever search for the definition of a word (https://duckduckgo.com/?q=assonance), or want to set a timer (https://duckduckgo.com/?q=timer)? These were made possible by DuckDuckHack. Now they are stuck; they cannot be changed, and no new ones can be created.

I couldn't find any representative phrase [1] in the article that would make a better (less baity, more accurate and neutral) title, so have taken a crack at making something up. If someone has a better suggestion we can change it again.

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

I love ddg and use it as my primary search engine, resorting to !g for google queries about 25% of the time. If anyone is curious about how ddg results compare to that of google, check out a site I made Search Compare [0] that shows the results of each side by side. Note that it looks at the html version of ddg results. One downside of ddg is that they do a worse job at filtering our conspiracy theories

[0] search-compare.netlify.app

> One downside of ddg is that they do a worse job at filtering our conspiracy theories

I'd argue that's not particularly a bad thing as it means there's less censorship going on.

Even if most conspiracy theories are completely bonkers

I used DDG until I've searched for "PDF watermark remover free" and the top result is watermarkremoveronline.com, a scam site. Probably with malware as well.

I did the same search on Bing and Google and the scam site is not part of the search result.

DDG emphasizes on privacy. Yet, allow scamming site returned as top result.

I like DDG as much as the next person, but does anyone else think that Mozilla should offer a privacy-friendly search engine? I know it's a big part of their revenue model, but it seems like a core piece of internet infrastructure that should not be so open to monetization.

I would rather Mozilla sticks to making a browser that works well and respects privacy. Generally their explorations outside of Firefox (Pocket, the Dr. Robot fiasco, etc) have been regressions of the aforementioned goals.

Mr Robot to you. Some saw that as a success.


Mozilla had enough failures already as it tried to do things that are not Firefox. A search engine is a huge endeavor, and I'd rather have them focus on Firefox. Firefox is, after all, the only real alternative to Chrome, others are just different Chromium front-ends, it is important.

Or they can do like everyone else: an somewhat anonymized front-end for Bing, but what's the point? We already have DDG and a few others.

People should get behind an open source solution, such as Searx (https://searx.space/) or Ask.Moe (https://ask.moe/).

I love DDG, but at the end of the day they’re for-profit, US-based and closed source.

I'd be inclined to agree, but building a new competitive search engine is a big ask. O.o

> The sheet of paper led to the creation of I’ve Got a Fang, a crowd-sourced site where people could contribute authoritative URLs on particular subjects. Weinberg, who lives in Philadelphia, believed the knowledge from people’s heads could be better than Google’s algorithms.

Google initially was bootstrapped by crawling such curated lists. Now that people are relying on search instead of curating their own lists search quality is starting to decline. So I'm going to make a prediction. Federated knowledge bases with curated links are going to make a comeback because only humans can create semantically meaningful content for other humans.

I think it's already solved by social networks. You could consider twitter for example a curated list.

Social networks only allow very constrained forms of knowledge engineering. When I mentioned knowledge bases with links I meant in the sense of a programmable memex where the documents can be connected, annotated, and presented in arbitrary ways.

Hopefully this will allow me to change the hard-coded Google search box on pixel home screens!

I have the DDG search widget, but I cannot remove the Google search box that appears to be hard-coded to the home screen with no way to remove it or change the search provider (... unless someone knows otherwise?) So now I have two search widgets...

I can use a separate launcher I guess, but it would be nice if I could just configure this without resorting to that.

I fear this is too little, too late. Also Google is defacto a browser monopoly too.

Defacto browser monopoly? What is Chrome's market/usage share?

Tracker/analytics data won't be correct for Firefox or people using privacy-centric browsers as they inherently block that. I think it'd be hard to get a real number without polling a lot of people.

A lot of people assume Chrome has the monopoly based on looking at false analytics.

Firefox definitely sends its user-agent to servers, so wouldn't server-side analytics still work?

Theoretically, server-side analytics could use the user-agent strings and other headers in the request to have infallible analytics. In practice, a lot of server-side analytics in practice rely on third-party tracking scripts (like Google Analytics) and other such practices that get blocked by tools like Privacy Badger, etc.

Perhaps, and this is likely the case with most users. But there still exists many users with extensions disabling fingerprinting and such.

I wish Cloudflare would publish stats based on user agents. They must have a good idea about the real numbers

What do you want to know?

What percentage of traffic comes from Firefox.

It looks to be between 60-70% depending on what data is used.


Thankfully the new Microsoft Edge will save us. /s

Competing with Google is hard and DDG serves very specific niche trying to do it. With this niche growing big enough both Bing and Yandex share it, in a way. Imagine a successful business which is built solely on your API. I think the real problem DDG solves is the need of independent brand for Bing and Yandex, fitting this niche.

I'd love to read this article, but this website apparently uses cookies to vend information about me to advertisers.

Here you go: https://outline.com/S7vXVy

In the future, it may be worthwhile to download some plugins like Cookie Autodelete, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, etc.

I would be more worried about Google's auction process. It's cleverly evil, because the bid price to be on the start screen will asymptotically approach the phone owner's lifetime value from search ads. Then Google couldn't give two farts which search engine you use because they get paid either way.

The point is to prevent Google from getting paid for the work that the put into Android, the point is to foment competition in the search space.

From their open positions:

> A fundamental understanding of complex data structures and algorithms, which enables you to develop and apply new solutions and confidently navigate and improve existing code (ours is mostly written with Perl).

Would love to hear more about this. That kind of surprised (frightened?) me to be honest.

I've been using DDG for almost two years. I often search the error message of my code as keyword and then there's a box that show the best solution (mostly from stackoverflow). I use that solution and mostly it works and made my work faster.

It's interesting seeing DDG trying to break into a larger space. In my experience, the only people I know that know DDG are also people in tech.

I live in NYC and I'm seeing lots of billboards in the city and on highways in NJ surrounding the city as I have family that regularly travels in/out. I've seen a lot of whack billboards in my day but it really caught me by surprise seeing them try and make this push. It's exciting, and hope it'll gain some traction. However, I think the vast majority of people will still just use whatever browser and whatever search comes bundled with their machine.

I'm surprised that there are nearly zero comments about the subject of the article - the choice screens and associated auction.

It seems like a reasonable implementation to me. Maybe the number of choices can be upped from 3 to 5 to help drive prices down. But surely there has to be some upper bound of the number of options?

DuckDuckGo has been absolutely atrocious for me. Searches that Google can absolutely nail, DDG returns results where the right thing isn't even on the front page.

I tried to pretend like I cared more about privacy than results but the god's honest truth is I don't. I want the results I want and Google provides them.

Well say you're learning Swift programming. On google, the 12th search for "override init" will assume you mean Swift. On DDG, you need to make each search self-contained, so "Swift override init"

This has been my experience. It's particularly egregious when looking for anything in the academic literature.

How does Duck Duck Go make money? I clicked around their site for a while, but didn't find anything.

Ads, but without targeting. They sell the search terms entered in an anonymized way. So you can buy an ad that will display to everyone who searches DuckDuckGo for "vacuum cleaner". You cannot buy an ad that will display to women aged 30-40 who live alone in a zip code where the median income is above $100k when they search "vacuum cleaner".

What's interesting, does that strategy end like: less effective ads -> need more of them -> raise ad price + show more of them?

Another thing is regarding k-anonymity which I suppose privacy-first guys would use. If I gather user info with a high entropy, I don't have an incentive to sell it to anybody and create a competitor, and it'd probably illegal to do that. But if I anonymize the data set into a k-anon data it's now less restrictive to sell from legal point, also I'll probably sell that data to third parties just to make ends meet.

Context based ads from the Microsoft ad network, and affiliate links.


From a Forbes interview[1]:

> Weinberg: We make money the same way other search engines make money. When you type in “car,” you get a car ad. We syndicate Microsoft and Yahoo ads through the Microsoft Yahoo Search Alliance.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2016/02/19/the-...

I have used DDG for the last few years as my search engine and phone browser. I'd like to move off chrome on the desktop as well but it feels like the changeover costs of losing some small chrome extensions that I love would be too high.

I'm curious what those extentions are as Firefox has a fairly roboust extension environment.

Brave can use Chrome extensions as it is built on Chromium. Highly recommend the Brave + DDG combo, better experience than Chrome + Google imo

I understand the monopoly concern, but disagree with the title. Somehow the fact that a company got rich by using your data is the problem and most important aspect to put in the title, not the monopoly?

I use DDG for all my general searching, but I've found that Google is better for searching for technical things. So I haven't stopped using Google Search completely :(

Data about me is not the same thing as my data.

Why not?

In this case, "my" is being used to denote some sort of ownership (in the sense of "my bike") rather than mere association ("my mom"). It's being used to convince the reader that they should feel that something that is rightfully theirs has been taken/exploited by someone else.

But insofar as we have (formal and informal) notions of information ownership, we (sensibly) assign ownership of that info based on who collects/computes that info, not the person about whom that info refers. If I collect information about how many cars go down the highway each day, the only entity who might be the owner of that data is me, not the driver's of the cars or the city through which the highway runs.

If Google collects and exploits information about you (e.g., how many web searches per month you make), there certainly may be privacy principles they are violating, but not ownership issues. If Google were taking information you had generated/collected (e.g., if they sold illegal copies of the novel you wrote on Google Docs), that would be an ownership issue, but that is usually not the sort of thing people are worried about.

I like DDG but always seem to get Russian localized results. I am in the USA.

hah, I was going to write a Ask HN but never got around to it that I had noticed that bing and DDG has the exact same results for many of my searches.

Ironically DDG was down today about an hour ago

I think it's more coincidental than ironic.

Ironically, Bing (powering DDG) is not mentioned in the article at all.

Yes it was?

“Today, DuckDuckGo combines data from more than 400 sources into its search results: Microsoft’s Bing is predominantly used to surface relevant pages, but Wikipedia, Apple Maps, TripAdvisor and DuckDuckGo’s own web crawler also contribute.”

Ironically, Bing Rewards is one of very few tools moving towards Lanier's glorious vision of paying people for their data.

I was wondering why my search queries were returning no results.

See also: Qwant.com Startpage.com Searx

I host my own searx instance and can totally recommend it. I have it set as the default engine on all my devices and I don't miss google at all.

Not sure why you'd go to the trouble of avoiding google and just give all your data away to ddg? Anyone other than yourself is liable to become/be acquired by some shady entity

Qwant also uses Bing as a backend, and so their results are usually very similar to DDG. Searx is metasearch so it depends a lot on the particular instance you use.

If anyone is interested in exploring alternative search indices, try Yippy, Mojeek, or private.sh (a proxy to Gigablast run by PIA). Yippy is actually pretty OK. The other two are somewhat marginal but will occasionally pop up an interesting result you'd never see on another engine.

I have been using Qwant almost exclusively for the last year. I am very pleased with the results and my (increasingly) infrequent comparisons with Google on the same string increase my confidence that it provides good results for my needs.

Mojeek is independent search engine with their own index: https://mojeek.com/

Also: cliqz.com that is surprisingly good for technical queries, and quite good for general searches

See also: https://yacy.net.



I'm guessing that the OP is arguing against the phrase "from your data". It tacitly assumes that data can be owned, and that the end-user is the rightful owner.

But I can't make any sense of the second part of the OP.

It reads like bot-generated content.

This is straight from /r/iamverysmart

Almost feels like it was written by a bot.

Isn’t the expression used rhetorically device and therefore should be interpreted in a non-literal fashion?

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