Features that make DuckDuckGo a capable search interface

Many prominent enterprises on the Web have tried to take on Google but have not really succeeded. There is an exception in the making, so to say. DuckDuckGo is probably about as small in size as an online venture can be. Its full-time employee count will take a few fingertips. Yet it has managed to build with one of the most powerful Google alternatives thus far. It does not involve maps, e-mail, social networking, or real-time results.

Here are some of the features that make DuckDuckGo a capable search engine:

  • DuckDuckGo is just a straightforward, simple engine, quite reminiscent of early Google version, following a clear cut privacy policy (it won’t store any details, which could tie a user to his or her searches). There is no trace of search history or personal profile. More than that, the search results are relevant and almost devoid of spam.
  • Apart from their area of interest, DuckDuckGo lets users search several other relevant sites directly. They simply need to employ a dropdown just near the search box. As they use it, their most frequented websites will be displayed at the top automatically. They can also key in a command such as ‘!amazon bags’ that will take them to Amazon.com and then auto-search the site for ‘bags’. There are hundreds of query types that can be used with the !bang syntax.
  • The syntax can be used to issue queries on many other engines like Google, Bing, Youtube, Yahoo etc. However, while using these search engines, the chance of their personal information being tracked exists. Nonetheless it is convenient to access everything out there from one search plugin. The search engine claims to produce more instant answers, ensuring real privacy sans spam and clutter.
  • Built on Open Source, DuckDuckGo backend is in Perl and primarily served via nginx. It also employs many other open source components such as PostgreSQL, Solr, memcached etc. DuckDuckGo’s soon to be launched community platform will be fully open. And it has opened interfaces so as to let Open Source developers contribute API integrations and data stores for improving the search engine on particular subsets of queries. DuckDuckGo features Zero-Click info sources apart from keyboard shortcuts, locations, conversions, calculations etc.

Underlining its prominent features, a quick note on it states:

Most big sites work, e.g. !youtube

Most generic keywords work too, e.g. !images

There are also shorter versions, e.g. !g (google) !i (images) !yt (youtube)

!ducky or ‘! ‘ or ‘\’ will take you to the first result.

!safeoff will run a search with safe search off.

It has a few official mobile apps – Android (you can either download it from the Android market, or from http://duckduckgo.com/android/latest.apk.); iOS (iPhone/iPad). The browser apps that make use of DuckDuckGo are Inception; Cyberspace; iCab Mobile); and Ghostery.

DuckDuckGo is also the default search engine since late last year in Linux Mint 12. Both projects are successful in terms of impact but are relatively smaller in their respective domains. If one compares Linux Mint to Windows and DuckDuckGo to Google, one can see certain similarities. Importantly, both are growing rapidly, though they are managed by very small teams.