Let’s face it: it is hard to image a name for the new search engine on the block that is any more ridiculous than DuckDuckGo. After all, this is the 21st century and some people openly put more emphasis on the design of names, graphics, and overall appearance than they put on the actual content of a product.

And there comes DuckDuckGo. The naming has a bit of the spirit of the times back when people used to give their startups crazy names like, er, Yahoo. And, coincidentally, the product is a search engine, too.

Is there any hope left for anyone to get traction in the search business? Microsoft tried and so far Bing did not take off, if I’m any judge. There is also another contender, Blekko, with a fresh set of ideas about how to make searches more efficient and to the point.

I learned about DuckDuckGo through a blog post recently written by Scott Hanselman. The gist of the blog post was that (as far as Scott is concerned) interacting with a computer by means of keystrokes rather than mouse clicks can be more efficient and in this context Scott mentioned DuckDuckGo as one example of a web page that can be controlled via the keyboard.

It did not take me long to try it out and apart from the ability to interact with search results by the keyboard I was pleased to see the quality of results. And also, search results are grouped by site and it is possible to expand the search results of a specific site.

The visual appearance of the list of search results is very clean, which raises the question of the business model. So far, it does not really seem as if DuckDuckGo is much after ad sales. This is how the the founder explains the business model:

Currently we’re just making money on affiliate sales to amazon and ebay. We may do an ad or two, but in a minimal way and in a way that protects privacy.

According to the traffic stats DuckDuckGo isn’t anywhere near the bigger contenders in terms of traffic but it gains traction and spreads like a wildfire1.

The main selling points, according to DuckDuckGo is the privacy policy that is supposed to diametrically different from Google’s approach. They claim to not track the user’s search behavior in any way. From that perspective, TrackTrackNo2 might have been a better name for the engine.

As a backup, it is possible to direct search queries to one of the established search engines, should the results ever not be sufficient. For example, adding the token !gi directs the query to Google’s image search engine.

It is possible to constrain the results of a search query in terms of visited sites by adding additional hints identified by a leading !, called bang3. For example, the query Zzxjoanw !wiki takes you directly to the respective entry of Wikipedia.

To my delight, the good old + still works on DuckDuckGo in pretty much the same way it used to work in Google’s engine until Google decided that a social network is more important than letting users properly constrain their search queries.

So, is DuckDuckGo a well of innovation and the future of search? I don’t know. In that business, you’re swimming with the sharks and everything may happen.

Is DuckDuckGo good enough to gain more traction in the market? I can’t speak for the unwashed masses but for me it definitely is and I have made it my preferred search engine for the last three weeks and never looked back. I’d be happy if DuckDuckGo is here to stay.

  1. This applies especially since the beginning of 2012.

  2. Sorry, I simply could not resist that one.

  3. To some extent, this could be compared to Blekko’s approach which uses “slashtags” / for the purpose of adding constraints to search queries.