Duck Tales about searching: How to do not leave a digital footprint

DuckDuckGo hidden features

All of us have heard that Google helps us find out a piece of the necessary information on Internet, but in the same time it tracks all our searching queries, learns our social networks’ profiles, collects our traffic routes and so on. Can we escape it? Definitely, yes – if we use DuckDuckGo, a searching service with various tools and functions, but without tracking users’ information.

The search is just a search… or no?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Ohh, sorry, it’s another tale :)

But our story also began a long time ago. More than two decades ago the Internet was young, Google was a baby, and old dinosaurs reigned by searching sector – they were MSN Search (Bing, in future), Rambler and Yahoo!, and those search engines were simple. You just needed to enter your query to the search bar, press a button, and get results to one degree or another relevant your requested theme. Nothing but just a search.

Time goes, the Internet grows, search engines get new functionality. Google was leading the searching segment steadily, and once upon a time, it became a trendy-maker. So, the mere search is not enough, and it got additions – like an email server, newsfeed, online TV or weather forecast service, forum or e-library, local map or advertising panel. Ex-searching engines transformed into full-fledged information and entertainment portals. And the mechanism of search engines was complicated, and also new searching algorithms were implemented. They take into account many various factors which have an impact to search results.

Accurate, relevant results are not enough now, and it was necessary to use a PageRank term (in Google terminology) that means an order of priority for search results output. In the same time have been created various measures of influence to ranks. SEO seized marketing experts and managers. On early stage searching engines used some parameters for relevant results output – a header, keywords in the text, and total text volume. Later searching algorithms take into account a lot of breakthrough factors as geolocation, age of publication, in some time have been added personal data collection and analytics algorithms.

DuckDuckGo vs Google

When commercialization has seized search engines, search advertising has blossomed. Now we can see it each of times we input a search query for even usual products or services. Today search engines process not only query, but our location, our age, gender, nationality, hobbies and preferences, and many various factors – sometimes we even don’t know which exactly. Search results become more and more personalized due to search engines integration to social networks where our profiles are rich in details. Even browser settings to safe mode don’t solve the issue of a search engine tracking and our personal data collecting.

Now conspiracy theory is the new religion for many. Users don’t want to lose their privacy, but search engines give less and fewer chances to keep it.

Is the Duck a new hero? Or it’s just a tale?

Ok, we see that today more complicated searching algorithms use a lot of new variables, and the search results output has a quite high personalization. In some cases, it can be useful, for example, when you ask Google to find a router to buy in Darmstadt you will not get a hardware shop address in Mumbai because Google knows where you are located, what are your occupation and business area, hobbies and query history. All that information allows building a highly-rated forecast the place where you need this router, the specific of uses it, and price range. Is it good in every case?

Obviously, no. Many users raise their voice against this hidden total tracking. Well, accordingly to physics rules, every action has a reaction. For searching engines world this reaction has named… a Duck.

On August 25, 2008, searching system DuckDuckGo had been launched. Its Founding Father is a famous businessman Gabriel Weinberg, who has bachelors’ degree in physics and master of technologies of the MTI.

It’s too hard to live in a world where no alternatives. That was the reason for Mr. Weinberg to create a counterbalance for Google’s hegemony – DuckDuckGo lacks tracking users’ actions, locations, profile, and personal data collection and analysis. Nothing extra, just a search. As Gabriel Weinberg told in the interview for Russian information portal, he desired “to create a searching engine without spam, with minimum advertising and with maximum relevance of searching results”.  And he was succeeded in it. It may be a wonder, but as much as three years DuckDuckGo was a one-man project, Mr. Weinberg has created and developed it by himself at the initial stage of project time.

Why his project has been named so cute? Mr.Weinberg answers the question in that way: “Really it just popped in my head one day and I just liked it. It is certainly influenced/derived from Duck Duck Goose, but other than that there is no relation, e.g. a metaphor”.

The DuckDuckGo is a hybrid search engine with an own crawler but use some APIs from many other sites (including Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, Ymmly, Wikipedia, totally more than 400), and those using raises a searching results relevance.

One of the key features of DDG is Instant Answers. Their purpose is providing a max exact answer to searching query instead of many links.

DuckDuckGo Instant Answers

It’s clear that the search engine has to interpret a query precisely and unambiguously, so, the total number of Instant Answers in the catalog today is a tad more 1,200. Specify resources like a TechSpot, Yelp, or IMDB use as sources for Instant Answers on specific topics. And software developers, QA experts, and web developers highly enjoy instant answers:  search results on IT topics are just amazing.  

DDG in a whole and its Instant Answers, in particular, are growing dynamically and embracing other languages for getting global relevance for worldwide queries.  To tell the truth, for Instant Answers exactness DuckDuckGo collects some information concerning the user’s query and selected answers by a user. Not more. No privacy infraction, as Mr. Weinberg promised initially.

It is a paradise for geeks and darksiders…

With all its preferences and attractions, DuckDuckGo matches not to everybody and not to every purpose. Some users boil over its conscious denial of the Filter bubble. Those need more strictly query personalization and search engine forecasting behavior when search results output is based on a searching history, geolocation, social networks user’s profiles and users’ behavior standards on the Internet. Typically, results’ limitation based on the search engine’s hypothesis doesn’t disconcert them – even if the Filter bubble cuts truly relevant and valuable links off, these users would be enjoyed by variants suggested by the search engine. Well, they have a right, they made their choice.

In its turn, DDG made its own choice – to struggle with tracking, hidden spying, and collecting users’ information (that often can be sold to unknown persons for unknown purposes), obtrusive and sometimes inappropriate advertising, and many other things which enrage in popular search engines.

DuckDuckGo Features

Privacy and confidentiality maintenance is a cornerstone of DuckDuckGo ideology. Many hours you can spend reading various interesting blog articles on this topic on the DDG website.  And it can’t be the wonder that DuckDuckGo is a search engine by default in Tor browser which is a well-known as a Darknet ‘gate’. Usually, Darknet users are seen as a crew of social outcasts and criminals, and it is a bit of truth. In the same time, the truth is the majority of users are seeking real informational freedom that a long time ago was declared by the Internet’s founders as the primary purpose of the global information network.  Obviously, Gabriel Weinberg is a Global Network romantic, too. By the way, the open-coded system is one of the characteristics of the “canonical” ideology of the Internet that means the software development is a process involved all information society participants where every person can make his/her contribution on the progress.

DuckDuckGo Bang

Many reviews about DuckDuckGo provide coverage to a variety of features to enhance the searching. Besides above-mentioned Instant Answers, we’d like to point a quite interesting operator !bang that allows searching within systems selected by the user. It works that way: sometimes you exactly know the web site where you can find information, and those !bang commands allow you to cut the searching way. For example, if you set up !yt in the search bar before your query, you’ll get results from YouTube and so on. Today DDG has more than 8 thousands of !Bangs in 8 categories and its quantity rises permanently. Ohh, yes, if you’d like to search through Google services, you can do it, too, using !bangs! :)

Special mention should be made of !bangs addressed to meet software developers needs, amongst searching throughout of almost thirty programming languages documentation, and the Github repository, and thousands of tech web sites, including,, And if you are an adorer of beauty – it is especially for you: minify or prettify a JavaScript code using !minify.js:

DuckDuckGo Minifier

Developers and programmers can also use a library of cheat sheets (linux cheat sheet, javascript cheat sheet, vim cheat sheet, etc.) which can make the programming process easier.

One more interesting DDG functionality is named Goodies, commands which allow taking a straight answer right away after entering the search bar. For example, you can calculate a currency exchange amount:

[amount]EUR in USD. All currencies are from the forex with the mid-market exchange rate. Or you can also (the list below is not limited at all!):

  • To know the sun rise and sun set time in some location;
  • To learn a day of some date (we’ve checked, the calendar is due from the 1000 year A.D. to the 10000 year);
  • To generate a random number;
  • Two handy utilities for accountants and auditors: to learn how many days between two calendar dates, and the percentage calculator;
  • To set up a timer (perfect when you hold a plank or cook a duck with apples in an oven);
  • To find HTML and CSS codes simple and easy (great for web designers and developers).

As vast Goodies are the true treasure for experts of the various IT specializing, as other tools. It is clear that DuckDuckGo is an amazing search engine with many great features and without tracking of users’ actions.

A real People's Choice Award for real privacy

Eleven years ago, Duck Duck Go was a one-person-project, but now it got well-deserved credibility from users. And this is due, by and large, in the consistent implementation of the initial concept of privacy and rejection of advertising spam. Yes, over time, Weinberg agreed that search engine should earn money on advertising, however, he acted in his own way – unlike competitors, DDG shows ads based on user’s text queries, rather than collecting and analyzing personal information. The “Duck search tales” is their complete absence. So, you can be sure that once you ask Duck about the symptoms of a heart attack – you will not suddenly find for months among the search results advertisements for vitamins, cardiology clinics and funeral homes. Nothing but search. And the seventh place in the world among search engines, with an average number of unique visitors per month of about 150 million, is an excellent result.

Well, in the single sentence, DuckDuckGo doesn’t use:

  • Cookies for users’ actions tracking;
  • Users’ personal data (IP addresses included);
  • Search history.

But it defends data transfer inside of the HTTPS client-to-server channel by AES encryption with the 128 bites key. More technical details about DDG (from Wikipedia):

  • The Programming Language is Perl;
  • Web server is Nginx;
  • FreeBSD is an operational system;
  • The database is PostgreSQL;
  • Caching system is based on Memcached and Solr.

DuckDuckGo views itself as a service addressed primary to geeks, and integrates to other resources that may interest this type of audience. As we said earlier, DDG is the search engine set by default in the TOR browser. From November 2011, DDG is “engaged” by Linux Mint as a search engine by default, too.

In addition to highly described features we suggest to learn some more ones which are useful for web developers, web designers, devops and QA experts:

  • Passwords, code phrases, hashes, QR codes, ASCII symbols banners, etc. generator;
  • Data encryption via Base64 algorithm;
  • IP addresses, URL, DNS checker, and emails validator;
  • Links shortener/expander;
  • Uppercase/lowercase converter;
  • To solve an advanced math equation;
  • To create a Python script;
  • Command line in DDG interface;
  • Various operators, hotkeys, and advanced settings.

And many more other amazing things. All of them you can use staying at the DDG interface, without extra moves and no waste of time.

The army of DDG fans expands permanently. The traffic ranking rises significantly after the next in turn disclosure of privacy violations and confidentiality damages on popular web resources. So, for example, in 2011 mid-day number of queries on DuckDuckGo was near 200.000, but in 2012 (after Google had presented its new Privacy Policy) it had been risen up to 1.500.000 on a daily average. In 2013 global media spread out information about the National Security Agency (NSA) injected to the corporate structure of Google Corp., millions of users felt a lack of trusty to the biggest global search engine, and the Users’ Choice Award went to Duck Duck Go in the form of 4.000.000 queries on a daily average.

Different users have different reasons to choice DDG as a search engine. Somebody gets it bundled to some downloaded software, and users pay no attention what the additional product they set on. There was a time when DuckDuckGo was named a malware that overloads a CPU. It is only fair to say that those cases had place only due to users’ carelessness. Be honest: are we always read with great deliberation all info in a setup master? Do we always behold checkboxes in front of additional suggested software? Definitely, no. Some years ago McAfee trial products and Chinese Baidu had been set up to the millions computer of poor attention to detail in the same way. That’s why security consultants describe in details how to delete DDG from computers.

SIM-Networks raises objections against doing it. Reasons to actively use all DuckDuckGo preferences we told in the article. A huge number of features, settings, goodies and functionality can satisfy the most sophisticated taste. And concerning the fact of DDG's intensive development, the tendency to expand new auditions worldwide, and integration with many international and local resources, we are quite optimistic. And DuckDuckGo ideology about privacy, confidentiality and data protection is significant to SIM-Networks.

Any particular element of the IT world has its unique benefits – a VDS, or a server, or a Cloud Iaas. Each search engine has the same ones, too – Google, WolframAlpha, DuckDuckGo, all they have their own goodies. It’s really great, that we have a wide range of opportunities to make a choice which make our life dynamic and exciting!

Based on information from:

Author: Alisa Kandeeva

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