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What Is DuckDuckGo? Full 2023 Guide to the Private Google Alternative

Just about everyone uses Google Search as their default search engine, but there are other search engines that place a greater emphasis on privacy. If you’ve ever asked yourself, What is DuckDuckGo? Then keep reading to get a better idea about the most popular private search engine.

Max Pitchkites
By Max Pitchkites (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2023-05-17T16:37:49+00:00

What is DuckDuckGo? The DuckDuckGo search engine is a privacy-based search service that doesn’t track your search history. Most search engines will collect some of your personal information in order to deliver personalized search results, including your search history, IP address and other data.

Key Takeaways:

  • Because DuckDuckGo offers a private search experience, it doesn’t personalize your search results. DuckDuckGo keeps your searches private.
  • The DuckDuckGo search service produces ads based on keywords instead of profiles of collected user data, unlike other websites.
  • DuckDuckGo delivers results based on aggregate and anonymous data, but it doesn’t collect anything that can be used to identify individual users.

DuckDuckGo was designed to be a private alternative to Google, Bing and other search engines. Search services usually make their money from targeted advertising revenue, but DuckDuckGo takes the fundamentals of online advertising in a direction that shields the user’s privacy, rather than compromising it.

  • Nothing online can be 100% private, but we think DuckDuckGo can be trusted with our online privacy more than Google, Bing or any of the other major brands.

  • No, DuckDuckGo was developed and is operated by an independent company in Pennsylvania, created by Gabriel Weinberg.

  • DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine. The only information it collects is anonymized, aggregate data that can’t be used to trace individual identities.

What Is DuckDuckGo? Search Engine Basics

Search engines are programs that take input from a user and find relevant information on the internet. When a user types in a keyword and presses enter, the search engine will dispatch crawlers to discover web pages.

A web crawler, or bot, finds web pages (HTML files) on the internet and collects their discoveries into an index of URLs. Crawlers find web pages and follow the links on the web pages to discover even more web pages. Search services employ search algorithms to find and rank web pages that are relevant to the user’s query.

Most engines collect a fair bit of your personal information each time you look for something online. Not surprisingly, they save your search history and compile each query into a profile that’s used to deliver personalized search results.

They also collect unique user agent strings, IP addresses and location info, which helps the engine return localized search results, such as local news or nearby businesses.

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Unlike most other search engines, DuckDuckGo is an anonymous search engine that limits browsing data collection and annoying ads.

DuckDuckGo works like any other search engine, but doesn’t base its results on profiles of collected user data. As a consequence, the results aren’t tailored to your personal interests — which may be disappointing to some — but the trade-off grants users greater online privacy.

ddg mobile app
You can either use DuckDuckGo in your computer browser or with the DuckDuckGo app, available for all major operating systems.

How Does DuckDuckGo Work?

DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008 to provide a private alternative to Google and other major search engines. It has evolved to become the best search engine other than Google. In short, DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you when you try to look for something on the internet. DuckDuckGo provides results to your query without keeping a personally identifiable record of your search history, making it one of the best search engines that don’t track you.

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DuckDuckGo enhances your private browsing experience with anonymized results.

You can use DuckDuckGo from any web browser on any device or platform. A mobile app is available for Android and iOS, and so is a DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials browser extension. The browser extension assesses the overall privacy posture of any given website you’re on and assigns a privacy grade. Read our how to use DuckDuckGo guide to learn more.

ddg extension
The DuckDuckGo extension provides insight into the privacy practices of every website you visit.

Is DuckDuckGo Private?

It’s true that DuckDuckGo saves your searches, but it does so in a non-identifiable way. In its privacy policy, the search engine says that it saves aggregate, non-personal search terms and avoids storing IP addresses and unique user agent strings.

In other words, DuckDuckGo collects less data than Google, and the data it does collect cannot be used to identify individual users.

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For the sake of online privacy, your results won’t be personalized by your history of web searches.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t store cookies by default. However, if you change your settings, those changes will be stored in a cookie, but not in a personally identifiable manner. The cookie is stored locally on your device instead of on the company’s server, and contains no identifying information anyway.

Data Storage With DuckDuckGo

Secure data storage is always a problem for companies even in the best circumstances. Even if a search service securely stores the information of its users on company servers, there is always a way for data to get leaked, hacked or otherwise exposed.

Some search companies have had their user data leaked to the internet through a security slip up or by hacking, and almost all companies are willing to give data to law enforcement when asked.

DuckDuckGo explains that it circumvents the problems of data storage and court orders by not collecting user info in the first place. The company has a policy of giving requested data to the law when asked, but DuckDuckGo doesn’t have any personal information to hand over.

How Is DuckDuckGo Making Money?

DuckDuckGo might have a clean privacy record, but how does it privately make its money? There are two ways DuckDuckGo keeps its operation running: advertisements and affiliate revenue.

Google makes money on ads and so does DuckDuckGo. The difference is that DuckDuckGo generates ads based on keywords instead of making targeted ads with collections of personally identifiable searches.

When you enter a search query, DuckDuckGo will generate a sponsored link at the top of the search engine result page (SERP) that results in the company getting a commission if you click on it. Your searches are not stored in any way. Read our search engine statistics guide to know the number of queries DuckDuckGo has processed.

The other source of DuckDuckGo’s revenue comes from the affiliate programs of Amazon and eBay. Purchasing something from either of those websites after following a link from DuckDuckGo produces commissions for the search engine.

DuckDuckGo claims in its privacy policy that no personally identifiable information is transmitted between the search engine or either of those websites.

ISP Data Exposure

DuckDuckGo may protect your privacy while you search, but your data is still exposed to internet service providers and other third parties if you don’t take further precautions. We recommend hiding your online activities by using a trustworthy VPN, which you can read more about in our VPN basics article.

It also helps to protect your browsing history with a private browsing mode, which you can read more about in our article on incognito mode.

Other Search Engines & Search History

Most search services participate in data collection, but Google is the prime example of a data-hungry tech company. It isn’t just a search engine, but an advertising company as well.

google serp sites
Google is the default search engine for most internet users all over the world.

Google makes the bulk of its money by collecting the personal data of its users to create targeted ads and personalized search results. If you regularly search the internet with Google Search, you can bet the company has a record of everything you’ve ever searched for.

Google isn’t just a search service anymore, but a suite of all kinds of apps that collect your personal data. Whether you use Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, Drive or some other Google service, all of your information ends up influencing your search results.

Google collects a wide range of data from its many services and apps. Aside from your search history, Google also collects information about your system and hardware such as your browser, device, settings, operating system and even info about your cellular provider and phone number.

Collected activity data includes the videos you watch on YouTube, your interactions with ads, your purchases and your activities on third-party websites that use Google services and plugins. This is just a small sample of the range of information Google collects.

Final Thoughts

DuckDuckGo is a stripped-down search engine compared to its big-name competitors. It ditches conveniences such as personalized search results, and doesn’t have a full suite of apps like Google does.

DuckDuckGo focuses all of its resources on creating nothing more than a simple search service that doesn’t track your online searches. It doesn’t collect user agent strings or IP addresses, and the private information it does collect is in an aggregate form that can’t be traced back to individual users.

On the whole, DuckDuckGo isn’t the fanciest search engine on the web, but users who value privacy over convenience will appreciate the peace of mind these trade-offs bring. Check our DuckDuckGo alternatives to find more private search engines.

What do you think of DuckDuckGo? Do you think it’s as private as it claims to be, or is it no better than Google? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and as always, thank you for reading.

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