Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Inside DuckDuckGo, Google's Tiniest, Fiercest Competitor (fastcolabs.com)
462 points by marban on Feb 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments

Duck duck is barely usable ... but they don't spy on you. The !g and !b commands make it my first choice. If the results aren't getting what you want, try the search on google or bing. IF you don't mind Sergy Brin or Bill Gates tracking you.

I still think there's room for a search engine that supports boolean(ish?) operations like AND, OR , NOT and NEAR. Providing links directly to the source and not a redirect to the search engine company would be a really good thing.

A cookie-less search engine would be double plus good.

Duck duck is barely usable

On the contrary, I find Google barely usable these days, with everything covered in layers and layers of horrible bloat, random UX mess of the week and constant pestering about G+.

DDG is nice and clean, has features Google is (still) lacking and just gets me the results. I may resort to other search-engines (like Google) once a week or so, but at this point, there's no way I'm going back to having Google as default.

That's just not worth it.

Google's interface seems to have improved recently, now that they have removed the duplicate left-hand column and put the options on top.

As for search results: I tried DDG again last week, and was shocked by the poor quality of results compared to google, bing or yandex. Search for "html table tag" and you'll see no w3schools or MDN results. Instead a lot of other, crappier sites. Google, yandex and bing all show w3schools and MDN near the top, so DDG must be filtering these results (which is ironic, given that they say they don't put you in a "filter bubble").

I wouldn't consider w3schools a good search result, ever:


Why do you say that? (and please don't say you read it on w3fools)

In my own experience, w3schools is the quickest way of getting the information I want, which I guess is why it is at the top of google. I know it isn't cool to like w3schools, but then I'm not a cool programmer.

Lots of people complain about W3Schools. Some of those people say the Mozilla pages are a bit clunky.

Seems like a nice passive income project - man pages for HTML / CSS aimed at beginners but with advanced information too.

I'm surprised it hasn't already been done. Perhaps it has and I just don't know the URL.

You can't fight the SEO feedback cycle. W3 schools was linked to by some people, so it shows up on Google, so it gets linked to by more people...

Some people? By internet standards, w3schools is ancient, and has been linked by many people over the years. Here[1], I present you their main page from close to 14 years ago. The copyright notice says 1999-2000, and I think I first visited it in 1999, but I could be mistaken. That's a long time for links to accrue.

[1]: http://web.archive.org/web/20000815210025/http://www.w3schoo...

Also, look at the exact match keyword text links and their site structure. They were SEO'd before there was such a thing

oh god, they used comic sans? No wonder every homepage in the early 2000s overused that font..

MDN search has an api,


Sometimes I just need to confirm a particular attribute. I don't think W3S is very good, but I have been on the site enough times that I know I'll be in and out with what I need in about 10 seconds.

There is now the Mozilla Developer Network which provides much better information. It does not top google results, though.


That is MDN, which is what I was talking about. MDN is one of the sites that is filtered out by duckduckgo for some strange reason.

My experience with exactly these and related terms has been almost opposite. Lately I needed to look up info on HTML and CSS a lot and not only am I constantly getting MDN results at the top, I usually get a snippet from the MDN page in the "instant answer" (or whatever it's called) box. Before searching for this stuff on DDG I never even realized how good of a resource MDN is (not that I actually needed much info on web related specs in the past).

Try logging out of your DDG account (if you have one), and searching for "html table tag" (without quotes) and you'll see what I mean. MDN is nowhere to be found. If you see it, then DDG must be showing us different results for some reason.

I find MDN and w3schools about equal, although I do find w3schools is a bit better laid out and quicker to get the info I'm looking for. MDN certainly isn't perfect...I just had a quick look for some html5 stuff (MediaElementAudioSourceNode) and the page is missing on MDN. I find that w3.org is the only place that has full specs for all the html5 stuff, but it's pretty difficult to navigate.

I don't have an account. You're right, for this particular query there's no MDN in results. I just tried "css box-sizing" (the first thing that popped into my mind) and MDN is the 3rd result. The quick answer thingy shows SO questions. So it can definitely be a hit or miss thing.

I agree with what you write about w3.org, it's almost painful to navigate when you just need a quick reference.


What do you mean? The person you're replying to talked about MDN, which is the Mozilla Developer Network you linked to.

I'm surprised no one mentioned you can do !mdn "html table tag" and go straight to the mdn page.

The results seem perfectly usable to me, sorry your favorite sites are not top ranking[0]. Care to explain why you think DDG is explicitly filtering them?

[0] https://duckduckgo.com/?q=+%22html+table+tag%22

It's not that they're not top ranking - they don't appear anywhere in the first few hundred results. DDG must be filtering them because those sites are at the top of yandex and DDG says it is getting the results from yandex.

As for "perfectly usable", mountaindragon (result 2) and codesinhtml.com (result 3) are atrocious. And makemyownwebpage.com (result 10 or so) looks like a homepage from the 90s.

I think the issue is that DDG is getting crappy results from yandex, then filtering out the good sites to make the results even worse. Weird :)

Please explain this theory of filtering results out some more.

I don't know at all if this is true, but his argument seems to just be that DDG is pulling its results from yandex, yandex shows w3schools at the top, and DDG doesn't have it in the first few hundred results--therefore DDG is filtering or significantly reordering the yandex results.

I've been using DDG as my primary search from desktop for several years now, and I find its results to be equivalent to or better than Google's most of the time.

When I can't find something, I'll try a !g, but only rarely does that help any more.

I totally agree. In the beginning, I was !g a lot. These days, I mostly !g for more natural language kind of questions.

For more technical searches, Google has become next to useless for me. "lupdate.exe not working Qt" transforms to "did you mean 'Update not working'?" (lupdate.exe is part of the Qt translation toolchain and Windows forces it to run as admin only because there is "update" in its file name. The Google 'correction' of that is perfectly useless).

   For more technical searches, Google has become next to useless for me.
Same here. I used to have corrections for java -> javascript but that seems to have been fixed.

Just this morning I tried searching for this:

   µC/gui button detach
... "detach" gets corrected to "remove" and "disconnect", resulting in useless links. The top 2 links are general features overview pages.

Which is odd, because googling this:

   button detach
results in lots of uncorrected queries for event delegation. You'd think that adding "µC/gui" would narrow the context, but no.

The second huge fail of google with technical queries is when it starts substituting synonyms for words in your query the make the search useless. It makes you not want to name commands in a common sense style.

Yeah but DDG does this as well. Try searching for NSString. It'll actually search for strings.

It seems to be all NSString for a while. Am I missing something?

I use an extension to always set google to Verbatim search results. It works very nicely.

I agree completely. In fact I'll also say that when I first switched I used the !g pretty often - maybe even as much as 20%-30%.

These days I rarely use !g - the results have improved considerably and the bang searches are a very clever way of not requiring me to change search engine to search another site specifically.

Im not sure where all of these cluttered Google search UI comments are coming from, this is what I see. Maybe a reality distortion field due to pent up HN Google hate? Just a few icons in the top right off screen with my profile pic and configuration wheel icon you can't see.

Things look fine.


Using a term like 'hn' isn't really a representative example, since it's unlikely that any advertising would be purchased for such a term or have any custom "knowledge panels". So, first, turn off AdBlock (if you hadn't already done so), then try a more representative query like "flowers":


It's a big difference, and these different experiences with Google could just be a matter of which keywords people tend to use (e.g., very general vs. very targeted searches) and what extensions they chose to install in their browser.

What result do you expect for something as vague as "flowers"? Try something like "flower delivery <your city>" or "hydrangea" to see a useful search result page.

I would expect a glorified redirect to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower That is what I expect for any search that is vague or generic. The results for "RTG" are pretty much my idea of what a set of results should look like.

(Note that while DDG's results page for 'flowers' is cleaner, the actual results are similarly shit.)

When I search google for "flower" the first result is the wikipedia page for flower.

While you might want the wiki page for flower when you search "flowers" I think most people might actually want to order flowers.

That plural/singular makes a difference there is something that I would consider to be a fault. "Llamas" gives me the page for "llama". Why should "flower" and "flowers" give me radically different results?

If I wanted to buy flowers I'd search "florist" or "online florist". The wiki page for florists is surely of far less interest than the page for flowers.

I suspect the google/ddg results for "flowers" are a result of florists SEO'ing out the ass, not a reflection on what people are actually looking for when they search for things.

More likely: Google have noticed users that search for "flowers" typically go on to search for "flower delivery", and started showing them results relevant to their intent.

The Google result page for "flowers" also includes the wikipedia page for "Flower", btw.

> "The Google result page for "flowers" also includes the wikipedia page for "Flower", btw."

Yeah, but it is farther down the list. I have to search for it.

Father? It's the second item on the list for me (and I use incognito)

In incognito mode, it is 16th down the list for me, including ads and local results. Do you have an adblocker turned on or something?

>>I would expect a glorified redirect to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower That is what I expect for any search that is vague or generic.

If they wanted the wikipedia page, they would have performed the search directly on wikipedia.

The question you have to ask is: what is the most likely thing they are looking to do? Is it to learn more about flowers (wikipedia) or is it to buy flowers (regular results with ads + map of nearby flower sellers)?

I've already said that I believe the most likely thing they are looking for is the wikipedia page. How many times do people actually buy flowers? Once or twice a year? If they are doing it any more often than that, then they shouldn't need to google "flowers" each time....

> If they are doing it any more often than that, then they shouldn't need to google "flowers" each time....

Why not? Computers are better at memorizing things than people; it shouldn't be a human's job to remember a site URL (and browser bookmarks are less useful than intelligent search engines).

I imagine after a few times they would have a particular business or location in mind, and use google to search for that instead. For instance, if I googled "flowers" a few months ago and found "Joes Flower Shop in Seattle", if I wanted flowers again I would google "joes flowers seattle" instead of "flowers".

That's not how most people use computers. If they found the flower shop last time by typing "flowers", then they're going to type "flowers" the next time.

I dont think I've ever used wikipedia's search. I just google "term wiki"

why don't you set your default search engine to wikipedia?

Because I want to see what I am missing.

Just an example: The tabs with Images, Videos etc. to the right of Web seem to be randomized. Sometimes Shopping comes before Images even. And then ofcourse the minor detail that the search results do not contain the actual fucking links of the results! I'm now using a greasemonkey script that fixes that. And thats not all I could go on and on, and don't even ask me about Youtube, Google sites have become just godawful.

The think I hate most about the UI is URL hijack, URL hijack everywhere!

The second most stupid thing is if you are behind or corporate LAN/VPN you have to type CAPTICHA to search.

The last stupid thing is its UI design, where's the page cache link? how to limit search time range and order results by time?

To be fair, most search engines do not support filtering by date range and ordering. I know it was added to Google but then most features seem to be jumping around there.

Agreed. It took me a little time using DDG before I could reliably tell the difference between "poor results" and "results that don't feel like Google results".

Google + Adblock is your friend. All results are now relevant :D

I find the infinite scroll annoying, taking away from its otherwise clean feeling.

I applaud what DDG is doing. I've been using it as my default search engine for roughly 2 years. Yes, there are some areas for improvement, especially when it comes to complex technical queries. But for the majority of everyday things, DDG is excellent, and returns less advertisement bloat within its results than Google/Bing.

Plus ducks are my favorite animal, so launching DDG as I begin the work day is a joy!

I try to switch to ddg roughly every 6 months. I usually switch back within the hour.

One example I can remember:

I was working on some linux V4L2 code and wanted to get more informations on the "buf_queue". By mistake I searched for "vbuf_queue". Google's results:


It only shows 3 results where I am (and 0 a few months ago when the problem occured) which makes it pretty obvious I'm not searching for the right thing.

As for DDG:


It displays a pageful of garbage that I will parse for a while until it occurs to me I made a typo.

And it does it for pretty much any bogus query as well, compare:




In this case ddg happily outputs what appears to be misinterpreted binary files.

Maybe DDG works well for non-technical contents but 90% of my queries at work are obscure programming/electronics stuff, component datasheets and the like. For that ddg is simply not usable by my standards.

"Mr. Babage if I were to feed wrong inputs to that calculation machine will it still produce correct outputs?"

...but Google does do that.

That would be more analogous to Google correcting input for perceived spelling errors. Putting in garbage as a query isn't wrong, it has a well-defined answer for the vast majority of garbage.

And yet the commentor is claiming that the other tool is able to produce useful output from those inputs.

"correct" is not equivalent to "helpful"

The better part of this quote is the sentiment that follows;

I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

"Look at this! If I mash gibberish into a search engine it returns the same."

I see only one result on DDG for vbuf_queue. Maybe they changed it in the last 4 hours?

>> Plus ducks are my favorite animal

The "I'm feeling ducky" feature never fails to illicit a smile from me.


(Why correct him? Because I care.)

Oh my, that is quite a difference in meaning. Thank you!

Kinky is feathers. Illicit is using the whole duck ;-)

I know how it feels. I wrote an anti-abuse system that labeled stuff as elicit until a coworker came by.

Why correct him?

OP's motivations might be different, but a non native english speaker might find that this kind of short, unoffensive and straight to the point corrections could be very useful indeed.

I'm a native. I like corrections. We learn best through failure. Something I would think the HN community would appreciate.

(It does, I got 23 upvotes.)

This was my experience with DDG as well. For everyday searches, it does a fine search. But it fails pretty miserably with complex technical queries which is probably 95% of what I use web search for. For that reason, after trying DDG for about a year (for the second time) I switched to startpage.com.

Thx for the info on startpage.com. Never heard of it till this thread on HN. Just made it my homepage and added it to my tool bar.

I switched to DDG a couple years ago after becoming concerned about privacy. Unfortunately, DDG has never quite cut it for me in terms of search results. I do a TON of technology related searches, particularly wrt very obscure programming related technologies, especially related to embedded target dev. DDG always comes up short, and I typically end up doing "!g" searches. So startpage.com appears to the best blend of privacy + good search results. For me anyway...

I use ixquick.com myself, which is, if I understand correctly, developed and run by the same company that runs startpage. Both are hardcore about privacy. https://ixquick.com/eng/what-makes-ixquick-special.html

> Plus ducks are my favorite animal

Good point, if anyone made a search engine run by koalas I'd have to use it no matter how bad it was

Google supports AND, OR, NOT and NEAR. There is an AROUND operator that is similar to NEAR.

I think the way DDG can gain more traction is motivating top sites to enhance their local search pagerank. It's incredible how Google search restricted to Stack Overflow works better than the Stack Overflow local search engine. I wrote a rant about this at Challenging Google’s Search Engine [1].

[1] http://blog.databigbang.com/letters-from-the-future-challeng...

If double up votes were possible... This isn't uncommon though. Try search "yllow submarine" on Spotify. Is there any other thing this could refer to? Not only do they not have the Beatles, but the search is awful. Nearly as awful as Apple mail. I suspect the real problem isn't that others are bad - Google has spoilt us with how good it is.

It's even more the case for local searches. Google routinely finds badly misspelled locations (from I gather interpolating with my location?) - for these kinds of searches, I don't think any of the alternatives comes close.

It's interesting that you are talking about "two-tiered search would decentralize efforts to improve algorithms". But you mentioned that "this solution does not need to be distributed: sites can share their local indexes and ranking algorithms with the routing search engine."

Can you elaborate a little bit about why it's not a distributed solution if sites share their local indexes with the routing search engine?

Can you elaborate a little bit about why it's not a distributed solution if sites share their local indexes with the routing search engine?

Yes, sure. I use the concept of distribution in the sense of separating a process within different entities (search router and local searches).

In the distributed case the "search router" queries other sites to determine the best results. For example, searching for code samples involved querying Stack Overflow, Code Project, Forums, etc. This approach is clearly expensive: you rely on the other sites speed, web service availability, etc.

The non distributed approach is just receiving their algorithms and data and processing everything in the router search engine. Obviously this solution can be implemented in a distributed way inside the search engine but it is not distributed in the sense of distributing the process within different entities.

In the two cases you are distributing efforts, one of the key goals of this approach because it is really difficult to compete with Google. Google "knows" how to give good results in diverse areas while in the proposed attack vector you rely on others for part of this optimization. A movie site should know how to give good results about movies while a site related to books knows about books.

It's important to note that the vast majority of search results ends in relatively few sites, so if the top visited sites implement this approach Google search market share can be challenged. Obviously we don't really know if this approach will work in practice until we see it.

Thank you for your explanation. Now I understand better. But a distributed system is usually defined in the second meaning of what you said inside the search engine, instead of across different websites.

I'm very interested in this topic because I've proposed my solution for how to improve search engines, not from algorithm point of view, but from systematic point of view. And making it fully distributed is the key.

While you mentioned about the 2-level search and "receiving their algorithms and data ...", I don't think it's very feasible. Do you agree? So vertical distributed architecture across various industries is not a feasible solution. But we can do a horizontal distributed architecture which will collect data from geographic locations. In each location, there will be many different verticals. It's matter of time if Google cannot find a better solution, search engine will be improved in certain way.

While you mentioned about the 2-level search and "receiving their algorithms and data ...", I don't think it's very feasible. Do you agree?

Why not? I don't get it.

Because to my understanding, 2-tiered search means that the routing search engine scrapes data from the second level search engines and return it to the users. The second level search engines, e.g., Stack Overflow, are usually running by separate entities from the routing search engine, say DDG. If DDG does not own all the second level search engines, how can they get the local indexes and ranking algorithms from them? And even if DDG does get it, it's no longer decentralized any more. So what's the difference from Google?

The difference with Google is this:

1) Google quality of indexing doesn't have any competition yet.

2) They can calculate a page rank across different domains

3) No single entity can make the same efforts or is so smart to build a similar thing

If you follow the 2-tier route:

1) Each entity takes responsability to optimize the quality of search locally.

2) They know their own domain or they can learn how to optimize their page rank at a local level instead of a global level

So, at the end you have distributed the work of local optimization across different intelligent entities. For example, when you look at the Linux kernel or other open source projects you can count million of man hours that are difficult to have if you run a single entity.

Yes, I agree with you on using a 2-tier search which will increase the relevancy to optimize the quality of search. And Google's search quality is not unbeatable.

I also agree with you by using distributed sites to optimize the results locally. Actually what I proposed is to make the distributed search from both geographic location and vertical market point of view, as opposed of dedicated sites from you. But they are complementary. The dedicated sites definitely will provide better and more relevant results than a global search engine if Google search was not limited to a particular site.

However, the only thing I don't agree with you is when you said it does not have to be distributed though, the search router can integrate the algorithms from the dedicated sites. Then I think it's not quite feasible since it's not possible for Stack Overflow or Wikipedia to share their algorithms with DDG.

Let me know if I misunderstood you. If you'd like to take if offline, I'll be happy to discuss with you via email. See my profile.

Why it's not feasible to share Stack Overflow algorithms with DDG? they just give them the application to run it locally.

What? DDG does not own Stack Overflow but it can run Stack Overflow's algorithm locally? Do you mean that Stack Overflow has it's search algorithm open sourced? I'm sorry, I don't quite get it.

Usually, the router search engine queries data from the second tier websites to get high quality results without having other websites' algorithms. Also there is another problem: how do you know which websites to go for given an arbitrary keywords? For example, when user searches for "cookie" on your search engine, where do you send the query to? How do you know if they are looking for food cookie or browser cookie?

The issue about sharing your algorithms is minimal in this case. Most search engines are using standard frameworks. Google doesn't share their algorithms but StackOverflow doesn't add any specific magic to it.

Regarding how do you know where to route a query, it is an issue but not so great in this case. The article doesn't talk about having a two tiered search for every web site. If it has a two tiered search for the top 100 sites that is enough to challenge Google (the main point of the article) and making 100 searches and filtering them in the 2nd tier it's not difficult.

> Duck duck is barely usable ... but they don't spy on you.

1. You don't know that.

2. No search engine ever spied on you when they started.

1. I guess nothing is certain - but even if they are a complete hoax they still can't correlate searches with my other data (mobile, mail, documents, http header data from javascript api calls on basically every site I visit, ....). This correlation is something other search engines explicitly state that they will do.

2. You don't know that.

I wonder if it's possible to make a search engine that people can verify is not spying on them. One where the source is truly open source. Not just on github, but where anyone who wants to can ssh into the server and have full read-only access to the whole system to verify that the code they see is really what's running. Sure, there'd be some security things to work out to make it balance how easy it'd be to hack it, but maybe it's doable.

If I can SSH in and have full read only access on the server what's to stop me seeing what other users are doing, thus ending user privacy?

I am really surprised people on HN do not know about YaCy [1]. It's p2p opensource and free search engine. So it is verifiable.

[1]. yacy.net

> 1. You don't know that.

Have they been audited? That could help.

absolutely true, but basically it just means, we need to make it easy to build search engine infrastructure

In what way do you find it barely usable? I've used it for about a year and I find the results to be great. I don't think there's been a time when I couldn't find the result I wanted with ddg but could with google.

I've had a serious go at DDG 3 times now - last month I tried it but I ended up just using !g for every search and so went back to Google. The thing I use most often, and major frustration with Google, is limiting the search by time period : I wish the additional tools would be sticky.

I did blind search engine testing and Google came out on top.

That said Google is frustrating me more and more, especially now you need to "put it in quotes" if you don't want them to just show you things they think might be tangentially related in some way to your search and, you know, show you results with the actual terms in.

It's quite interesting to me that Google's main advantage when I first used it was I didn't need to AND all my terms together, it was the differentiating feature that won me over (I can't recall who from, it was around the time of Teoma and AllTheWeb IIRC). Now even when you use the cumbersome notation to say a term is required it still shows you pages without the term on ... but it nonetheless is the best offering I can find (for me). Argh!

The lack of a time-bounded search is one of the few things I'll return to Google for.

Also: news, and book or Google Scholar.

I'm willing to accept the lack of these most of the time. Yes, privacy matters to me.

Link is to "verbatim mode" which is basically "Google classic" where all the words entered are required to be on the page in the order entered - kinda like a single set of quotes around the full query.

Not exactly what I'm after but might be useful, thanks.

Good question. Google is better at guessing your focus. I'm not sure how they do it. Sometimes duckduck is pretty lost and scattershot. I have the opportunity of rephrasing the query or just hitting !g . If I don't mind google tracking the query, then I'll do a !g and often what I want is in the top 3. Sometimes, I don't want google tracking me (e.g. to check out a health issue) , then I'll work out a better query on duck duck.

Perhaps Google is better at guessing your focus precisely because they are tracking you?

The queries I find myself switching to Google for are:

* When I want a local result (i.e. I'm googling for business cards, and I want a UK based company that will sell them to me). This is because DuckDuckGo doesn't use your location (by default).

* When I am searching for a word that means something different to me than for the general population. For instance when I search for Python I don't want to see snakes. Google does this by tracking the results you click and forming a profile of you.

I guess the DuckDuckGo way is to search these by !uk and !programming, but that is a whole extra word to type. It would be nice if it let you list your interests in its settings page, creating your own filter bubble.

I wonder if this could be solved by creating fake personas, like "computer geek", or "professional programmer".

You opt into one or few of this personae and each query sent to a search engine would track this persona.

The key is that these categories should be few and predefined (i.e. offered by the search engine) so that they cannot be used to track individual users.

I'm a new Duck Duck Go user, and I have noticed the same as user tosseraccount: that I've trained my google returns to meet my needs much better.

I've noticed trying to find news stories that are not in wide circulation (small events in foreign countries or not-so-wide-spread announcements) are much harder to find on DDG.

Having said that, I try to use DDG FIRST, then move on to other engines if it will not provide. It does feel like a sacrifice from Google; I guess they know me real real well.

Barely usable, yes I agree. So use Startpage.com. They also say they don't spy on you. It works just as good as Google, because it uses Google (see it as a proxy).

DDG is especially terrible if you are used localized versions of Google. I was used to "Swedish Google", and using a localized (Swedish) DDG was totally unusable. And so I found Startpage. Works better than the real deal for me. There are a few differences though. A search operator like site: is named host: as an example.

How come Startpage always shows me local results?

They could use GeoIP targeting without tracking users with cookies.

why don't inurl: site: etc. work properly in startpage.com anyway?

Scrapers use inurl: and site: a lot; humans, not so much.

!sp == StartPage.

That's usually my first fallback before going !g

> but they don't spy on you

How can you be so sure of that ? A few months ago, pretty much anyone would say "but the NSA don't spy on you". From a paranoid (ie security) point of view, DDG is not better than Google et al.

Now, I do believe they are more respective of everyone's privacy, but there's absolutely nothing more than words to back this.

I don't think anyone with just a tiny bit of knowledge of NSA would have said that. After all, the Utah data center was public knowledge. What surprised everyone was the extent of their spying.

I don't know what the hell you mean, "barely usable". I basically just use it and I search for things and find things, there's nothing "barely" about it's usability. Maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but I've never experienced search as though it magically reads my mind.


i've started using it as my main engine a while back but i absolutely have to go back to google fairly often. i'm using pentadactyl so i never noticed the !g !gi etc. commands. thanks!

By the way ... for anybody interested in !g and !b it's literally "!g" or "!b" in the actual query. Use spaces on both sides if you need to separate it. Easiest thing is just append it to your query you typed in. It works in the duckduck default search on your browser, too.

It is not !g typed when you are not focused on the query box.

Duck duck is barely usable ... but they don't spy on you. The !g and !b commands make it my first choice.

I keep leaving DDG for the not-always-super-relevant results, and I keep coming back for the privacy, clean interface, and !bang syntax.

I love that using it means my searches are private by default. But the real killer feature is !bang. I find that it's faster to do a Google image search using DDG with "!gi" than to search in Google and then move my hand to the mouse and click "Images".

Why do people talk about this !bang syntax so much? I can do the same thing with search provider shortcut in my browser.

For example, after setting up once, I can press "Ctrl+L" then type "gi" then "Tab" and start typing my search keyword. I don't even have to first go to Google or DDG.

Because setting up a shortcut once for many hundreds[1] of sites is more demanding work than typing ! each time.

There's a bang for almost every site I frequent, and when a site changes its domain or search URI the bang is updated to reflect it almost immediately with no work on my end.

After a few weeks of acquainting myself with the bang system, I started to see web search from a completely different perspective. I think of a search engine now as less of an "everything index" and more of an "index of contextual searches". My mind, instead of just thinking "I'll google it", thinks "I'll choose a context for it".

Google is like a system-wide grep whose output is altered by advertising, and DDG w/ bangs is like a vast collection of commands piped into a grep.

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

Can we stop with this "bill gates is watching your searches" nonsense? I know you're fascinating, but Brin and Gates may be concerned about many things not related your internet activity.

Corporations in data monitoring projects, OK.

No, we absolutely cannot stop bringing up the privacy implications of an entity knowing more about us than they deserve to, and no amount of waving it away under the (false) pretense that they "need" it to do "other" things is going to work.

I'll ignore the entire filter bubble issue and get right down to the privacy implications. When often people use search engines or other related websites (reddit search) to look up all kinds of information that in single snippets would probably be meaningless to most people, in aggregate it can paint an entire picture about that person, their interests, their computer activity and location through IP logs, and I would even venture to say we aren't too far off from a psychologist doing a persons mental profile from their search history in a court case, or even textual analysis of writing style to prove a person wrote something. (dangerous implications)

Google and MS are concerned almost entirely with our internet activity, as opposed to your claim. It is the core data metric of what makes them their shit-tons of money. More google than MS, but they are making huge moves into advertising (I have been doing SEO research for my company), and they are increasingly involved in politics of a questionable nature which include the NSA, the State Department, the CIA, and others.

So no, we will not stop talking about privacy, and if your argument is that privacy is dead, then at least skip the many times proven bad "if you have nothing to hide" implied argument you make.

I think the key point here is that corporation using your data doesn't imply that their CEOs or high executives are personally looking at your activity.

On the other hand the fact that a specific person within those companies is not tracking your web activity doesn't make the privacy problem go away.

Nevertheless, I just find it silly when somebody just alludes that some actual person (e.g. Bill Gates, Sergey Brin) might actually track your specific searches; although I know nobody actually believes it, it's just a figure of speech, just to give a human body to our fears. That's the problem: corporation aren't humans, yet they have a life of their own.

EDIT: thanks to acheron for the name of the figure of speech I was mentioning. My point is that this personification is misleading and causes endless discussions about what can be expected by this or that company, and what you can expect from their employees etc.

I think you're taking it a little too literally, like trying to parse an idiom.

The concept here is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synecdoche

The only way for search engines to get better is to model the mental state of the person making the query. If you were asking another human being to help you with a query, they'd take into account your mental state, conversation state, and what they know about you and the situation, to narrow down and disambiguate the query. When people can't do this kind of social modeling, we perceive them as autistic.

If you could fit an entire Google data center into your mobile phone, maybe this kind of digital personal assistant could be taken offline, but for the current state of technology, big data requires the cloud. Even in the 24th Century, the Enterprise Computer is a centralized data store which tracks queries made from com-badges.

> The only way for search engines to get better is to model the mental state of the person making the query.

No. Another way is to make their behavior more predictable. If I type "Chinese" into the search box, Google may tell me about the Chinese language, or it may send me some ads for local take-out places. Either it guesses which I want, or it makes it easy for me to specify what I'm asking; I know which I'd prefer.

That would be frustrating for the user if the previous few queries were about learning foreign languages, or about the Great Wall.

If I'm having a conversation with you about learning foreign languages, and then I ask you about Chinese, I expect you to know I'm not talking about food.

Having to overspecify a query that could be determined from context is particularly annoying on mobile, or via voice.

I do not enjoy the "targeted" advertising. If I visit finance.yahoo.com, I'm okay with an advertisement that appears from the same IP address for a brokerage. I am not okay with the 500 advertising companies contacting each other (and slowing down the internet) to track me.

Sorry, it sucks.

That's on the webmasters, not the advertising itself.

Just because you have fifty different tracking, advertising, retargeting, etc. scripts doesn't mean you should use them all at once on your website.

From http://gawker.com/5637234/gcreep-google-engineer-stalked-tee...

In at least four cases, Barksdale spied on minors' Google accounts without their consent, according to a source close to the incidents. In an incident this spring involving a 15-year-old boy who he'd befriended, Barksdale tapped into call logs from Google Voice, Google's Internet phone service, after the boy refused to tell him the name of his new girlfriend, according to our source. After accessing the kid's account to retrieve her name and phone number, Barksdale then taunted the boy and threatened to call her.

In other cases involving teens of both sexes, Barksdale exhibited a similar pattern of aggressively violating others' privacy, according to our source. He accessed contact lists and chat transcripts, and in one case quoted from an IM that he'd looked up behind the person's back. (He later apologized to one for retrieving the information without her knowledge.) In another incident, Barksdale unblocked himself from a Gtalk buddy list even though the teen in question had taken steps to cut communications with the Google engineer.

Note this article is from 2010.

So? It's not as if they're collecting less information about you now, or are subject to any more legal restrictions (such as those imposed on credit reporting agencies).

The quoted text includes "In an incident this spring..." I mentioned the article's year of publication to provide a chronological reference point for the quote.

toseraccount, I know what you mean by 'barely usable'. I often find it hard to find programming related (as well as other things) on DDG. However, I do mostly use DDG. That shall give you some idea on how important privacy is to some people. They would rather have what you consider

'barely usable'

results than compromise privacy.

It is not so much that I am not willing to share stuff (even with the government). I used to run a small SaaS for a specific legal industry, and I was subpoenas by the attorney general's office. So I am well aware of the process and I do think in some cases, government do need access to our data to ensure security.

The difference is to ask for permission (court order and transparent due procedure) and have transparency. Maybe the big difference is the exercise of Power instead of Force.

And power is a word with many means, so to be rigorous, this is what I meant by power:

"Power means pretty much the same thing as freedom. Power is a thing that everybody wants the most they can possibly have of. That is, skiing is power, sex appeal is power, the ability to make yourself heard by your congressman is power. Anything that comes out of you and goes out into the world is power and in addition to that, the ablity to be open, to appreciate, to receive love, to respond to others, to listen to music, to understand literature, all of that is power. By "power" I mean human faculties exercised to the largest possible degree. So, in a way, in a large sense, by power I mean individual intelligence. Now when you reach out to another person through the energy or creativity that is in you and that other person responds, you are exercising power. When you make somebody else do something against their will, to me that is not power at all, that is force, and force to me is the negation of power." - Charles Reich

And Free Software (Free as in freedom) is a good real world exercise in power.

It replaced Google search for me. I like adding !sp whenever I feel like getting Googly ;)

Or there's always the best of both worlds: http://www.duckduckgoog.com/

I also tried to use duckduckgoog some time. The biggest difference is speed. And this is also my main concern with duckduckgo. I'm faster with Google and auto suggestion and the loading of search result is also faster.

I'm confused. What does it do?

"Searches Google and !bangs DuckDuckGo."

What does this mean? It's the equivalent of a DDG !g search? Isn't that exactly the same as just searching Google?

The killer feature for me with ddg (as a programmer) is the ! searches for documentation:

  !php strstr
  !python os.makedirs
  !pypi requests
  !js String

This gives you a single search bar for all documentation, which is amazing.

edit: formatting

That's absolutely fabulous. I'm a DDG user already, but didn't knew about this trick. A brilliant time saver.

Thanks for sharing.

Here are all of the supported ! searches:


or just search ddg for !bang

Wow I didn't know about this. +100 for DDG.

absolutely. this is why DDG is the default search on my browser. It's site-specific search for all the sites I actually care about rules into one easy command line interface. It's also replaced the desktop calculator thanks to wolfram alpha integration.

seriously, I don't know how I would function without !python, !pypi, !w, !gmap, and !hn

I already have that in my browser. And have since before DDG was launched.

This is ultimately the thing got me to switch the DDG about 2 years ago.

ironically !c# brings you to a forbidden place :p

!csharp doesn't, which is even more ironic.

I've been a happy DDG user for about 3 years now. I initially started not because of privacy, but because I think the home page and search results are much cleaner and more minimalist. And I've told myself that if Google ever produces a search result that I couldn't find just as easily with DuckDuckGo then I will switch back. So far that hasn't happened.

Now I use DuckDuckGo as my home page and it's my only search engine. And the search results just keep getting better and better.

This has been my experience as well. I have used DDG as my primary search engine for years. The results have been great, and the lack of !bangs on Google makes it extremely frustrating when I'm forced to use it. (Note for DDG users, you can type the bang on its own to go right to the main site. So just "!w" on its own to go to Wikipedia, or "!a" on its own to go to Amazon, which I find quicker than using the address bar.)

Not to mention there's a dark mode. My eyes thank them for that piece of CSS.

Google doodles are distracting. I don't need to see a clever flash game commemorating something-or-other every time I open a new tab when I'm working, thanks.

The games aren't flash, and they don't show up on either the search bar in your browser or the search results page.

The Summer Olympics games were really, really annoying.

I don't recall many doodle since, as I'm not using Google much and rarely from the homepage even then.

I've actually been turning to reddit for a lot of my searches. Yes, you read that right, reddit.

I found that a lot of times when I was looking for general advice from other people (recent examples: how to treat dandruff, how to start a garden) I actually get really well thought out answers from real people who have done the same things. And I know they're not trying to sell me anything or just get page views.

Doing those same searches on google just returns vapid SEO filled articles from ehow and wikihow, and those kind of places, pretty worthless.

I do the same but with one twist for better results. I go to Google and search like this:

  site:reddit.com start a garden
Google is a much better Reddit search than Reddit is.

Google used to have a "discussions" results option I used heavily for the same reason. But they inexplicably killed it: http://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-filters-gone-17993...

Same here. I've been using reddit primarily as a search engine for the last two years. It's a good supplement to filter out the bs.

I reached out to Gabriel a few times while living in the Southeast PA region for entrepreneurial related questions. He always got back to me within a day or so...incredibly helpful and nice. I switched to DDG a while back, and while it took a little bit to get used to the changes, I use it for 80% of my searches now. The only way they will improve is by us using them more and more often. You can complain about how they aren't as good as Google, but that doesn't help them improve. Getting involved in the DDG community and setting them as your main search engine does.

I'll second this. Gabriel is an extremely nice guy. I approached him over 5 years ago for info about the Philly startup scene and he wrote me a huge, detailed email that I'm sure he didn't really have the time to write.

I switched my default search engine to Duck Duck Go a few years ago mainly because of that interaction. I still need to fall back on the g! shortcut a lot, but search quality has improved quite a bit over the years. I like supporting a hometown startup that exists outside the Bay Area bubble.

I switched over to DuckDuckGo as my default search provider, for about half a year. It was alright for a while... but eventually I would search for things on both DDG and Google and realized how much I was missing... Sadly I've moved back to Google since then.

Another issue that kept coming up for me, was their lack of keyboard controls on search result pages. Although, this isn't really as relevant to most users I would speculate

this is my experience as well. I've got two keywords set up for firefox, g for ddg, and go for google.

I type in "go blahblahblah" a whole lot more nowadays.

> We give everyone their own dev environment that's a full stack of DuckDuckGo. It's a full machine. Some people are using eMacs.

Is this like how foreign words get remapped into Japanese syllables? Fast Company tech writers only speak Apple? chuckles

DuckDuckGo does not have its own index. They are pretty much layer over Bing plus some customizations for query parsing and head queries for trusted sources which they do index. If Bing decided to block DDG tomorrow, they will be toast. The only impressive thing for me about DDG is that they are able to turn privacy thing in to marketing for geeks and get tiny trickle of traffic to stay alive in hope someone would buy them out.

As a quacking/ducking web developer, results often are more relevant than with google these days. If I'm not happy with what I find through duckduckgo I just add a quick !g and skim the google results - best of both worlds.

I applaud the DDG spirit but without their own crawling data their future is doomed.

If their data sources ever cut them off, it's over.

They need to build their own crawlers like gigablast.

They aren't collecting much if anything.

>They need to build their own crawlers like gigablast.

Unfortunately the opportunity for that is pretty meek. Many webmasters block crawlers that aren't the top search engines. :-(

Can't duckduckbot just present itself to the webserver as GoogleBot?

In our company we do a forward-confirmed DNS to verify whenever a bot is who it claims to be.

Oddly enough we have blocked legit googlebot/bing/baidu servers, because they fail to properly configure their servers...

Their servers are probably configured fine. They likely have a pool of servers with no reverse DNS to try and catch servers issuing different content to Googlebot

I'm pretty confident that the server which returns crawl-5-6-7-8-googlebot.com it's a badly configured one.

I'm impressed, it works quite well.

However, just to put DuckDuckGo's 4 Mqpd into a broader context:

Google 2013: 5.9 Gqpd Bing 2012: 3.1 Gqpd

Not to put DuckDuckGo down or anything, but it's important to understand what a >1000x difference in scale means, in terms of operating costs and scalability issues. For example, for a single person is very easy to get hold of $10k but it's extremely difficult to get $10M. (I'm not actually interested in money, it's just an example measurement unit, and particular range, that people are familiar with).

Sources: http://www.statisticbrain.com/google-searches/ http://leaderswest.com/2012/07/02/how-bings-search-increased...

Is Gqpd = giga queries per day?

That seems insanely low for Google.

I use either DDG or https://startpage.com/ . I still have to go to Google about once or twice month though...

What's repeatedly surprised me is how I'll get results from DuckDuckGo and think that, "You know, I bet Google would have given better/more relevant results." And then I'm proven wrong! When DuckDuckGo gives nonrelevant results, Google often isn't any better, and when DuckDuckGo gives relevant results, sometimes they're often as relevant or more relevant than Google. I switched cold turkey a few months back, and I'm very pleased with how usable it is. I also really like the !word features, it's better than Google in that respect. I should mention that it's easier to do math in Google because Google infers more (such as inferring parens in an expression like: "2 + 2) * 4", outputting "16". DuckDuckGo can't handle that at the moment.

Nice to see the internals of other companies like us. We love tiny team sizes at Coinkite.com.

It's incredible how much you can accomplish with very very few focussed makers.

We created our own rack mounted HSM, our own Hardware POS payment terminals, and all the payment web structure. Answer to support and automated the supply chain.

Stop hiring!

DDG is good but not for non-english context. I mean, comparing to google for Greek text search is laughable at best.

That said, I hope the grow strong so I can use their engine.

I made two attempts to convert to DDG, the first nearly two years ago, then, successfully, this past June. And in large part, it's working better than Google. Searches are fast, they're unfiltered, the !bang syntax is great, privacy is respected, and overall site weight and load is much preferable to Google. While I don't always find what I'm looking for, switching to !g often doesn't turn up what I was hoping for either -- sometimes it's just search refinement that you need.

All in all, I'm happy with it. This after sixteen years of Google use.

I've been using DDG for a few years now. I recommend it to anyone who will listen, and really hope they continue to grow. It's been fascinating to watch Google copy their zero-click results.

Can't you just browse and search "incognito" with Google Chrome?

Not quite - you still have tracking in Google Chrome that links by IP.

You can compile Chromium with the tracking flags off, and then search in incognito.

I am not sure of that. Some discussion here:


Browsing google incognito doesn't prevent Google search from receiving your IP address, which they are still able to do tracking and geolocation by.

I have lots of respect for the founder. One of his blog posts motivated me to buy my own rack + datacenter class equipment. So much fun!!


I need motivation.

Here ya go:


Tip from experience: Really think about logistics before diving in. Racks (even quarter racks) are heavy!! Data center equipment is also noisy. You eventually also hit limits on household electric circuits. It is fun though :)

How does DDG work? Do they have their own algorithm to rank the web pages? What makes their algorithm better?

Behind the scenes, DDG uses Yandex and Bing to power its search results. It also does its own crawling (however, I'm not sure to what extent).

Their algorithm isn't necessarily better, but if you were to just give it a try, you'll notice their 'Instant Answers' section at the top of a search that usually gets you exactly what you want without having to click on a single result (much like how certain search queries on Google will return you an instant answer).

Quite surprised about the humongous boost following the Surveillance revelations [https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html]

If surveillance are users' concerns, I don't understand how some users believe DDG is "exempt" from US legislators, untouchable by warrants and NSA tapping... Will DDG respect user's privacy yes, but to default to DDG for "surveillance fears" just says so much about who uses it.

I think that one can be concerned about privacy enough to choose to use a service which does not log queries, without thinking that this choice makes them immune to surveillance by state actors.

I agree, but that seems not to be the NSA's concern when going over the Snowden files http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/10/30/nsa_smile...

They can only keep that sort of deep data for so long due to storage requirements - I think in the uk at present it is 30 days. If your chosen search provider keeps a handy list of your searches forever associated with your account though, it makes life much easier for agencies to access it at any point in the future and replay your life. For someone with mail at gmail and web history on, that anyone would have that much data stored on you is a scary prospect.

There are other much better reasons not to prefer google as your search company though, foremost among them that they sell advertising and are no longer in the growth stage but the monopoly stage of the corporate lifecycle, so their incentives are not really aligned with free search customers. Their dominance of web search is starting to seriously distort the web.

Does DDG not log queries?

You would think they would, in order to make the service better.

They log queries but in an aggregated way not tied to specific users or sessions (not even pseudonymous user IDs or IP hashes): https://duckduckgo.com/privacy#s3

Donttrack.us Dontbubble.us

Ad Retargeting != Query or Server Logs

The bump was just a representation of what is sure to be a momentary[relatively] state change in the finite state paranoia machine of a few nearly self-aware 'puter users.

The less self-aware majority still have nothing to hide, and the other side is using Google via proxy.

Most of the time when I have tried DDG the results I got back looked like spam I would get if I clicked on the 3 or 4 result page from a Google search.

DDG gives me freedom to better craft my queries, and it's won my browser's default search engine for years because of the bang syntax. I can !anything and it almost always gets me what I need. I still !g and !b quite a bit, but I do so deliberately based on what I'm looking for (and I do think about whether I want the search affecting my Google Now results).

My main concern with DDG is its founders history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_Database

His past isn't exactly one I'd look for if I wanted a trustworthy search operator, I think.

Is there a ddg cheat sheet? How can one make it the default search in Chrome's url field?

The only reason I still use Google over DuckDuckGo is the keyword suggestions as I'm typing. I find that to be very useful when I'm searching for something but not quite sure how to phrase it. I would for sure switch over if DDG added that!

This would require keeping logs of searches. You could anonymize the logs, but a lot of people like that DDG keeps as little as possible.

not for me?

I have no idea what's going on. First time I viewed the link, it took me to nice laundry (after skipping the ad). The second time I viewed the link, it took me to the correct article. :/

It was a click-jacked link; Mods switch the links for the actual source occasionally if one is available.

Ah, I'm getting linked to an article Nice Laundry, not duck duck go.

It is so cool to see them growing like this. Gabe, the founder is a great guy. When I lived in Philly, he would have periodic hack nights in that office, open to all. I met some cool people there.

Does DuckDuckGo have image search?

I don't like that when I press tab I go to the search field I would like to go to the first link. Also I type in YouTube and the first link is for the Wikipedia entry.

hmm competitor? Does Sprint call one of its MVOs Virgin a competitor?

I'm another happy DDG user a few years now. They sent me a bunch of stickers, and I've been putting them up in my university, work places & friend's laptops.

Seems like DuckDuckGo went down. Not loading for me.

All systems are go over here. Was the site not loading at all, or just loading slowly for you?

How does DuckDuckGo make money to support itself?

Syndicated Yahoo/Bing ads at the top, and affiliate links on the eBay + Amazon results: https://duck.co/help/company/advertising-and-affiliates

Advertising, just like Google.

This article ended abruptly.

Serious point, it actually took me a couple of seconds to make sure I hadn't missed a "Next Page" link. I'm still not sure I haven't.

(edit to add) I read somewhere that the first Google home page just had the search box on, and people used to wait because they thought it hadn't finished loading. So they added the copyright notice as a footer just so people would realise it had.

I prefer ixquick.com

DDG is excellent.

lol at the pic with the server setup

Now that's the company Facebook should have bought.... Not Whatsapp....

The unique advantage of DDG is its privacy. If FB were to buy it, most/all DDG users would flock elsewhere, so what would e the point?

Facebook can only grow ad revenue by purchasing it's competitors[who ironically swore to never be Facebook] now. WhatsApp has a large pile of users to make money from before they jump ship after Facebook is done alienating them all.

NOOOOOOO. Me and my friends switched away from WhatsApp just because Facebook bought it!

why exactly?

good point !

Is there some "sociopath" cron demon on HN that downvotes posts based on being "too popular" or "responded too quickly"?

Edit: it appears to be a "karma balancer" that docks points in a thread if it measures participation as unbalanced. That'd be my guess.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact