Using DuckDuckGo

Vidit Bhargava

At this point it seems crazy to think someone will start a new search engine. Google after all is doing a great job at search. But here we are, looking at a search engine, that claims to be different and in many ways better than Google, the unchallenged leader of search engines. DuckDuckGo’s big differentiating factor is the fact that it isn’t interested in your data. It’s challenging Google on the privacy front and sure, DuckDuckGo’s privacy concerns are genuine but does it make it a better over-all product? I have mixed feelings.

The !Bangs

Probably, the best feature of DuckDuckGo, and one that’s had me using it for this long is the !bang feature. To search within a website, all I need to do is insert “!site name” before a website. This is extremely useful, while looking for Wikipedia content, shopping for items on Amazon, basically everywhere when you know the website you want to search content at.


The best !bang command, ironically is for one of Google’s Service: !map start place to end leads you to Google Maps with the directions to the said place. It’s one of the fastest way to get directions. I found myself using !wiki command more often than anything else. Primarily because of my reading trend, which consists of more wikipedia articles than anything.

Try searching for !map Current Location to Destination to get directions for a particular particular place on Google Maps.

Initially, I had to remember to use it, but over time !bang has become a regular part of my searches. The only gripe I have with this feature though, is the choice of using an exclamation mark for such commands. Basically, this makes the process slow, because the exclamation mark is neither in the primary keyboard layout of mobile keyboards (you have to tap the numbers icon to get to it) and nor is it instantly typeable on the keyboard (Shift + 1 gives you an exclaimation mark). This relative un-reachability of the ! mark make using !bang commands slightly less seamless. There could be better options of using such commands. For example something like a [Site Name] is far faster to type than an exclaimation mark.

The !bang commands are a big win for DuckDuckGo, but typing in these commands could have been faster, if they didn’t begin with an exclamation mark.

Different Kinds of Search

Just how good DuckDuckGo is as a search engine, depends on what you search for. Looking for Random Websites? DuckDuckGo goes ahead and recommends you the official website. In a habit of searching for random terms, making news at the moment? You’d be well of by using the !google bang command.

The lack of Relevant and Easy to access News Results is a big let down for DuckDuckGo

My search trends include more of the latter. I use search engines to gather news more than anything else, and it is something that I realised after I began using DuckDuckGo. Earlier, I’d just throw in random words of things I’d like to know the news about; Look at the date / time of the news and gather the headlines instantly. This is where DuckDuckGo fails though. At DuckDuckGo, you have to mention that you are looking for news, and most of the times the news isn’t relevant.

Searching for a review
Here’s a snippet of my search for Indian Movie’s review. Notice, the news section in Google’s Search is highly relevant over here.

DuckDuckGo is great for a lot of other things though. Searching for a website is super easy on DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo has an official website tag added to official websites, incredibly useful if you are looking for a bank’s website, where a misspelling can easily lead you to a phishing page.

Image of a search snippet

Another handy feature are the convenient Audio, Ask and Apps tab. So, basically, if you are searching for a podcast. You can easily Search for one and listen right inside the search engine. The ask tab is great for stackoverflow questions. And then again, it’s got some of the nifty snippets that google provides too, Flight Schedules, Calculators, Wikipedia Snippets, Definitions et all. DuckDuckGo’s Snippets are extremely useful.

Image of a search snippet

DuckDuckGo has some extremely handy search snippets, which give quick access to information that you’d otherwise be left to fishing inside Search Results.

For me, DuckDuckGo’s search has been very iffy. It’s not better than Google, for a lot of my searches I still rely on Google’s services but it’s definitely learning and learning fast. The founder, Gabriel Weinberg is actively listening to feedback from all sorts of places, including Twitter. I was surprised at his prompt replies on a particular DuckDuckGo feedback.

DuckDuckGo isn’t the best search engine available, but it’s one of the fastest learning and that is highly important.

So, After months of DuckDuckGo usage. Am I still using it? Yea! Do I love the experience? Not necessarily. The experience depends on your search habits, for me it’s been less than satisfactory. The only reason I’m still using DuckDuckGo is because of its constant improvements and the fact that I can always fall-back to Google’s services without having to switch default search engines.

Should you give DuckDuckGo a Try? Sure! It might just work for you. It all depends on what your search habits are.