As a result, 50 per cent of all Google searches now end without a click. Great for Google, bad for the list of websites below that also contain this information and that you will never visit. Do the same search on DuckDuckGo and the top result is IMDb. It might sound small but issues like this are fundamental to how the internet works – and who makes the most money from it. Google’s prioritisation of its results, and a perceived bias towards its own products and services, has landed the company in hot water with the European Commission slapping it with multi-billion pound fines and launching investigation after investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour. What’s good for Google, the commission argues, isn’t necessarily good for consumers or competitors.
Then there’s privacy. Search for something on DuckDuckGo and, for the most part, you just get a list of links or a simple snippet with exactly the information you were looking for. And it does all this without storing or tracking my search history. Nor is what I search for collected and shared with advertisers, allowing them to micro-target me with a myriad of things I’m never likely to buy. The ads I do see in DuckDuckGo, which the company explains makes it more than enough money to operate, are more general. My search for bank holidays in the UK returned an advert for a package holiday company.
A quick office survey revealed similar search banality: recent Googles included ‘capitalist’, ‘toxoplasmosis’ and ‘hyde park police’. For the most part, what we’re looking for online is simple: it’s definitions, companies, names and places. Where DuckDuckGo has struggled is when I look for something incredibly specific. So, for example, search for ‘film Leonardo Dicaprio goats scene’ in DuckDuckGo and it doesn’t work out you’re looking for Blood Diamond. Google does. While Google, with its vastly greater tranche of search data, is able to second-guess what I’m after, DuckDuckGo requires a bit more hand-holding. That doesn’t mean I can’t find what I’m looking for, but it does mean I have to modify my search term a couple of times to narrow things down.