Duckduckgo is my new favorite search engine

24 Nov 2011

Google, Bing, and Yahoo search are all fairly equivalent. Google has forgotten it's roots of simplicity and catering to a technical crowd. Remember when the page just had a simple logo, an input box, and two buttons for search and the pointless "I'm feeling lucky" button? (The only use of that button was when you typed in "French war victories" and clicked "I'm feeling lucky" and it gave you the fake page saying "0 results found".) Now has a bunch of links at the top, making it look more and more like a portal site. The logo, if you actually go to directly, is always some blinky animated HTML 5 garbage. No technical people actually go to though, because we all just hit Ctrl+K to search in firefox or chrome.

I hate that as I moved my mouse around the google search results, some stupid +1 box animates and then a preview of the page shows up on the right. I want data, not animations and distractions.

My least favorite aspect of search engines is their recommendation systems and the inability to search for exactly what you type. Even if you put it in quotes the search engines autocorrect you. Similarly, I've always been frustrated how they filter out special characters. Let's assume you don't know that a # at a linux prompt usually means root, so you want to know the difference between a $ and a # at the command-line. I dare you to try to search for that. No search engine allows you to. It sucks. Even if you say "hash vs dollar sign prompt" or something similar where you've spelled out the symbols, you still pretty much get nothing.

The worst part about google is that it's the leader in the search wars, which means everyone SEO's to it. This means Google ends up with lots of bad results. They need to work on their filtering more.

So if Google, Bing, and Yahoo all return nearly the exact same results and work and look nearly the same, what are you to do? Duckduckgo is my answer for now. Horrible name, and it's results are largely powered by Yahoo, but it relieves some of my pain points and adds some awesome sauce.

It's totally uncluttered, and you can even change the look (change fonts and their sizes, remove the heading bar, etc.). You can replace your Ctrl+K search engine with it. It has tons of hot keys (including being able to arrow key through results and open pages in the background). It is integrated with wolframalpha to give instant answers to some things. It also has some other special results coded in for searching through specific sites (ex. !amazon rootkits will search Amazon for the "Rootkits" book). Check out this link and this one for more tricks. It also tries to avoid autocorrecting and tries to allow you to search for special characters, but as it's results are largely derived from other search engines, it can't do too much. It also filters the results a lot so it's results will be different than the search engines it relies on.

One important differentiator is that it doesn't track you or trap you in a filter bubble. The major search engines watch your searches and what you click and ultimately if they decide you are pro-gun for example, they'll show you NRA results, or if you are anti-gun they show you hippie pages, so you never see opposing views. However, I think this is sort of a good thing. I want my search engine to realize I'm technical and intelligent and don't want basic responses for the masses when I search for technical things. For example, I want my search engine to give me results from stackoverflow, not from yahoo answers,, wikihow, or ehow. Those sites are miserable. Filter them forever from my results.

Duckduckgo still has it's issues, and I'm still fairly new to using it, but so far I'm happy without google search.