I use internet search engines daily. Recently I’ve been exploring a non-mainstream one called DuckDuckGo, and I want to encourage others to try it.
For the searches I make, it works at least as well as Google and Bing. To the extent that it’s known at all, it’s popular with privacy fanatics, since it doesn’t save your search history and makes a serious effort to prevent ‘leakage’ of information from web searches. If you explore its features a bit, you’ll find a number of useful bells and whistles: for example, an easy syntax for doing searches within sites like Amazon and Wikipedia.
One thing that caught my attention is their presentation entitled “Escape Your Search Bubble” on how avoidance of search history not only protects privacy, but has some advantages in search results. Since people tend to click more on sites whose content they agree with, if a search engine saves your past searches and modifies its behavior accordingly (to “help” you find the information you want), you’re likely to enter a loop wherein your queries result more and more in the results you want to hear. For example, imagine that two people with different search histories Google “Climate Change.” One might get a set of links to environmental activist groups, while the other gets a set of links to thinly-disguised press releases from coal companies saying that climate change is a hoax. (Can you detect my bias?) Probably neither user is aware that their results are tailored to Google’s perception of what they’re looking for. A search that doesn’t save your history has a better chance (says DuckDuckGo) of exposing you to unexpected information.
While the idea of ‘escaping the search bubble’ has a lot of appeal to me, my two main reasons for recommending DuckDuckGo are (a) it’s the Little Guy in search, which automatically attracts me, and (b) I’ve found it to be a highly-effective, friendly search engine with novel and useful features.
End of sales pitch.