Four Weeks With DuckDuckGo
I like trying new things, and the new hotness on search engine world is DuckDuckGo. So I decided to unhook from Google and use DuckDuckGo exclusively for a month. You too can do this by following this guide for Chrome.
A few things originally attracted me to DuckDuckGo:
- Instant Answers.
Previous to switching to DuckDuckGo I thought those were all killer features, after using it for a month it very much had a sobering affect. That being said, the work done by Gabriel Weinberg and his team is quite remarkable.
This basically injects your search query into the site which you specified with the !bang syntax for example if I wanted to know about lists in python. I would simply enter the search ‘!python lists’. That would redirect me to a search performed on the python site with their implementation of search on their site. This is very clever for DuckDuckGo allows them to scale pretty quickly and potentially provide good search results on site by site basis.
In my experience using this feature albeit useful in some cases it generally doesn’t work, because most site’s internal search engines suck, returning results that are somewhat hit or miss.
In most cases a simple search would have sufficed. So directing to a internal search engine ruins the entire search experience.
I still can’t put my finger on it, but even in cases where Google and DuckDuckGo returned similar results I still found myself favouring Google.
This brings something very interesting to light, I have gotten really good at processing information returned from Google searches. I can quickly determine what is a useful result and what isn’t.
If I had a gun to my head, I would have to say where the URL placement is what is affecting my comfort with the search engine. This might have been something I learned by exclusively using Google my entire life or something I do to ensure I open relevant links. First thing I do is look at the title, then immediately the URL just to serve as confidence check for a good result.
As you can see the URL placement in the DuckDuckGo result is the last thing you look at when looking at a search result. Regardless of the result my search will be contained somewhere in the snippet. I think the URL should take precedence in the search result over the snippet this lets you quickly determine favoured vs. unfavoured domains.
Another thing you might notice, I have +1’d the link above in Google result. Which would show up in results for my friends if they have a search that returns that link as a result, which in my opinion is quite awesome, and adds to the confidence of finding what you are looking for and a sense of being somewhere a friend has been.
The real killer feature that DuckDuckGo has is the instant answer result at the top of most searches.
This result can be retrieved from many sources like Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha. This extremely useful for mobile platforms and things with concrete answers like age of Barack Obama. Albeit slightly transparent on how the search is being done, it proves to be useful in most cases. This is a direction I would love all search engines to begin evolving in.
DuckDuckGo is lacking in more refined location based search, as well as searching for more timely searches like for example when a beastie boy dies. This is an area that I would love to see some serious improvement in DuckDuckGo it would definitely help with wider adoption.
DuckDuckGo does certainly delivers on this promise, but at what cost? I certainly don’t mind a search engine using my previous search history to help me find better content. But there is a fine line between using previous searches to return better results and omitting results altogether. As content refinement based on tastes and previous results will eventually lead to omission of results Google determines irrelevant to your interests. Is this good or bad? I don’t know.
But DuckDuckGo clearly provides less affected search results to its users.
Google customization virtually non-existent. DuckDuckGo however has launched this new initiative called DuckDuckHack.
Which is basically a plugin platform for instant answers which allows developer and users of the search engine to write plugins for areas of interest (programming, gaming and documentation). Therefore improving instant answer results for the entire site.
Beyond this you can customize the search engine layout and colors, which is anonymously saved to the cloud. You can customize various settings from region all the way to look and feel of the site itself.
I for one favour competition in this space, gives me options as a consumer as well as creates better products for us all.
Google can certainly takes cues from where DuckDuckGo is headed with search with things like instant answers and privacy measures.
With that being said DuckDuckGo is a serious contender for many users default search engine, but for me I found it to lack the laser like accuracy in some of innovative features which detracted from the total search experience. It is extremely customizable and I am sure they have found their niche to keep them going until they can deliver this accuracy in all features.
Until then, look for my +1s.