A Private Place to Ask Sensitive Questions: DuckDuckGo’s Search Engine Reaches 10M Untraced Searches a Day

Online Dating

A Private Place to Ask Sensitive Questions: DuckDuckGo’s Search Engine Reaches 10M Untraced Searches a Day

Hayley Matthews Hayley Matthews • 10/20/16

The Short Version: DuckDuckGo is a search engine committed to maintaining privacy on the web. Keeping all queries out of the public eye, the website and app do not store any information about their users’ searches. Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo has expanded from a one-man operation to a global force that sees over 10 million searches each day. Daters can use this tool as a resource for finding answers to sensitive questions like “How do I know if I have an STD?” without anyone knowing. If you don’t want companies, hackers, government officials, or other strangers snooping into your search history, you can rely on DuckDuckGo to keep your online activity confidential.

When you’re dating or in a relationship, you might find yourself wondering about touchy subjects like fetishes or health issues. If you have a question too personal to ask anyone you know, where do you turn? Many would go to the Internet, but not all sites treat your private issues with deference. Some search engines will answer your question and then promptly sell out details about your dating life to third-party companies.

That means targeted ads could follow you on the web, turning a one-time search into a perpetual headache. If you don’t want potentially embarrassing ads cropping up on your browser, you should take care where you type sensitive queries.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine on a mission to protect user privacy on the web — particularly on everyday Internet searches. With anonymous searching, the website and app ensures someone’s curiosity can’t be used against them by prying eyes. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track — and therefore cannot disclose — your searches to anyone, ever.

“We focus on smarter answers, less clutter, and real privacy,” Gabriel Weinberg, the site’s Founder, said in an interview with Search Engine Land.

Screenshot of DuckDuckGo's search page

DuckDuckGo doesn’t track or sell information, so your search history always stays confidential.

According to their privacy page, “The bottom line is if search engines have your information, it could get out, even if they have the best intentions. And this information (your search history) can be pretty personal.”

Privacy is a growing concern among daters, especially with the rise of online dating, so it’s great to see a company fighting on behalf of users. A smarter way to search, DuckDuckGo gives you the freedom to find the answers you need on the web without compromising yourself.

“We believe a significant percentage of people would like private alternatives where they can get great service without being tracked,” Gabriel said. “In other words, where they can get the benefits of privacy without any sacrifice in quality. DuckDuckGo offers that alternative in search.”

Hatched in 2008, DuckDuckGo Imagined a Spam-Free Web Search

Gabriel dares to compete with Google. Starting his own company in 2008, he has poured his heart and soul into making DuckDuckGo as user-friendly a search engine as possible. In 2009, he decided to go fully anonymous, not collecting or sharing any personal information on any searches conducted on the site.

This assurance of privacy is the site’s claim to fame, setting it apart from other search engines. In the wake of Edward Snowden revealing NSA’s encroachment on privacy in the U.S., DuckDuckGo has taken off to meet the demand for reliable alternatives to popular search engines.

Gabriel Weinberg, Founder and Creator of DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo’s Founder, built a search engine to serve users with privacy concerns.

The company’s current headquarters (the team calls it “our fortress”) in Paoli, Pennsylvania, is a far cry from Gabriel’s basement, where the startup originated. From a one-man operation, the site has grown to a global team of remote workers contributing from all parts of the worlds, including the U.S., India, Germany, and Japan.

“One of the great things about having a remote team is being able to create a community of great thinkers and doers regardless of their national origin,” according to their company hiring page. “Joining our team is a unique opportunity to make a significant impact.”

In recent years, DuckDuckGo has seen exponential traffic growth, reaching 2 million hits per day on June 10, 2013, and then marking 3 million daily searches just eight days later. “People start to realize we’re not a Chinese restaurant,” reads the website’s announcement about surpassing 5 million daily searches in early 2014.

As more people switch over to use the site, even Stephen Fry is a fan, their numbers continue to skyrocket. By June 2015, the site reached more than 10 million daily searches (the exact number was 10,210,082). The company gave away DuckDuckGo T-shirts to celebrate their success and show their gratitude to the site’s loyal user base.

“We’re up against giant corporations,” according to the DuckDuckGo site, “yet we are making a difference with your help.”

On the Site, Daters Can Explore Personal Topics Securely

Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t log your searches, you can ask anything without risking your privacy. The simple search features help you find what you’re looking for without recording your movements online.

Despite their lighthearted tone, the team’s staunch commitment to furthering privacy on the web stems from rather serious convictions. Gabriel believes creepy ads following people are a relatively tame consequence of searches being made public. Some information leaks can be much more detrimental. For example, law enforcement can actually get a warrant for search histories and use them in criminal cases.

“There are many good reasons why you don’t want to be tracked,” he said. “Most people have started noticing ads following them around the Internet. That’s the annoying result of companies tracking you across the Internet — and that’s just the most visible evidence.”

Screenshot of DuckDuckGo's feature landing page

“Our search engine is more than just servers and an algorithm,” according to DuckDuckGo’s team. “Our community directly contributes to DuckDuckGo.”

DuckDuckGo is a uniquely community-driven search engine with over 8,000 Twitter followers and hundreds of developers giving their input to the site. A hub of activity, Duck.co encourages users to discuss, develop, and translate the platform to make it a better tool for everyone.

Every week, the DuckDuckGo blog comes out with a “Weekly Update” to tell users about the progress they’re making on the site by adding features or increasing connectivity.

According to the website, “It’s our goal to get you where you want to go in fewer clicks. We do that through instant answers, themes, and !bangs.”

1. Instant Answers: Immediate Gratification on Specific Searches

Instant Answers is a feature that helps you find what you’re looking for in fewer clicks. Certain common search results (for music, weather, recipes, movies, stopwatches, etc.) show up at the top in a clear and easily navigated format. For instance, if you type in “love music playlist,” a series of suggestions will appear right at the top, providing an easy way to set the mood on a date.

You can also develop your own search shortcuts on DuckDuckHack. Through this tool, developers can add whatever functionalities they want to the site.

“It was my first time contributing to an open source project,” writes prezjordan on Hacker News, “and I haven’t been able to stop since. Keep being awesome, and thanks for inspiring me.”

2. Ready-Made Themes: A Customized User Experience

From the features to the look of the search engine, users of DuckDuckGo are given the power to control their own experience. Anyone can easily customize the look, theme, and privacy settings of the site.

Screenshot of DuckDuckGo's customization page

With simple settings, DuckDuckGo provides a custom search experience for all users.

If you turn on the “Safe Search” function, the site will filter out objectionable material, mostly adult content (if you know what I mean). Whatever you search for will remain between you and the computer screen, so there’s no need to be shy in your queries.

3. !Bang Searches: Automatically Redirecting Users to Over 8,000 Sites

The !bang autocomplete function offers users the ability to search thousands of websites all from DuckDuckGo. Just type in the exclamation point along with the site’s name or initials (for example: !w for Wikipedia), and then type what you want to find on that site.

DuckDuckGo connects users to more than 8,000 websites through !bang searches. In categories like entertainment, news, research, shopping, and tech, you can use this shortcut to quickly find answers on Amazon, Twitter, IMBd, and thousands more websites.

DuckDuckGo App Delivers Stories of the Day & Convenient Searches

All DuckDuckGo’s features aim to serve users quality search results with accuracy, privacy, and convenience. In 2013, the search engine went mobile, available on Android devices as well as iPhones, and they made a big impression on privacy-conscious users.

Screenshot of DuckDuckGo's mobile app

The user-friendly DuckDuckGo app was released in 2013.

Recognizing the app’s pioneering features and benefits, Time ranked the app in their top 50 iPhone apps of 2013 (it came in 21st).

The DuckDuckGo app promises “blazing fast search” to mobile users who have private questions while on the go. This can be really convenient if you’re on a dinner date and want to duck out to the bathroom to ask a quick question about something your date said or something you want to do later (maybe movie showtimes or maybe something more intimate).

Using the app for anonymous searches, you can type in your query, get your answer, and leave no trail for your date, advertisers, or even the NSA to follow.

The app also has a “stories” feature that highlights the day’s news or other interesting content before you type in your search.

The People’s Search Engine: Fast Answers to Anonymous Questions

A bastion of privacy in a public space, DuckDuckGo keeps companies, organizations, and hackers from invading your personal life via the Internet. Daters can use the search engine to stop targeted ads from spilling their secrets or making embarrassing offers on other sites.

DuckDuckGo is a speedy, secure, and simple tool for searches on the web. The tight-knit team constantly recruits people to switch over and choose DuckDuckGo as their default search tool. Fans and followers of the site can use the hashtag “ComeToTheDuckSide” to spread the word.

“Great results without anyone tracking you: that’s DuckDuckGo in a nutshell,” according to the website. “What you search for is your own business, and we’d like to keep it that way.”