It wasn’t long after Google went live that they became my search engine of choice – with the only other (somewhat) viable option being Yahoo, it was an easy choice. In the years since then, I’ve not questioned that choice, but now that Google is focusing on killing features and building little-used social features, the time seemed right to see if there are better options.
So a month ago I began an experiment, I committed to using DuckDuckGo for a month – here’s what I’ve found.
Quality: The quality of the results is at par with Google for the vast majority of queries. On some queries where there are few results, Google tends to rank the results more accurately.
Index Size: The Google index seems to be larger, with faster additions than DuckDuckGo, though this was only a real issue for very obscure search terms. For the majority of queries, this isn’t noticeable.
Bang Syntax: DuckDuckGo has a great feature called ‘!bang‘ which allows you to search specific sites easily. Of all the options here are the ones I used most often:
- !amazon – Search Amazon.com
- !g – Google Search
- !man Search the *nix man pages
The bang syntax works great with the Search/Address bar in Chrome, making this my favorite feature.
Speed: DuckDuckGo feels much faster that Google does now (which is sad, as Google used to be amazingly fast, even on extremely slow connections), and the results page is clean and free of useless distractions.
Image Search: One that DuckDuckGo is missing compared to Google is a useful image search feature. Though you can easily jump to Google’s image search by adding “!i” to your query.
Zero Click Info: For a number of searches, DuckDuckGo displays an answer from an authoritative source, often giving you what you need to know without having to go any further. For me, the most useful of these is data from StackOverflow and Wikipedia.
Auto-Complete / Suggestions: This is the single biggest thing I’ve missed, it seems like a minor feature but I didn’t realize how useful it was until is wasn’t available. Hopefully they’ll add this at some point, would be a real step in the right direction.
Overall: I’m impressed. It’s not perfect, but it’s far more competitive than I expected. It’s clean, lean, and private. Over the last month I’ve still used other Google services and products (Chrome, Gmail, Google Voice, Google Authenticator, etc.) so it wasn’t a complete separation from Google – but enough to remind me that innovation is still happening elsewhere.
As Google has shifted much of its energy from information to social, companies like DuckDuckGo are continuing to innovate and find better ways to provide the information that we live on.