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Google’s Search Preference Menu Eliminates DuckDuckGo (spreadprivacy.com)
653 points by y2bd 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 234 comments



In other words, people are not willing to pay enough money for the service DuckDuckGo provides to afford a spot on the list, and also DuckDuckGo's service is unable to attract as many users as they would like without the aid of the list.

I'm generally very sympathetic to anti-trust measures, but this strikes me as a situation where DuckDuckGo needs to stand on its own two feet. If your position is that privacy is more valuable to consumers, then you should compete in the auction. If your position is that it's not about the money, and privacy is an inherent good even if it can't compete monetarily, then you should be able to attract and retain your users without free advertising. But if your position is that your product cannot compete monetarily and also cannot compete without the advertising that money buys, then it might just be that you don't have as desirable a product as you think you do.


Who is being paid in this "auction"? What percentage of customers of search know precisely what they are paying? The latter I'm putting at "so close to zero as makes no difference" which makes "price competitive" outcome a little on the absurd side.

I'd phrase it as "DDG claim they unwilling to rob their customers as much as industry norms to be able to afford the fee" (a fee they're paying to who?) to be on the list.

Customers are not consulted at any point. Customers are largely unaware of what Google have done to them via surveillance. Customers never agreed in any meaningful way to what google have done with their massively succesful surviellance bait and switch strategy.

Controlling the sales infrastructure and selling in that infrastructure is a thing that would be exceedingly difficult for it not to be anti-competitive.

It's been a problem in this industry at least since Microsoft were known as the death star and anyone successful in software found out they had just done microsoft's market reseach for them. Maybe longer?

Doesn't matter how long, it's gotta go. Beyond a small size you do distribution and nothing else or you use that distrubution to get sales. You got big? Splin off one of those parts and sell it while counting the money from your immense success. There's no way the current system is better for anyone other than those that want market power rather than producing high quality stuff.


> Who is being paid in this "auction"? What percentage of customers of search know precisely what they are paying? The latter I'm putting at "so close to zero as makes no difference" which makes "price competitive" outcome a little on the absurd side.

Honestly, most of the people I've talked with know about Google's business model. They give answers ranging around here abouts:

* I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide.

* DuckDuckGo are probably a honeypot; they gather as much or more information as Google, and lie about it.

* Even if I switch search engine, they'll probably get all my info some other way anyhow, and I don't have the skill or time to try to find everything that could be leaking information.

* Google supplies a better search engine, so it's worth it.

* Using DuckDuckGo as my search engine, when I'm using Android as my OS, seems like a waste of time, and I'm not buying a new phone.


"I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide."

Can I offer a variation of this one? I care about privacy. I wouldn't want a human to be looking over my searches. That said, if they're just using the data to serve me relevant ads and it's all either automated or aggregated so that I'm never personally identified, then I'm cool with it at the personal level.

I say "at the personal level" because I think there's still a practical problem when it comes to politics. It seems too easy to sway elections using it. Not even necessarily by shaping the results in any way. Simply by being able to identify the groups of users who will vote a particular way in particular electoral divisions, and then seeking to lift their voting rate above the average. (eg. by prompting/reminding them to vote)


There is another problem, beyond the initial ads-based business. This information gathered about you, albeit anonymously, is correlated. This helps train models about groups of people, in order to derive value from group information. It can then be sold to insurances, banks, etc.

Derived information may look like: "Clojure programmers buy a new computer every 3 years on average" "Women in medium socio-economic groups tend to have kids at 31 years old"

But maybe I'm a programmer that cares about waste, and use the hell out of my computers, until it is completely unusable, making them last way longer. Maybe I'm a woman with trouble getting pregnant, and I won't have kids until much later.

Nevertheless, insurances and banks will use that information against me.

This information grouping you take part of, is de-humanizing. Humans are infinitely complex, ever-evolving creatures and categorizing us is profitable business. I do not want to be treated through the lens of the probability of a group I belong to, no matter how small the box.


The smaller the box, the more invasive it feels. But even general (codified in law) categorisations such as gender already feel discriminating in our modern society.


Banning discrimination based on correlatory truths has its own costs as well. There is no simple solution to this.


DuckDuckGo is nothing but an annoyance for me, but only when I set it as my standard search engine. Because 90% of my searches are practical, currency conversions, calculations that I could’ve done in a calculator but didn’t, maps locations, directions, public transportation times, and, opening hours. DDG is absolutely terrible at this in my country. Google isn’t, and that’s why it’s probably going to remain my standard search engine for some time to come.

What annoys me about google though, isn’t the personalised advertising, it’s the personalised results. Google obviously knows I play Blood Bowl and collect various things for it, but as a result, my first two google page results are nothing but advertisements. Even if I was actually searching for information. A couple of years ago I don’t think I had ever clicked beyond page 1 on google, these days I find myself turning to direct forum searches. Searches on DDG or even directly on HN, FB or Reddit because all google wants to do is link me to sale sites.


> What annoys me about google though, isn’t the personalised advertising, it’s the personalised results.

That's true. It's almost subconscious for me now go incognito prior to searching or visiting a website if it's something I'm aware that I'm only temporarily interested in, in order to avoid it becoming part of my profile.

I don't think personalisation is a completely bad idea, but I would like to have some way to interface with it.

1. "Google, what are the things you think I'm into?"

2. "Google, I'm actually not interested in _____."

3. "Google, you should know that I'm into _____."


The thing is that DDG does not give people the privacy they want.

Some people do not want privacy. They are on every social media network sharing everything about their life anyway.

Some people do want privacy but are not tin-foil hat about it. These people get their expectations of privacy met by other means, not being on every social network being one of them. Then there are the practical measures of running ad-blockers and other browser tools to prevent tracking. These tools are generally unobtrusive even if lifting the ad-blocker for a page is a daily occurrence.

People in this category get the privacy concessions they want and are probably okay with Google knowing what it does. They are not going to go full tin-foil hat with some Tor onion browser on the end of a VPN. Using DDG takes you into this territory. Everyone knows their search results are just different, not the standard Google fayre. The secret sauce is just this claim to privacy that people are able to get enough of with other means, such as running ad-blockers.

With the limited offering that DDG is there has to be an overlap between those who are obsessed about privacy (tin-foil hat and probably 'preppers'...) and the DDG user base. They need to get out more and add to the internets.

I would like to see a search engine that offers people the option to raise their HTML game by using the semantic elements for content structure that Google and Bing ignore. Content matters but so does HTML. This could be easy to game with people getting rid of div style HTML to replace it with articles, headers, sections, navs, asides and footers, with inline elements such as dfn and abbr, but I would be quite happy if the web was written that way. Even better if there was a search engine that worked with it.


Most people and I mean upwards of 98% (even the tech savvy ones) don't care much about privacy as much as the HN bubble seems to(or pretends to).


It's also hard to argue against it. In the end, Google uses all that data to make more money with ads. And having relevant ads for your taste isn't necessarily bad for many.

The amount of data collection is truly bad for people living in totalitarian regimes or have sensitive jobs but that's not the majority of friends for most of us. For the rest, the lack of privacy has no negative impact on their life and is unlikely to have in the near future, so there's no reason to change.

Wanting change to benefit all of us is what we try (and fail) with preventing climate warming.


I understand your point but from my perspective I care a lot. Things do not stop there; it's the nature of companies to take more and more for entirely rational reasons (money), but those reasons eat deeper into the boundary between them and you.

If one allows them the thin end of the wedge, one will get the rest, slowly, and slowly accept it a la boiling frog, rationalising it all the way (maybe not you specifically, but many will. Why? It's the easiest thing to do).

You've already mentioned the problem of politics, in effect you've just acknowledged the rest of the wedge will appear. There will be other reasons.


Everything you say there underlines and reinfoces the point that the percentage of customers who know precisely what they are paying is so close to zero as makes no difference.

That's a problem for a market.


Another read of the situation is that the transaction does not cost these folks anything they value. You may want them to value it (whatever you think "it" is, I'm not sure) but they don't.


>the transaction does not cost these folks anything they value.

Absolutely and you can say that about literally everyone who gets caught by a confidence trickster and some do.

It really hasn't worked out for too many indigenous cultures where that was used as the precise justfication, for example. Usuary is another one you can defend that way and people do. It's not so commonly held anymore by those not profiting from it.

When there is a tradeoff between what is good fo soceity at large being the people who live in it and what is good for for a big company's market dominance the latter is meant to come absolutely last and be tolerated if it doesn't infringe anything much else of value to the people. I can't see that as being the case here. No doubt Zuckerberg disagrees because he's convinced anything good for him and his company is pefection for society by the definition that he wants to do it.

Nobody understands what they are paying. Nobody understands their liability. Google et al all desperately hide it and have done a bait and switch to make it happen.

There is _NO_ informed consent to the contract and the contract is invalid.


>Absolutely and you can say that about literally everyone who gets caught by a confidence trickster and some do.

No, you cannot. Because with a confidence trickster there is usually an element of regret afterwards. The folks we are talking about have generally been using Google for years and years. If the other shoe is going to drop it's sure taking its time.


Well said


For me, I cannot put a value to the transaction. I have done enough searches that can embarrass me, label me, or hurt me. Maybe some were illegal; I probably am on a lot of lists. Political searches are enough to alienate a lot of people. How do you estimate how my searches affect my income for the coming years?

Privacy and ads are an unequal marketplace where the consumer lacks information. And looking at VPN incidents, perhaps it is fundamentally unequal. A consumer can never verify if information freely given is stored or abused.


> For me, I cannot put a value to the transaction. I have done enough searches that can embarrass me, label me, or hurt me. Maybe some were illegal; I probably am on a lot of lists. Political searches are enough to alienate a lot of people. How do you estimate how my searches affect my income for the coming years?

Probably zero, because absent a search warrant they aren't ever revealed to anyone but you.


The first value is definetly not zero, enough companties profit from selling ads. The second, I'd like to remind you of the Target pregnancy story (possible hoax) or, more real, the Ashley Madison leaks.


> Probably zero, because absent a search warrant they aren't ever revealed to anyone but you.

Are you unaware of parallel construction or do you think it poses no real danger?


I think it poses minimal danger to the vast, vast majority of people. For people who are doing crime, though, probably it's best not to use search while logged in or from their own IP.


"* I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide."

Do you have things you would rather not explain? Do you want to be someone great? What about someone who stands up to these companies? If so, do you want to be doxxed, deepfaked, and your psychological weaknesses probed by your enemies, who can purchase your information from an unscrupulous Google employee? Do you want rich kids to be able to get your information, like someone did to an Instagram account via a facebook employee?

I agree that Google is a better search engine.


> * DuckDuckGo are probably a honeypot; they gather as much or more information as Google, and lie about it.

You should suggest https://searx.me to such people.

> * I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_to_hide_argument

> * Even if I switch search engine, they'll probably get all my info some other way anyhow

Even if you make it just harder to them, it's a big deal on such scales, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_in_depth

> * Using DuckDuckGo as my search engine, when I'm using Android as my OS, seems like a waste of time, and I'm not buying a new phone.

Same as above.


> * I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide.

I find that those people change their attitude immediately when responded with "OK, if you have nothing to hide give me your Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram/email username and password." All of a sudden, they do have something to hide.


Because with password you could impersonate them. If you asked them for their profile infos most are probably willing to give those. There are few people who are really careful about what they share on social media. So that argument doesn't really count.


Yea. A better analogy is asking for receipts, payment card history, search history, etc. All things that tech giants know about you that isn't publically available for anyone to see.


Fair point, although impersonating them was the last thing on my mind.


> I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide.

Everyone latching on to this and providing counter-arguments in the HN comments section misses the point.

Most of the HN crowd realizes that this is a fallacy. You don’t need to prove your point here.

It doesn’t change the fact that (outside of HN) it is a very commonly held belief.


"I don't care about privacy; I have nothing to hide."

Funny, most people don't even share information about their salary or their bank balance with their friends.


> I'm generally very sympathetic to anti-trust measures, but this strikes me as a situation where DuckDuckGo needs to stand on its own two feet. If your position is that privacy is more valuable to consumers, then you should compete in the auction.

If you're very sympathetic to anti-trust measures, then this shouldn't be decided in an auction. Obviously the most profitable companies will win the auction. And those are the same companies that you should be taking measures against (not because they're profitable in itself, but because by being profitable they can kill competitors).

So saying: "search engines should compete on a lawless free market" vs "search engines have to compete on an auction for users" is more or less the same thing. Anti-trust measures try to make the outcome slightly less sensitive to profitability.


Aren't anti-trust laws meant to benefit the consumer?

I fail to see how the remedy proposed by the EU (this bidding/auction method) is benefiting me, the consumer, when the most popular Google alternative is eliminated from the options because they don't monetize as aggressively.


There's only two solution that come to mind

1. Give it to the highest bidders (current method)

2. Give it to the highest ranking sites

From what I see, #2 is even worse for newcomers. Do you have a different suggestion that's better?


Randomize the order. Mark the highest ranking as "popular".


Enter Microsofts browser ballot screen that they were required to show in Europe. Broken randomness and half a dozen IE skins to game the requirement. Main requirements should be: do not let the fox guard the hen house.


Is there some threshold? Can any fork of Chromium make it on there? Can a company make 10 different forks to increase their chance? What if someone gets a really bad roll and sees 5 really shitty ones they don't know or like? How is that putting the user first?


> Can any fork of Chromium make it on there?

Chromium is a browser.


Wow, for a second I really blanked there and I was totally thinking of the Microsoft ballot. Good catch.


Reverse the order, mark the lowest ranking as popular!


Question is: why restrict the # of providers shown at all?

They could show a semi-random segmented ranking: - split all companies into X buckets by ranking - pick the top from each bucket from 1 to X, then the second best from each bucket etc.


The winners of the Q4 auction has a lot of companies I've never heard of like PrivacyWall, info.com, and GMX mixed in with Bing, Yandex and DDG, so it does seem like the way it's set up does introduce some variety. Like Yahoo is the #3 search engine, but doesn't even show up in the list.


Can you send the Q4 winner list, or where we can find it? I'm interested in seeing the list. Maybe one of these small search engines will be better in some way.


https://www.android.com/choicescreen-winners/

I'm kind of very curious about some of the small names on it. Like how do they have more money than DDG. PirvacyWall seems to be using the Bing API like DDG, so I just don't see how they'd be about to outspend DDG so easily.


> PirvacyWall seems to be using the Bing API like DDG, so I just don't see how they'd be about to outspend DDG so easily.

They probably are private-equity/venture-funded and are a bet on trying to capture some of the market which they can monetize for more than they spent on the auction.

e: well they appear to be a class B corp, so actually perhaps not


Some more info on info.com and PrivacyWall

https://qz.com/1783096/what-are-info-com-and-privacywall/



There are two different problems at play. The anti-trust one (Google using its dominance in mobile to boost its own search product) is solved by forcing them to offer alternative defaults. The other problem you are alluding to (user privacy I assume?) is unrelated to this, and there are already laws like GDPR in place to address that.


I absolutely agree with your comment.

Every time I set DDG as my default search engine, I return back to Google after two weeks because I get fed up of using !g to get proper search results.

If I know the site where I can get what I seek e.g. Reddit, SO, HN then bangs on DDG are useful but when I don't know which site would get me the information I seek, DDG fails me 9/10 times in giving me a proper result and I have to resort to !g.

DDG needs to be a better search engine first than anything else if it needs to survive, just advertising Privacy wouldn't cut it, Hypothetically If Apple announces a search engine tomorrow most of DDG customer base would shift even if Apple had a poor search engine just because 'Apple sells Privacy better'.


My experience has been that DDG produces satisfactory results 95+ percent of the time and Google produces more ads that crowd out the results 100 percent of the time.


It depends very much on where you live. Localized results outside of the US suck with DDG. Yes, you can set a language but you always have to set/unset it and even then it's not great at providing results that are relevant to a specific location, even if specified in the search query.

On the other hand that's no wonder, from all search traffic I've seen, Google tends to crawl 5-10x as much as Bing (DDG bot is basically non-existant). Google's index is much broader and more current than others because they crawl basically the whole web constantly. It's no wonder that Bing lags behind Google if they crawl everything apart from the most popular pages irregularly.


I've been using DDG for a couple of years. It produces satisfactory results as long as I describe what I'm searching for thoroughly. Google knows me well and is able to surmise a lot from a much shorter query.

In the same vein, if I want unbiased results, DDG is strictly superior to Google.


> In the same vein, if I want unbiased results, DDG is strictly superior to Google.

And if you want good results, without dumping every buzzword you know about your search, Google is strictly superior to DDG.


That used to be true, but Google search result quality diminished significantly in the past couple of year, because it started to get too creative with keyword dropping and substitution. I often see the single most important keyword in my query dropped to produce more results, or replaced with a more generic category (e.g. "Linux" replaced with "Unix"), or even replaced with something that's not actually a correct substitute at all (e.g. "FreeBSD" replaced with "Linux").


This is my experience as well. If DDG gave me the same quality of results as Google, I might use it. Until then, I don't care. Privacy alone isn't going to cut it, if I only cared about privacy and not the results, I would send my queries to /dev/null instead.


Define 'proper search results'. I guess you only search for common things that Google has optimized for.

In my experience, Google now stuffs the results with everything they can think of that's even remotely related (or even unrelated). There's so much noise that specific searches are useless.

On the other hand yes, if you want to find a pizza near you, Google is still best. I guess they should rebrand to 'restaurant finder'.


Term BMW - in Google, 2nd result is the local site while in DDG there is no local result at all. Sure, i can check the Region option and it will show up, however the region option completely messes up search results for different terms because when i search for a different thing half of results are from Japanese sites and not even English (i am not close to Japan). Another Google thing that i like is that there is a date for posts which DDG doesn't seem to have unless i am missing it in the settings.


As a lot of other people said, Google still wins for local info. But nothing else IMO.

Try searching the model of your TV + review on Google. Tell me what page the first actual review comes in. If there's any, and not only stores trying to sell it to you or machine generated pages.


My locale is FR but if I search for "BMW UK" in DDG it gives the UK sites immediately.

DDG doesn't have accumulated personal knowledge of you, so you have to be explicit. I don't see that as a high cost given the benefits.


Really? In my experience, when DDG doesn't find what I need it rarely happens that Google does.


Perhaps it has to do with search behaviour, perhaps what I search for has better results on Google (even though the quality of search results on Google have degraded extensively over past several years in favour of sites hosting large volume of content).

Every time I don't get a result I seek from a search engine, I think about making note of it for a 'search engine wall of shame', but I never acted upon that as the urge to solve problem at hand takes precedence. I will try to start making it a habit here on, so that I can provide some facts for such future discussions.


> g to get proper search results.

the difference being, for me, that DDG produces deterministic results, I can share search terms and get the same list.

With Google that's impossible

I also guess Google learns from my g! searches on DDG to rival with it and give the impression it knows better

Repeat the same search on another computer or with another user and complete different results appear, usually not better than DDG plus ads

DDG real weakness is localized content. Content in my language is way worse than what Google picks up.


I agree DDG is not good enough to replace Google, but that doesn't mean I want them to die off because of some bullshit auction. They provide a good enough product for some, clearly and I hope it continues to improve so I can benefit from it too one day.


Private search engines, by definition, must make less money than others. The ads are less targeted and worth less, and user data and search habits are not sold. To be outbit by other smaller players, you have to wonder: what is their business model.

And then you have non profits like Ecosia. Is it fair that Ecosia has to pay untold amounts in a secret auction to Google? That money could have gone to pay trees but instead is going to line Google's pockets and strengthen their dominance...


it's an entirely circular argument because the basis for a service like DDG to be able to compete on product quality is having more users in the first place.

It's a classic case of network effects, one of the main reasons for Google's accurate results is the amount of data they have available, and that in turn depends on their userbase.

Quality of the product and popularity are correlated when it comes to most internet firms, so just appealing to consumer choice means little. Do we need to argue if Facebook without ads and more privacy would be better? Of course it'd be better, did anyone ever go "gosh I miss my Facebook ads"? The damn issue is that the value isn't in the product, but in the users already on the platform.


While I generally think Google can do as it pleases here, I don't think

> But if your position is that your product cannot compete monetarily and also cannot compete without the advertising that money buys, then it might just be that you don't have as desirable a product as you think you do.

is really true. A free option not taking in great amounts of money, but offering substantial privacy just won't be as visible—especially when it's actively being drowned out by companies with for-profit motives.


If substantial privacy was as valuable as you suggest, it would be more popular. People love getting something for nothing, so why isn’t it happening more easily?


The most valuable things are not always the most popular. I wouldn't conflate the two.


"I'm undecided about DDG with regard to its relevance for my search behaviour. "

This is a misunderstanding of the economics.

Every dollar you spend on something is a dollar of value taken away from you in value - 'low price' means more surplus and value to the consumer, all other things being equal.

A crapy search engine with 10 000 customers will make more money than a great search engine that is essentially free - but which one is better?

There are other factors at play here, especially concerning scale, whereupon a smaller upstart, with a product 10x better would never be able to compete just on the basis of the cost of customer acquisition, which is arbitrary.

And of course, that search is free, it's a strategic investment on everyone's part to begin with.

'In Other Words' - the search engine with the most, crappiest ads, is going to get top place, but the search engine with 0 ads, supported by open source ... nobody would find out about?

They need to remove the auction, it makes the whole exercise pointless.


+1

I have tried multiple times to use DuckDuckGo over the years but used !g so often for programming queries that I questioned why I was forcing myself to use a plainly underperforming (for my use case) product. In other David vs. Goliath stories like Firefox vs. Chrome the competing product had verifiable advantages for me. For DDG the only edge is an unverifiable claim that the company doesn’t track me? Other than that I am resolving myself to a product that performs less well for my use case.


> used !g so often for programming queries

Funny, I find google useless for programming queries lately.

Although, if you go past the beginner questions, all searches become useless. You want something exotic and android specific? Good luck wading through 3000 pages explaining you how to use Android. Even though you specified 'programmatically' or 'in code'. And 90% of the rest are SEO "tutorial" pages that don't answer your question either.


A million times this.

I recently had the misfortune of trying to learn Android app development and oh my GOD I can't describe how SEO-ridden it is. Basically any search that Google can surmise as being related to Android development (no matter if I'm searching for the fix for some error message, etc), I get almost a full page of results that are SEO'd "Android App Dev Tutorial For Beginners" that are all basically:

- 25 minute read of "how to install Android Studio"

- "Okay now that you have that, you can go off and start writing Android apps! Have fun!


Yeah; what the hell happened? Not just programming, but other technical things too. It's like everybody is gaming search so hard that search is going back to the days of AltaVista and Lycos.


I am in this box too. When I first started using ddg, I added !g to programming queries because it was better. Nowadays, I try ddg first and I'm disappointed, so I append !g and I still get sfa.

It would be nice if some decent entrepreneurial academics could create a web browser that was better than the SEOers and would aim to do no evil. Sigh. One can dream.


Links stopped mattering after Google killed blogs.

Now there is no mass of people verifying the quality of random sites, and search engines lost they anchor.


The now-defunct Advogato approached the question of reputation by having explicit reputation sources, with its founder the ultimate source.

Raph now works for Google AFAIA.


Reputation is a lousy replacement for page popularity. When Google started to apply their metrics over an entire domain, they already lost a lot of niche information.

Yes, it's better than nothing, but don't expect it to keep the same quality of results we got earlier. Google killed the golden goose when they decided do concentrate their results on the large sites only, and it will be very hard to make similar algorithms work that well again.


Pagerank is explicitly a reputation measure. It's proved somewhat manipulable and unreliable.

Levien's reputation graph needn't be slavishly followed, though it does suggest an alternative.


Don't sites like reddit, stackoverflow and twitter have an equivalent effect? (And I recall Google coming about before blogs. How did Google kill them?)


Google was founded on the answer on how do you deduce the value of a site based on an ecosystem of personal pages around it. (Blogs are simply what replaced personal pages later.)

Have you ever seen any study like that for reddit and twitter? Those have completely different characteristics. (SO looks similar enough, but it's not comprehensive.)

On how did Google kill blogs, looks like you haven't noticed they decided to concentrate their search results on a small number of sites a few years ago.Google just does not lead people to them anymore.


It can also be that employees are willing to have a lower salary because they are feeling they contribute to something meaningful.


When using DDG I also tend to fall back on !g but in my idealistic fantasy I imagine this to be okay because I provide DDG with search terms they can use to optimize their engine.


Would be interested in what that salary range is. I assume a larger part of their comp is RSU and options.


I see a slightly different argument here for why this is an antitrust issue. The DDG position is that they have lower ability to bid because they are offering a cheaper but superior (in terms of privacy) user experience.

If Google's only priority was the best outcome for the Android platform they'd probably consider cutting DDG a deal. However, because Google also gets the top slot by default they have an incentive to fill the rest of the list with poor-user-experience search engines.

So the antitrust issue would be Google freezing out DDG from the exposure, giving it instead to search engines that Google doesn't feel threatened by. This situation only exists because Google has technical control of both the list of search engines and the first search engine that appears on the list.

I'm not a huge fan of antitrust, being a hardened capitalist. But I can see why if antitrust is a thing then this is a case where it would apply. The market maker also being the major competitor in the market is pretty seedy.


DDG's User research on 9k users in 3 main markets shows people don't mind scrolling through a long list of search options. Most people will still pick Google even if it's the last option. But their research also shows that about 20% of Google users would choose a different provider if given a chance. Google created fake scarcity by limiting the number of search providers to 4.


I am unable to follow your line of argument. What does your position on privacy have to do with fighting a monopoly?


I don't think it's that simple. It's not as simple as DDG makes it out to be.

As a society, what do we want to see for the default search choice box on your smartphone ?

DDG's proposal is:

> Alternative search engines with the most market share in each market are shown on the first screen, randomly ordered. The remaining alternative search engines are available by scrolling, also randomly ordered.

Do we want to cram that with hundreds of random sites that want to be ? That amounts to a meaningless choice (nobody has really time to look through them all and compare). If people are willing to suffer that much through, they can certainly customize after the initial setup to pick whatever they want. So I think beyond the first screen is probably not a good idea - just put a search box or something.

Then, do we just put top N ? What would that N be ? Do we let the screen size dictate the number ? Do we use some fixed N ?

If you picked some fixed N, what the order should be ? From purely immediate utilitarian perspective, you'd want it to be according to the market share - to minimize the effort for people to pick what they want (with the assumption that the market share reflects the user's choice). DDG supports "random" order on the first screen - random would put them as the top choice more often than their current market share. This is not an unreasonable choice if you want to take advantage of "nudge" (of putting as the first choice) to "even out" the market share. As far as nudges go, this isn't THAT obstructive when looking from the lens of a single user, but this would still be a very direct intervention on people's choice and what companies can do - it's roughly equivalent to mandating grocery stores to pick top 5 soft drinks and display them in a random order on the top shelf. Generally we're bad at writing laws and regulations at this level of detail, so we try to rely on market to sort this kind of things out. But this question arises due to monopoly concerns in the first place, which is exactly about market distortion, so maybe this kind of intervention is OK ?

DDG also implies other search engines can bid more because they have higher profit margin due to sacrificing privacy. But this ignores two important aspects: 1) people are willing to trade off privacy for more "return" in the form of more features and free services (companies with higher profit tend to develop more, better stuff than companies with less profit) 2) companies who can't auction higher might be fundamentally less efficient than competitors, thus has higher cost structure. In that case, as a society we do generally want to use more efficient one.

So, at least part of DDG's request is not unreasonable, and does merit some discussion, but it's not as straightforward, and the answer likely will depend on how comfortable you are with how deep and detailed intervention you're willing to have the government / regulatory body decide.


>Do we want to cram that with hundreds of random sites that want to be ? That amounts to a meaningless choice (nobody has really time to look through them all and compare)

90% of the users will pick a site on the first screen, those that don't actively want that glut of choice. I don't understand how anybody would be suffering from this, maybe people who have never used a search engine before?

> In that case, as a society we do generally want to use more efficient one.

The money spent on these auctions is advertising money, and it's hard to argue that the companies spending the most on advertising are the most efficient.


> The money spent on these auctions is advertising money, and it's hard to argue that the companies spending the most on advertising are the most efficient.

There's no direct metric that would measure "efficiency", as no single metric would be able to capture such complex question in a very meaningful way. As far as ways to choose, auction isn't that bad of a method to maximize the efficiency of resource allocation. That's why e.g. spectrum gets auctioned off. It's not just to generate more money - it's one of the easiest ways to ensure a relatively efficient resource allocation.

Auction does have downsides, but "advertising money" is not a convincing one.


>Auction does have downsides, but "advertising money" is not a convincing one.

It has nothing to do with auctioning. As your point about how random distribution of those slots being unfair towards DDG shows, those slots are advertisements.

When buying a tangible resource at auction, like part of the spectrum, what you said is more likely to be true. Being willing to spend the most in advertising does not make it likely you're providing more features and services, and it doesn't mean you're an efficient company. It means you're able to generate more revenue per person, and a company that respects your privacy will be unable to compete in that metric.


> It means you're able to generate more revenue per person,

No. It means they are able to generate more profit. And that is an indirect reflection of efficiency.

> a company that respects your privacy will be unable to compete in that metric.

That's a common opinion, but I think this remains to be proven - see e.g. https://apenwarr.ca/log/20190201. The choice quote:

"That's a lot about profiling for ad targeting, which obviously doesn't work, if anyone would just stop and look at it. But there are way too many people incentivized to believe otherwise. "

I think there's a lot of truth behind that - that I suspect targeting adds small, marginal difference, not existential difference, and thus it's entirely possible that the advantage is all or mostly due to factors other than privacy.


>No. It means they are able to generate more profit. And that is an indirect reflection of efficiency.

The result of this would mean all the most profitable companies are the ones that spent the most on advertising, which just isn't true.

It doesn't matter if targeting ads is actually worthwhile, as long as people are willing to buy tracking data a company that ignores your privacy will be able to generate more pee view.


Your comment unfortunately shits on non profit orgs. Several search engines are not meant to turn a profit.


I used to like DuckDuckGo but that was because it used Bing which was relatively uncensored at the time. Bing has become heavily censored now in it's search results (similar to Google) and now DuckDuckGo doesn't find accurate search results for many terms on more edgy or politically incorrect or risque topics.


I find it shocking people want more Bing results in DDG. If it was 100% Google I wouldn't have ditched it.


Runnaroo and Startpage are both privacy focused and use Google as the base for organic web results. I am the creator of Runnaroo.


What do you use instead?


Very unpopular opinion, please engage with it on the facts, not their popular perception on HN:

After a decade and flipping from Apple services & DDG-only to Google over time: I'm really annoyed by DDG's histrionics about Google, from the silly domain fight they imagined, to having blinkered arguments about how they just need a free spot in the Android setup wizard and their market share would be 20%, and they should be the one blessed search engine who doesn't have to pay.


Hmm, I wouldn't call them histrionics. It's their marketing. David v Goliath.

You don't use DDG because it's better than Google. You use it because it's not Google. So of course they remind people of that constantly. And... Google can take it.

I do think it's fair to complain that duck.com redirects to google.com if you're DDG. It's also fair for Google to do it anyway! Both sides are playing their part and that's okay. (Google did sell it to DDG, though, so good on them.)

I used to work at Mozilla, and it's crazy how easily a large company can crush you by... just existing. Google can funnel people to Google Search from Android, Chrome, Gmail, etc. Google is the defacto default, and DDG has to fight desperately for anyone to care.


I use DDG because it's better than Google in my scenarios. Yes, Google is often better for "hard" searches, but actually DDG tends to give me what I want, not some SEO monstrosity, on my normal searches.


Even on my hard searches, Google gives me a bunch of useless SEO and ads. It's like we're past peak search and we're slowly going to stop being able to find things on the internet.


Everyone has anecdotes, I’m a DDG user and the results are nearly always worse/more stale than I got before ditching google two years ago (still have to !g a lot) but hey, at least it’s not google all the time.

Google having a decade of my search history just makes for really relevant results, even if I don’t like the company’s practices.


Bangs are the killer feature for me and I'm surprised google hasn't stolen it yet. Just kinda illustrates how entrenched Google's search engine is that it keeps removing features rather than adding them and still is number one search engine in the world.


Chrome supports fully customizable bangs (and I assume Firefox does too) so why should Google search bother with them?


Chrome is one of those cases where i think it could be an open and shut case of monopolistic abuse, exploiting their search monopoly to promote chrome at zero cost and then also using chrome to promote google.com.


> exploiting their search monopoly to promote chrome at zero cost

And gmail, and YouTube, and gsuite, and google meet, and blogger, and in the past bundled in other installers as a drive-by installation (Flash for instance), and ... the list probably goes on.

Clearly monopolistic abuse.


True, most non-technical people I know don't know that a search engine and an Internet browser are two separate things. They only know internet browsing as Chrome+Google search. If they are given Microsoft Edge at work or something, they'll search Google on Bing, go to Google, bookmark it and use it :D

I use Qwant primarily and DDG on mobile. But that's a personal choice and it works for me. I think with Chromebooks given away at schools to kids, Google will become synonymous with internet. Heck, I think Chromebooks will be synonymous with computers to them. It's what it is.


DDG is attacking the weakness in their strength, a pretty classic technique for a lower tier player to attack the leader.

By redefining privacy as "we don't know you" instead of "we keep your stuff secure" their doing a clausewitz style offensive.

There's limitations to this technique and that's what they keep hitting. They're not going vertical on their beachhead, so yeah, this is what happens.

Eh, whatever, it's not like I work there so best of luck to them.


Please don't redefine privacy as "we know everything about you and we're going to exploit that information for profit but won't give it to anyone else except governments whatever their purpose may be because they only ever use it for a good cause." That's not what it is.


My (and your) personal definition isn't at play here.

When companies offer you privacy they usually mean privacy from others, not from the company itself.

This is the hard reality of what these companies mean when they use the word privacy.


Okay, but "hard reality" isn't the same as "the newbie is redefining things".


Huh? I don't understand your point here. I've been doing business building for 20 years, I hope I'm not that green.

This is a business purposing claim and that's it.


Really? Does my bank inspect the contents of my safe deposit box and auction off that info for ads?


That's a ridiculously unprofitable business model, of course they don't but almost entirely because that idea is unsound and not at all practical.

When a hotel offers privacy for instance, they aren't saying they'll wear a blindfold to check you in - their data retention policy is identical - they're talking about privacy from others.

When a plane offers privacy in first class, they're not saying they'll shred your fight record after landing, it's privacy from others.

When uber is offering privacy, they're not saying you can anonymously book and crypto pay the amount, no, it's privacy from others - they know the same amount about you as any other user

I have a friend here in LA that does privacy centric medical services (hiv, drug rehab). The target demo is celebrities who are shying away from paparazzis and gossip columnists. He still has the customer list however


They 100% sell your transaction information, as does Visa and MasterCard. Google buys that, as do Amazon and Facebook and many other companies.


> By redefining privacy as "we don't know you" instead of "we keep your stuff secure" their doing a clausewitz style offensive.

You mean they know the difference between privacy and security?


I'm actually not sure I see the difference here when your information and access to you are the only things a website can secure at all. If you're selling my information, or access to me, that's by definition terrible privacy.

Granted this isn't the definition of "privacy" that corporations will use, but that's hardly an accident.


Privacy is "we don't know you".


It's not so much about what's "fair", it's about what's right. Fabricating some baseless headline about how Google is intentionally hoarding duck.com to overplay the "David v Goliath" story is just lame. I do agree this is their marketing, but twisting the truth and the facts to forcefully drive a narrative should be called out.


Google happened to own the domain via an acquisition. They own a lot of domains via acquisition. It’s one of the only ones they redirected to Google.

People don’t take kindly to gigantic corporations punching down on tiny little companies whose sole existence is to highlight the big corp’s lack of privacy. It’s not a good look.


It's not a fabrication.

Using an 'auction' model is a very easy way for Google to undermine the credibility of the anti-trust legislation.

Any upstart that would theoretically 10x better wouldn't ever be able to get any material market share.

Imagine if there were only 4 car dealerships allowed in America and everyone had to 'bid' on the distribution. There would be no Tesla.


And upstart would have much more chance to win an auction than magically get enough market share to get onto the list. This method is actually much better for newcomers than the other.


An upstart would have 0 chance of winning the auction.

It's tantamount to a wireless spectrum option - enormous costs involved.


I use DDG because it’s better than Google. Any search engine that actually allows me to use it is better than one that doesn’t:

https://lee-phillips.org/byeGoogle/


I set my default search to DDG and I find myself using G! in my queries a lot more than I want to.


I'm genuinely curious about the examples where you didn't find the result on ddg and found via !g

I've noticed that if I don't find something on ddg and go to google I usually don't find what I'm looking for there either.


Have the same, really want to like ddg for over a year but I almost hit !g every time


In practice ddg is great for everything except searching for programming related things. I guess Google knows I'm a programmer and filters my results accordingly. Sadly about 60% of my searches are programming-related.


Programmer here. I've been using DDG for about 2 years and only find myself desperately going to google about once per month. And that's usually for image search. Google's results now seem to me too "commercial" as if all the spots were just sold, offering me something they want to sell, not what I want to search.


DDG is great for me for almost everything (including programming) besides very long tail results, specifically rare error messages.


I use ddg exclusively on all my devices for over three years now and can‘t complain. I had no reason to switch to g! for any topic I needed results. So I wonder if I would solve issues in programming faster or not using google. I never had the feeling my programming related searches are not spot on.


What does that do?


It’s called a “bang command”, [1] and DDG redirects that search to another site. You can set DDG as your default search engine but rely on these commands to search on other sites. Just put the bang command anywhere in your search term or phrase.

In this case, “!g” means search on google.com. So you get redirected to Google for that search. You can search on Startpage with !s, Wikipedia with !w, IMDB with !imdb, Amazon with !a, Google Images with !gi and so on. There are thousands of bang commands.

[1]: https://duckduckgo.com/bang


Redirects you to a Google search (try it here: https://duck.com?q=!g%20test)


A google search


with less bubble/tracking I think. but I only !g a few times a year so not an expert on it


Why would there be less tracking? It's a regular google search, accessed directly from within your browser window.


Ironically, your website doesn't actually allow me to use it.


I appreciate the sentiment about having a fact-based debate but it’s difficult to engage in an argument about the facts when the issue you raised is that you’re annoyed about something. What exactly would we be debating here?


We can start at why this is filed under 'Privacy Research' - pure FUD.


I was slightly annoyed and impressed that their 'histrionics' managed to finagle a high-value domain, for zero cost, from Google. When you're a fiesty up-and-comer, you do what you can.

On the other hand, Google seems to be now playing the old Microsoft game of keeping competitors alive so as to keep the regulators at bay.


[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines like this, regardless of how wrong someone else is or you feel they are.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


> What they are doing is very little different than what Google did when Google was the plucky underdog.

I don't remember to be the case. Google won because the existing search engines at the time (altavista, excite, etc) paled in comparison to its search results. Same for its other services like Gmail that offered 1gb space when Hotmail offered only 2mb.

I can understand the Google hate but they did many things right also to capture the top spots.


You imply that google did the same when they were the underdog, but I don't see any clear parallels between their practices.


What did google do when they were the underdog?


Launched a clearly better product that everyone flocked to because it worked so much better than the competition. I'm not sure how that relates to DDG though.


They ranked based on relevance, not who paid the most. That was new.


They are the underdog anyway.

What do you suppose them to do? To somehow magically grab the surveillance capitalism profit with just a search engine?

Without that profit, they'll have to play some silly moves.

For anyone who has even just superficial understanding of the market mechanism behind google, you'll see that there is no space of another search engine, as long as Google still needs a search engine.


> how they just need a free spot in the Android setup wizard and their market share would be 20%, and they should be the one blessed search engine who doesn't have to pay.

It worked when Microsoft had to implement browser choice. No reason why the spots should need to be auctioned this time.


https://spreadprivacy.com/search-preference-menu-auctions/

FYI, DDG's point is that they cannot win the auction because they are less profitable relative to other search engines. They proposed a new way to determine the set of default candidates by search engine market share rather than running auctions.


It's a chicken and egg problem though. You can't get marketshare unless you are included as a default option. DDG themselves wouldn't be in favor of this criteria a few years ago when they weren't popular.


Why not use weighted market share scale then? In other words if you're not on the default option list you are weighted more for normalizations.


Why not treat both as valid criteria?


They are both valid criteria, depending on your perspective. But the perspective that matters here is the perspective of the owner of the Android OS.

The EU's ruling was that Google needed to defuse the situation where their market position of Android was furthering their search engine dominance. The EU did not demand that Google give up the economic benefits of developing a popular phone OS. So Google even though Google must offer choice of defaults, it still has the right to sell spots on the list, so long as there is choice.

So the perspective that matters in choosing spots on the list is Google's, subject to obeying the EU ruling to offer alternative choices. Google's economic interests are aligned with getting the highest price for the spot. There is no reason why DDG ought to get the spot for free.


I've been using DuckDuckGo exclusively for several years now. But while privacy is a nice thing it has never been the No.1 reason. I just prefer their search result page design much better. I love customization options. I like !bang searches. And I almost never have been unhappy from search results. I think if your main value is privacy and nothing more, you're lost. Most users would value privacy, but it's almost like pie in the sky thing, that's vague, hard to define, hard/impossible to prove and most importantly you don't "feel it" right away. Quite contrary, using google will give you "better" ads. But some small annoyances (like design flaws) are provable and feelable immediately and will mostly win or loose you an user.


What about Ecosia


I don’t think the article makes it clear that the issue here is the use of an auction to decide what choices users have in search engine. Instead of just looking at user preference or market share.

That method naturally favors the bottom feeders in terms of privacy. It’s like awarding school lunch contracts to the company with the largest marketing budget. Probably not going to be many vegetables on that menu.

But I think google is making a long term strategic error here. They are feeding the privacy advocates free ammunition. Google could easily comply with the law and still have at least a token search provider that understands privacy.


> It’s like awarding school lunch contracts to the company with the largest marketing budget. Probably not going to be many vegetables on that menu.

In Madrid, Spain, Ayuso (The autonomous community leader) gave a contract for feeding the kids during the pandemic, to Telepizza, LOL.

https://www.publico.es/sociedad/menus-telepizza-ayuso-mes-me...

So yeah, not much vegetables on that menu!


As an adult I can see the hazard, but as a kid I would have been so down for this.


The idea of having an 'auction' is completely ridiculous.

The price being paid is company revenue, which is a function of how much value is not going to the consumer!

Imagine the best search engine in the world, that was maybe free (!) or provided by some government, it wouldn't be there!

Every dollar in profit a company makes, could be in the pocket of consumers in terms of lower price or better features.

Ergo - you literally get the scammiest winner.

If all search engines were free and low-profit, the winners of this contest would be McDonald's and GM, merely interested in talking about their brands all the time.

This is really bad, the EU needs to track a list of classes of search engines (i.e. A, B, C rating) and have Google organize them so A's appear before B's.


I'm undecided about DDG with regard to its relevance for my search behaviour. It seems that it requires reevaluation on at least a yearly basis. Practically speaking I rarely use it despite being very data privacy conscious and sympathetic with its goals.

But what I can say is that I turn to Bing and Yandex on a regular basis because they are simply better for some searches.

Bing is great for image search. Yandex is great for finding streamed movies, p* and reverse image search.

Generally speaking Google seems to handicap itself by two forces: censoring content (for moral and legal reasons) and monetary optimization (like preferring click bait content over actually useful content).

Over the years my approach towards protecting my data moved away from aiming for anonymity (DDG, Tor, OSM) towards pseudonymity and data distribution over competitors. F.x. neither Fastmail, nor Dropbox, nor Telegram, nor Firefox, nor Office 365 etc are perfect but at least I don't have all my data on Google and the rest of it on Facebook.

Sadly Google is rolling out or maintaining mostly unrivalled products like Search, Maps, Android, Youtube. I try to mitigate this by using separate fake Google accounts for youtube.com and google.com (via Firefox Containers) and LOS. Also I add an obstacle into the mix with uBlock Origin. Of course they can figure that out but if everybody does it then this would significantly increase costs. Also it's completely transparent for me - not adding any effort.

So, at the end of the day it seems that the fight for my data became some sort of guerrilla war fare.


> Generally speaking Google seems to handicap itself by two forces: censoring content (for moral and legal reasons) and monetary optimization (like preferring click bait content over actually useful content).

Not sure if promoting click bait is Google's intent. But pretty much all SEO is geared towards Google. No one really targets SEO towards Bing and Yandex so it's easier for them to rank by other parameters.

Monetization certainly is Google's intent but I don't think pure click bait pages are beneficial to Google in the end.


There are several large sites which are famous for poor UX and content quality which consistently rank high on Google. Like Pinterest, w3schools to name a few. That has been talked about here on HN also many times. Those are too prominent and obnoxious to assume Google Search isn't aware of it.


This is the most perfect description of what life has turned into for me. Thanks. I like the clarity.


So the whining about money has started, as I guessed long back. Gradually, they'd start doing things that were originally 'against' their idea of how DDG should have been, "but as you know the other people are so evil, we have to do it". I had liked the idea behind their search engine (and keep coming back to try it), but never liked the kind of promotion that they have carried out so far (which mostly includes criticizing a single other competitor and that's all). That type of advertising is never sustainable in my opinion.


Nah, this is legitimate, even more than Operas complaints against Microsoft for bundling IE.

I try to not be biased here but Googles move here is brilliant from a bullys perspective.

And besides: The whole idea that they should be allowed to extract any money from this deal is questionable IMO.


I agree that competitors should be standing on their own two feet and not spend energy knocking down competitors. To be fair to them, elaborating on the privacy conundrum in respect to monetisation is a good thing and difficult to put into an elevator pitch to the casual user.

Naturally Bing has outbid them considering DDG are serving Bing ads minus Bing's cut. They were always going to be in that position.


I can't fault their logic on the bidding system and the RoI of "users" when being privacy centric or not.

They are quite outspoken about it, maybe forgetting that they are a meta search engine! Perhaps the search menu should have "Google based search engines", "Bing based search engines" etc with sub-menus.

searchenginemap.com is handy to indicate the "brands" of alt-search people are using are just really Bing results re-skinned, though DDG are quite clever into having folk believe their crawler is for indexing more new pages.

Often see comments about how people done a search for X on DDG and compare to Google, surely part of the taste test is to go look at Bing as well.

FWIW I think the search preference menu should not be a bidding system and perhaps free, but unsure how to keep the size of the list of entrants small.


DDG in theory is great. I would love to use a service that does what DDG wants to do for privacy.

In practice though, their search is mostly unusable. Google’s results are 99% more accurate for me, even without being logged in. Anecdotal, but I’ve heard similar feedback.


I can use DDG for one to three word phrases, or just a general unordered keyword search.

But any time I need to search for exact sequences of strings (usually error messages), then DDG fails miserably and Google comes through.

Here is a recent example:

https://www.google.com/search?q=u-boot+%22unable+to+select+a...

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=u-boot+"unable+to+select+a+mode"+s...


Or try: https://www.runnaroo.com/search?term=u-boot+unable+to+select...

Your query (even without the quotes).


That's basically false. There is a learning curve that people seem to ignore when using search engines. It's not obvious, but Google vs Bing work a bit different and the type of queries each one likes are different. I use a Bing based engine as my daily driver and when I'm working, 9/10 searches are successful in the first couple results. When I'm out and about searching for something casual on my phone, that's usually 10/10.


I don't think it's false. It highly depends on what you're searching for. There are cases where DDG isn't good enough and I don't think the user is responsible for it in any way. Two examples off the top of my head:

* If you're searching something not in english. I'm french and DDG is my default search engine, but I have to switch to other search engines a lot when searching in french.

* When searching very technical things, like a very specific and rare error message. Good luck finding anything relevant with DDG.

As much as I'd like to use DDG for 100% of my research, I just can't.


For me it's weird. It has worked well sometime in the past, but in the last half year or so it became close to unusable again. For instance, if I search something related Pandas (the Python package), it consistently gives me the doc on Pandas 0.23 instead of the current one. I am switching back to Google, I've had enough for now.


> 99% more accurate

> Anecdotal

I think the word you’re looking for is hyperbolical.


Sure, but it’s anecdotal. For me, it’s 99% more accurate. Meaning 99 times out of 100 Google returns more relevant results.


Does anyone have any context on PrivacyWall.org? They use the same privacy-first language as DuckDuckGo in their marketing, are a B Corp, and somehow bid enough to be included in the default set in most countries.


New to me also. Their FAQ gives some clues to what they're doing. https://www.privacywall.org/faq.html

Not sure who is providing their results but I would assume Bing.

Their Google Play app has 10K installs so it appears people are using it.

Not much chatter about them on the web.


Might be investing VC money in that auction.


In case someone wants to know what are the winners of the auction: https://www.android.com/choicescreen-winners/


Thanks!

Googling, ironically, didn't work. But that's because I was keying off of "clearing price", which appears not to be published(?).


I don't think the auction model is "fundamentally flawed". A law has to be fair to both the consumers and at least in some part (depending on the country) the businesses. Why would someone give them a free spot when other businesses are willing to pay big amount in a fair fashion, on a platform that Google has invested so much money for years to reach to this place?


> on a platform that Google has invested so much money for years to reach to this place?

Because it is meant as a punishment for Googles abusive practices.

It is less of a punishment if Google can extract money from it.


I don't see it as a punishment. I actually see it as a fair practice ruling. So they can't ask a company to bear all the costs of raising and maintaining platform so huge and just "give it away" for free because some users think that's a better option for them and thus for the world as well. Why would they even run a business if that's the case?


They're free not to. They're not free to monetize by any means. If they can't monetize without breaking monopoly laws, they're free to not exist.

Nobody is owed a business model.


This isn't the punitive part - that's what fines are for.

I see this particular requirement more as a corrective action - to actually give back to users the choice that Google took away through abuse of their market position. Users don't particularly care who is making money in the process, while their rights are not infringed.

I am perfectly fine with the corrective action being dollar-neutral for Google, or even slightly positive. There is nothing wrong with incentivising good behaviour, as long as those incentives themselves don't become abused. If the right thing to do by your users is also the better thing to do from a business perspective, we might not have to wait for a court decision next time.


The title makes it sound like google specifically eliminated DuckDuckGo, when in fact DuckDuckGo simply lost an auction. They demand that rather then using an auction, google should determine who gets a place on the choice screen by market share. Obviously self-serving, would make it harder for new competitors to enter the market.


What is "Google's search preference menu"? Where does it exist?


It exists on Android devices, in the E.U.

The article has a link to this page, which describes it:

https://www.android.com/choicescreen


Just set your new tab page to some searx instance, it's quite a lot better than Google at this stage especially when it comes to filtering SEO'd results.

SEO is the cancer that killed the web.


Better yet, run your own searx instance.


The linked page[0] on the Android website explaining the choice screen has some interesting information on the auction, including:

> Google will use a fourth-price auction to select the other general search providers that appear in the choice screen. ... The three highest bidders will appear in the choice screen for that country. The provider that is selected by the user will pay the amount of the fourth-highest bid.

My gut reaction to this auction system is that it would be vulnerable to abuse by a small number of bad actors. For example, what is to stop a company from bidding an artificially high amount in order to win the auction, knowing that they will most likely end up paying a more reasonable sum by the other fair bidders?

[0]: https://www.android.com/choicescreen/


> My gut reaction to this auction system is that it would be vulnerable to abuse by a small number of bad actors. For example, what is to stop a company from bidding an artificially high amount in order to win the auction, knowing that they will most likely end up paying a more reasonable sum by the other fair bidders?

Because there is no incentive to bid higher than your true value.

Suppose you derive $N value from acquiring a user on the search screen. If you bid $N + x (where x > 0), then there are three cases:

1. Others bid more than $N + x, so you lose the action. In this case, the price was above the value you would derive, so not paying is the best choice.

2. Others bid between $N and $N + x. Let's call the action price $N + y. Then you win the auction. You pay $N + y for the user, but you only derive $N value, so you lose $y. This is a bad result; you shouldn't have paid.

3. Others bid less than $N. Let's call the auction price $N - z (where z > 0). Since you derive $N from the user, you gain $z, by paying, which is the best choice.

As a bidder, you want to avoid scenario 2. The best way to do this is to minimize the value of $x — that is; set $x = 0. So it's optimal to bid no higher than your true value, $N.

By analogy, you can also prove that it's suboptimal to bid below your true value by considering the three cases when you bid $N - x (where x > 0).


That strategy quickly falls apart if more than one company bids an "artifically high amount". It's a pretty well-studied format that incentivizes bidders to bid the true value.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalized_second-price_aucti...


Okay last straw for me, I switched my default searches to DDG. I hope that won't make Google go bankrupt :)


my experience using DDG is that its simply returning the same results as Bing. Is the only value they bring that one trusts them more with our data than microsoft?


Is there some context explaining why this is based on an auction ?

If the goal is to prevent Google from using its Android dominance to also dominate search engines, a random sort of the most popular search engines in a given country sounds like a better option.


Why does Google use an auction to determine the search providers that appear in the choice screen?

    An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen. It allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly.
    The auction revenues help us to continue to invest in developing and maintaining the Android platform.
Source: https://www.android.com/choicescreen/


I mean : why are they allowed to make it an auction ? If the goal is to break their stronghold on Android, it sounds like it should be mandated as free ?


>That EU users most want

I have spoken to a huge range of socioeconomic classes and the people that knew what DDG was explicitly said they could not care less. Obviously my sample size is minuscule but in EU generally people are perfectly aware of the spying yet don't really care (which I disagree with but that's how it is).

This just goes to show how suspicious DDG is acting which isn't surprising considering Mr. Weinbergs previous business.


I'm from the EU and this is pretty much how I feel.

Also I kind of trust huge companies like Google more than smaller ones. Yes, I know Google is collection lots of info on me, and I know they will show me ads and try to sell me something or get me to use more of their services, but I don't feel like it's such a big issue, and I don't think it's in their self interest to abuse this data or that anyone there cares about me personally. What is some smaller company going to do with my data and who are they going to sell it to? Who knows. Can I really trust they are not collecting any data? Who knows.


I'm in the EU and my sample is probably biased, too, but most of the people I know either don't use Google or use it but dislike using it.

I'm personally alternating between DDG and Ecosia. I do use Google Images, once in a while, in a private tab.


I think that companies like duckduckgo who make a product in the consumer's interest are a bit dubious as long as their product is not open source.


But somehow people trust telegram and thousands of other apps. No its not about open source


FYI - https://telegram.org/apps#source-code. People trust Telegram because their source code has been independently audited by security researchers.


On that site, they mention the code/crypto protocol has been independently verified, but I can't seem to find any independent reports, aside from Telegrams own article explaining the technical details of their protocol.

Aside from Telegrams own insistence that their crypto protocol has been independently verified, do you have another source? My understanding was that nobody has actually bothered to verify telegrams source code: https://security.stackexchange.com/a/49802


What’s curious is that info.com, who won many of the auctions doesn’t even work. It gives me no results at all


This is upsetting. I just checked the results for Germany and decided to visit PrivacyWall. I was greeted by a banner of a pixelated Microsoft Logo (presumably because I use edge) next to an extremely broken translation of "make us your default search engine" in German.

So that localization criteria is... just not enforced?


The problem I got when using duckduckgo is the icon at top left. That makes me feel inconsistent in style. Is it possible to remove the background color in icon? The icon is so colorful.


Just add duckduckgo.com##.header__logo to your uBlock filters


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.


If you search DDG in Chrome surely Google sees what you're doing anyway?


Correct, but they don't get to advertise to you.


Ha, I also eliminate Google search from my browsers' search bar options.


Google has recently banned YouTube Competitor "LBRY.tv" From Play Store.

https://www.lacortenews.com/n/google-bans-youtube-competitor...


I don't think the article is very good. It's just a regurgitation of tweets from the LBRY twitter account, and the comparison between Cuties and the comedy skit that got it banned is deceptive. One is a social criticism, and the other, according to the description of the video "Contains implied sex and mild nudity".

The article doesn't bother bringing up Google's side, or if this action is unique.


That is basically what I was gonna say. Very he-said-she-said style. No indication of what rules were broken, no indication of why. Only that it happened and that LBRY said "we don't like that!"


Looking at what trust-busting cases were like a few decades ago, I can't help but think that if Google had existed and behaved as it does today at any other time in the last century it would've already been smashed into tiny, non-evil pieces by the government.


That's because ever since the 80s the US has switched to an anti-trust regime that essentially focusses on consumer price and nothing else. Lisa Khan's long but very good piece on the issue is worth a read.

https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-parado...


I think the political winds are shifting. Both conservatives and progressives are pushing for it. Big tech is rapidly losing any political base it could have.


Only because Google doesn't budge on filtering search results for political benefit. If Google dropped this and removed all anti-trump results, there would be no possibility for anti-trust litigation.


I really don't get why this issue keeps coming up. How many times does this story have to be retold before developers realize that if you build apps/platforms/networks which are by their very nature unmoderateable or take a position against moderation then you're going to get rejected from every app store unless you're careful to make sure that users have to opt-in to all the content (like Mastodon). LBRY's unfiltered "Discovery" https://lbry.tv/$/discover 1000% what got it canned.

"We designed the system so that we can't control the content on our network" doesn't mean you get to abdicate responsibility for what users see when they open it. The implementation details of how your app works don't matter when reviews are based on what the user actually sees.


Interesting, first time visiting lbry.

The discovery page for me is about 75% really obvious MAKE MONEY FAST crypto scams and fraud, 10% weird alternative medicine or antivax stuff, 5% programming videos, 5% non-scam crypto stuff but largely oddities like "world hunger can be solved by bitcoin, fuck fiat", and the rest is misc/uncategorised stuff. Bunch of tutorials that offer free game cash/game cheats but are actually just offering malware and keyloggers.


Then why are browsers allowed?


The same reason the Mastodon app is allowed. They allow you to access unmoderated content, but they don't proactively push it at you (the default search engines, and the news home pages on Edge/MSN and Firefox/Pocket, do proactively push content, but they're moderated).


That’s the next step to big tech censorship. They are slowly but surely converting what could be generalized computing machines to limited Internet gadgets. They will ultimately also restrict which websites you can visit, which will come probably in the form of bowing to activist pressure about something outrageous, and that’ll then normalize the practice.

If anyone here thinks this is a ridiculous outcome to fear, then tell me what is tempering deplatforming, censorship, and abuse of walled gardens today? Very little - and so I expect it to keep going. This is why we need alternatives to the big tech companies in things small AND big. We need alternative phone platforms, search engines, maps, chat apps, the full stack of hardware, all of it.


> They are slowly but surely converting what could be generalized computing machines to limited Internet gadgets.

Aka "The war on general-purpose computing". Far too many people in the tech industry are fighting on the wrong side of the war.

https://boingboing.net/2012/01/10/lockdown.html

https://boingboing.net/2012/08/23/civilwar.html


But what's bad about the discovery page? Maybe we see different things, I don't see anything remotely controversial or even political there.


I like Googlers but a lot of the time when Google loses in court, I feel like the court did the right thing.



I believe that if you don't really like Google, then you shouldnt use other Search Engines than Google like DDG, just let them be very tiny.


DDG is based in the US. It doesn't matter what the company says wishes or hopes. It is by nature not private.

Also Mr. Weinberg (DDG owner) who has built himself a reputation for abusing user privacy for profit (his previous company just bulk seller private information it got from unsuspecting users).


> In our proposal, there is no auction. Alternative search engines with the most market share in each market are shown on the first screen, randomly ordered.

Not a perfect solution since the small search providers still end up left out of almost all preference selections by users, but it's definitely better than the auction model (and ofc perfection is the enemy of progress). I think a slightly better model is an infinitely scrolling list, with the first 5 or so (or effectively 75% of the first page) being the randomly-listed high-marketshare providers and the rest being random low-marketshare providers. The UI should also require the height be set so that it indicates that more search options are available by scrolling by cutting off the bottom result halfway.


> In our proposal, there is no auction. Alternative search engines with the most market share in each market are shown on the first screen, randomly ordered. The remaining alternative search engines are available by scrolling, also randomly ordered.

I agree, that this would be the best solution from the end-user point of view. But Google is not an NGO. Android is a free product that is being developed and maintained using revenue that comes from ad sales.

It seems logical for Google, or any other company in a similar situation, to expect a compensation for giving up even a tiny percentage of its revenue. Otherwise, from the business perspective it would mean that Google is simply subsidising its own competition.

Also, as unlikely as it sounds, having an auction system a kind of democratizes the entire search engine market for new players: now anyone can build a search engine for their own country and make it the top option for all local Android users.




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