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duckduckgoogleA little over two weeks ago I proposed that we should all switch from Google to a little known search engine called DuckDuckGo. Having never used DDG myself, I made the switch blind and today I can report that I don’t regret the sudden decision – or at least I don’t regret it very much.

A lot of the time DuckDuckGo is a good search engine. It doesn’t spam the results with adverts, it promises not to track you, and it can even return image, video, or map results. (And did I mention it’s not Google?

It is a good search engine, and my favorite feature would have to be the bang operators. These are shortcut search terms which let you redirect a search through Google,, Wolfram Alpha, or any of a number sites or search engines.

I love bang operators for one simple reason: I have to use one to go back to Google about a third of the time.

As much as I like DDG, it’s still missing certain search delimiters and there are whole swaths of types of search results which DDG simply cannot find.

For example:

  • DuckDuckGo ignores literal strings. Wrap a piece of text in "quotes" and Google will look for the string. DDG will look for the individual words.
  • It sometimes assumes I meant to search for a term similar to what I typed rather than the actual term. I am then shown the results for the similar search term with no way to switch the results to what I was really looking for. This is especially frustrating when I am looking for someone by name.
  • The search engine doesn’t seem to realize that when I look for a company’s name and the word logo, I want that company’s logo.  DDG instead shows results for the company’s name and for the word logo.
  • DuckDuckGo doesn’t show the date when a search result was published, or offer time constraint as a search delimiter. This deprives me of a useful tool for sorting for relevant results.
  • And , DuckDuckGo is generally pretty useless at finding current or topical news stories.

I do like DDG because it’s not Google (and for other reasons), but its shortcomings aren’t just interesting quirks. There are times where it has failed (and will continue to fail) to return usable results, when no amount of tweaking the search terms will fix it.

When that happens I have to go back to Google.

That doesn’t happen enough that I plan to give up DuckDuckGo, but I do keep tripping over DDG’s limitations and that is enough to keep me from committing to DDG.

If a better option comes along, I will drop DDG and not look back.

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Tatin Giannaro April 26, 2015 um 7:09 am

Have you tried They promise not to track you (10 ways to protect your privacy), you can get pictures and videos, you have time filters for results. If you search e.g. for Bayer and logo, you get both logos for the company and for the soccer club. Bang operators seem to work and quotes too, they also have an advanced search but I haven’t experimented with that. They are Dutch and you can set the interface to your language (17 options).
They say that they do the search for you on several search engines anonymously. They display stars with the search results to indicate how many search engines have this result on their first page.
Curious to know what you think of it.

Reader April 26, 2015 um 11:15 am

I have used Ixquick as my default search engine for several years. It is not as good as Google. For more challenging searches, I revert to Google.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 26, 2015 um 8:44 am

All true problems. The lack of a date makes me a little crazy because for some of the research I do, it matters. For news, I typically do a search specifically on Google news or Yahoo finance (or Google sports)–delve down into a category before starting the search. The ads don’t seem to be *quite* as bad/prevalent when I’m down into a category. It’s still a place to start, but we all know search engines could be a whole lot better.

Li April 26, 2015 um 3:03 pm

I’ve been using DDG for years, and literal strings work for me. For searches like logos I just do the regular search and then click the "Images" link – usually takes me straight to what I wanted.

qwoif April 26, 2015 um 8:31 pm

If you just want to use Google but don’t want to go to Google, might be an option. From what I’ve read, it simply uses Google’s search but doesn’t tell Google that you made the query. That might prevent you from receiving customized results that depend on your location or other parameters, depending on your settings for this wrapper, I guess. I sometimes also use, but the results I get there usually cannot compete with Google or DuckDuckGo for my taste. It’s the only one though, whose encrypted version also supports the strongest ciphers available in the browser (I think, Google also does, but DuckDuckGo and Startpage). I like DuckDuckGo mostly, because its short URL is the most conveniet one to type.

Alexander Inglis April 27, 2015 um 8:49 am

You said there are "hundreds of reasons" to switch away from Google search but then only said you don’t like the "spam" ads. But then you list a number of ways the alternative is inferior at search query and results — although "good enough" most of the time.

So I don’t get it: why not just use Google Search? The ad driven search results are segregated; the search engine itself is normally blazingly fast and relevant. Oddball things sometimes require looking to the second page of results.

Your own website uses personalized tracking to serve up relevant ads: I currently see an ad for British Airways titled "Great offers not for Americans … These are just for you, our Canadian friends — Book now" with a pictures of spruce trees and Mounties. If Google does that it’s bad … if TDR does it … it’s a public service? For me, the best, most relevant results are the best ones … including in blog ads.

Nate Hoffelder April 27, 2015 um 9:43 am

The ad driven search results are segregated

And they often take up the entire first screen of results. In any case, in my last post I linked to a bunch of reasons why I dislike Google’s search results. This time around I detailed the flaws with DuckDuckGo. The second post builds on the first.

As for "why not just use Google Search?" Because the results have been steadily getting less relevant.

Ink, Bits, & Pixels: intérêt et limites de DuckDuckGO | bibliothecaire ? April 27, 2015 um 5:44 pm

[…] via DuckDuckGo(ogle) | Ink, Bits, & Pixels. […]

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