DuckDuckGo was founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg and was created with the intention of providing users with a perfectly anonymous way of searching the web.
Originally viewed as nothing more than a novelty through 2010 and 2011, it wasn’t long before it received a three million dollar capital investment from Union Square Ventures. Search volume on the site slowly began rising through 2012, and then spiked in July, 2013 after revelations that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo were supplying the NSA with vital information on user searches. The Edward Snowden phenomenon also contributed significantly, indirectly, to DuckDuckGo’s phenomenal growth from a minor rival to Google to a major player.
The History of DuckGoGo’s Amazing Growth
While DuckDuckGo officially hit 10 billion searches in January, 2017, its growth has been on an exponential curve. Of its first ten billion searches, four billion occurred in 2016 alone. It saw modest growth in search volume with a million searches a day in 2012, growing by 200% per year but from a low initial starting point. Search volume started to ramp up in 2013 and accelerated in 2014. By the end of 2016, DuckDuckGo was seeing more than 13 million searches a day. In January 2017, DuckDuckGo set a record of 14 million daily searches by users.
Factors Driving DuckDuckGo Searches
DuckDuckGo’s biggest attraction to users is the fact that it doesn’t retain information about the user’s online activity. This attracts people to DuckDuckGo when they learn about the site. And as the site’s user base grows, the odds that word of mouth and link sharing will reach new potential users grows.
DuckDuckGo’s built in privacy measures are what continues to attract new users. It doesn’t require user accounts and doesn’t track where users have been. It doesn’t use search cookies or track your IP address. It even has a Tor exit relay to speed up searches by Tor users. DuckDuckGo is unique for encouraging “hacking” of the search engine, allowing the user community to create APIs to build their own instant answer plug-ins and data mining tools. For example, there are APIs that integrate DuckDuckGo with Forecast.io, the data source behind Dark Sky, the weather forecasting app. Another plug-in pulls from a database of Lego pieces by the unique ID numbers assigned to each building block set.
DuckDuckGo does make some money via ads, but you can opt for ad-free searches. That option is under the advanced settings. If you do this, DuckDuckGo asks that you tell your friends about DuckDuckGo instead. DuckDuckGo also makes money via commissions when you buy anything from Amazon or eBay through their search engine.
How DuckDuckGo Is Different
DuckDuckGo pioneered what Google calls instant answers or rich snippets. DuckDuckGo still gives the traditional lists of links that other search engines do, but they are filtered so that sponsored content and ads aren’t at the top. DuckDuckGo’s targeted answers using various !bang terms builds on this, such as using !gmail followed by a search term to search your Google email for that search term, while !wiki X searches just Wikipedia for the search term X.
The search engine keeps costs low by relying on third party data sources and a growing and diverse community of developers. Its search engine mines a large knowledge database contributed by users on a variety of subjects that aren’t well documented elsewhere.
One of the benefits of DuckDuckGo offering unique APIs for specialised searches is that users can use the APIs that interest them – but the main search engine is very lean and thus runs very quickly.
The growing desire of the general public to search in private without receiving ads or embarrassing suggestions that they may not want others to see has led to DuckDuckGo seeing significant growth. The lean search engine combines customisable searches and APIs to suit niche users, and it enables continued development of specialised searches that help various communities find what they need with ease. DuckDuckGo has worked with sites like eBay and Amazon to earn enough off commissions to fund its operations for the long term without the temptation to collect and then sell customer data. And that is what will keep DuckDuckGo growing at its current breakneck speed.
Image courtesy of: hongkiat.com