Feature Friday: DuckDuckHack

One of my favorite features of the DuckDuckGo search engine (a USV portfolio company) is the instant answer. The instant answer is the box at the top that gives you what you were looking for. For Fred Wilson, it looks like this:

Instant answer

So Gabe, the founder of DDG, hacked up a way for users to contribute instant answers. He calls it DuckDuckHack. And he created a Twitter account where he publishes all the Instant Answer hacks. Yesterday "mstratman" created a hack that generates QR codes. Here's the QR code for avc.com.

QR code
And this hack tells you what the currency is in a country.

If you use DDG, then you should absolutely follow the Twitter account and get tips on cool instant answer hacks. But more than anything, this shows how Gabe is thinking about making DDG better and I like that.


Comments (Archived):

  1. gregorylent

    so much room in search beyond just googlethanks for the post

  2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Irrelevant to the topic…but DDG gave the link to this artist … interesting guy.Fred, have you ever met this fred-wilson from NYC?http://www.pbs.org/art21/im

    1. fredwilson

      yes. he is awesome. we own some of his work.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        so meta!

        1. fredwilson

          There is funny story about the first time we met. But i dont have time to tell it now

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            Just the abstract is good enough…. I was about to ask to your answer for my first post … “how did you felt when you met him first”…I met someone with my name as well…. that was also funny…. I was awaiting my college admission and they said they already handed over the admission card…we both laughed our ass out because they prepared only one admission card for 2-Kasi Viswanathan.

      2. JimHirshfield

        Now, featuring OTHER Fred Wilson’s on avc – that’s what I call Fun Fridays.While we’re on the topic of synonyms…I don’t mind being confused with this Jim Hirshfield: http://www.fortuneandfreedo

        1. fredwilson

          Thats an awesome idea. Next friday i will tell the story and feature his work

        2. ShanaC

          Brilliant idea – the other Fed Wilson was a resident at Eyebeam a while back, and I wonder what his thoughts would be about the web now.(for those who don’t know what eyebeam is: http://eyebeam.org/)

    2. ShanaC

      Art 21 for the win!!!

  3. jason wright

    narcissist! 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      nailed. but at least i didn’t make up my college resume.

      1. Cam MacRae

        that must be an old lie he’s carried around with him his entire career because a CS major from 30 years ago is of no real benefit to him today. seems it might carry a real cost though…

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          There are two ways to take it.i) Poor guy did something wrong 30-years back leave him alone.ii) A cheat is always a cheat.There are two personal feelings it attaches.i) How does it matter.ii) Catch me if you can (thieves generate this psychology after few successful thefts).4.

          1. Cam MacRae

            Neither are acceptable becausei) it quite clearly does matter, the question at hand is to what extent it impacts his ability to exercise the authority vested in him.ii) we’re all cheats (even clinton korver who presumably lied at some point prior to the epiphany that lead him to always tell the truth).I find it a fascinating study in personal mythology.

          2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            My ii) + ii) = 4 was my answer.Everyone do does mistake and sometimes even crime (man is a prisoner of situations) … but there were 30-years (10957.5 days) to correct it.

        2. jason wright

          Satoshi Nakamoto?

          1. Cam MacRae

            scott thompson

          2. jason wright

            The coin drops.That’s one reason why the education sector needs disrupting. College certificates of educational elitism that amount to very little when it comes to working hard and achieving something in the outside world.That investor certainly knows how to fight dirty – the dark arts.

          3. fredwilson

            I know dan loeb and i would not want to mess with him

          4. LE

            I admire what he has done. What I call the “assumption of legitimacy” bites people all the time. People get their ticket punched in one place and then everyone else is to lazy or busy to verify facts or ask any questions of the annointed.I did consulting work once on a few projects for a large accounting firm. I was in the office of the founding partner and heard him swear to a client of his that I had done plenty of work for their firm (I hadn’t done a thing). I did some work for a former mayoral candidate in Philly a few years back and heard him swear by me as well (when he had just met me a few weeks prior.) Newspapers will easily quote you if you are featured in other newspapers.

          5. Cam MacRae

            you underestimate an activist shareholder with deep pockets at your own peril.

      2. jason wright


      3. ShanaC

        I’ve always wanted to see a picture of you and the other fred wilsons together. for some reason I think it would be hilariously funny.

  4. RichardF

    I think DDG should concentrate on being excellent in certain specific topics to gain real traction.Travel would be one area (because it’s big). When I type in “holiday in New York” I’d like to be shown categories and options not just a list of sites that have optimised on my search phrase, I might want to book a flight, find and book a hotel, get restaurant reviews, tips on where to visit etc etcMostly I don’t want a search engine these days, I want a result engine.

    1. fredwilson

      i think that programming tips/techniques could be fruitful because getting the hackers on a new service is often key to making it better.

      1. falicon

        A lot of the hacks I saw already done were catered towards programmers…lots of documentation, man pages, and syntax things…though that may not be a great thing for the Stack Exchange investment 😉

        1. fredwilson

          Stacks primary source of traffic is search

          1. falicon

            Yep – that is 100% how I find/use them…which is my point, if my answers are directly integrated into DDG via hacks, then I won’t need to click through to Stack sites…

          2. Cam MacRae

            I click through on instant answers most of the time. The benefit to me is that I get to prequalify that click to some extent.

      2. David Barnes

        I find “extensibility” more compelling as a competitive position than “lack of personalization”, which seems to be DDG’s main USP. Reading this post has got me interested in DuckDuckGo again. Search engine as platform.



        1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      “results engine” nicely said.

    3. ShanaC

      the problem is “travel to new york” leads a very different sent of results wanted for me and you – how do you hack around that.

      1. RichardF

        I agree Shana, it is difficult to personalise the results however I think in areas like travel there is a high probability that the majority of people searching on common key phrases are looking for things in certain categories/subcategories, I’d like to see those subcategories offered at the top of my search

      2. Richard

        Machine learnig can handle this.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Richard

            You are correct but missing the power of probability. When i search travel to new york, posterior probability can direct the search manhattan and tech conferences while for other is couls be 10ks in Brooklyn.

    4. LE

      “Travel would be one area (because it’s big)”One of the problems with something like travel, if you are talking about average internet users, is the amount of occasions that someone needs to do a travel search. It’s not something that the average person (where “average” means “big market”) does on a daily basis, so there is nothing to constantly remind you of using ddg for that purpose. And ddg isn’t even branded only for travel, like tripadvisor.com which focuses solely on travel.So one of the issues I see with “being excellent in certain specific areas” is how do people remember that you are good in those areas if they aren’t reminded of that and, it doesn’t become a habit? Wolfram has many neat things that I could use it for (and have) but I don’t use those things frequently enough so that Wolfram is my immediate appliance to use even for things it is really good for.

      1. RichardF

        good arguments….perhaps I should have used porn as an example ;)I’d like to pick your brains about a domain I own LE if you wouldn’t mind?

  5. Tom Labus

    Searching for a replacement for Mariano!!

    1. Richard

      Shagging fly balls is ok. Leaping for fly balls? Reckless.

      1. Tom Labus

        Could be the end of an era but you never know with him.He still has a lot of fire left in him.

  6. William Mougayar

    These plugins are very creative.I like the DDG plugin Ideas forum on User Voice https://duckduckhack.uservo…Are any of these potentially monetizable?

    1. falicon

      I think they are specifically staying away from the money angle to start (all the code for each hack is open-sourced, and each hack has to be ‘approved’ before it’s integrated so they can control what gets through for now)…there are some creative ways you could get around it and start making money, but I think that would be against the spirit of what they are trying to do right now (and prob. end up having the hack removed).

  7. leigh

    test post bc the last one disappeared….ok that seemed to work. can’t even remember what i said now. as my mom would say, mustn’t have been that important 🙂

    1. RichardF

      same happened to me

    2. fredwilson

      This one worked

    3. ShanaC

      smart mom

  8. awaldstein

    I’m coming clean…never used this before.Subcategories on search are impressive.Search Jura on Google and you have a mess. But you get to me as a wine blogger quickly;)Search Jura on DDG and you get subcategories. Super useful. This is now my first tool for highly vertical and obscure topics.

  9. Max Yoder

    I wish Safari on iOS would let me use DDG as my default search engine. Any chance that’s on the way?

  10. JimHirshfield

    So…if I understand this correctly, Gabe is open sourcing the DDG search algorithm? Or at a min it’s UGC search results.

    1. William Mougayar

      Good question Jim. I’m also interested in how they do this.Is this a bit like a light version of Wolfram Alpha with an open twist?

      1. JimHirshfield

        Do you use WA? I haven’t spent much time with that one.

        1. William Mougayar

          I don’t but this reminded me of a light version of it.

        2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

          I used WA a bit a few month ago and I was impressed with sophistication of the system. I haven’t played with it since then but perhaps I should spend more time with it. DDG is also worth spending time with!!

      2. Elia Freedman

        I’ve used WA a bit and I don’t see the connection to what DDG is doing. WA gives access to its engine and data if you pay a fee but that is a pretty standard API, for external purposes. DDG seems to be allowing you to submit hacks of its results right on their web site. That’s pretty cool.

        1. William Mougayar

          I was thinking of the end-user experience similarity in a “light” sense, ie wanting to ask sophisticated questions & get answers.

    2. falicon

      he’s letting developers build features that execute based on the search queries…those ‘features’ are what show in the 1st slot of search results just below the search box.It’s a way to add in all sorts of cool features to the DDG experience without having to build them all in-house

      1. JimHirshfield

        OK, but are those features then universally available? Or do they only work for me because a) I built said plugin/feature, or b) I’ve clicked a link that’s “activated” that plugin/feature?

        1. falicon

          They will work for everyone and be a part of the core search experience…there will be nothing for a user to install or click to activate…it is all keyword triggered.

          1. JimHirshfield


        2. falicon

          In many ways, they are just letting developers take the concept of http://yubnub.org and put it directly into the DDG experience.

          1. JimHirshfield


  11. jason wright

    I prefer DuckDuckQuack. “Hack” is everywhere.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Who you callin’ a quack?

    2. ShanaC

      Yes, more friendly, more playful 🙂

    3. thus-spake

      DuckDuckQhack 🙂

      1. jason wright

        Nicely morphed 🙂 Crowd creativity.

  12. Luke Chamberlin

    Paul Graham on what it would take to dislodge Google: http://paulgraham.com/ambit…Either the founder of DDG has read this article, or they’re breathing the same aether.

    1. fredwilson

      I talked to paul after he wrote that and i said “you are describing DDG” He said “they are certainly the closest one to that”

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        100% in-line with your programming tips comment below as well

    2. JamesHRH

      Typical terrific stuff from PG. Interestingly, the only item on the list that i have a quarrel with is the Search Engine one. I don’t get why 10,000 hacker on a search engine means anything to anybody? AdSense doesn’t lose out if this is the case.

      1. testtest

        if ddg can create a platform it has a chance against google; otherwise the resource mismatch will be too great.

      2. Luke Chamberlin

        I think the idea is they are the best early adopters of search – the same was true for Google. They are also the ones who will help take a search engine to the next level. A big part of Google’s strength is that they continue to attract the best talent.

        1. LE

          “A big part of Google’s strength is that they continue to attract the best talent.”I think a big part of google’s weakness (in terms of developing things that are customer facing) is what they consider “best” when they hire. They have no average people working there, and it shows in the clusterfuck of some of their products and UI/UX. This was true also for microsoft who focuses on features (like showing the bootup sequence) that tech people tend to think is cool but scares average users. Of course that created an entire ecosystem and middle layer that the average person needed to keep DOS and Windows functioning. Average users want simplicity which is one of the reasons for Apple’s success.

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            I totally agree. The search algorithm requires the real engineers but the consumer-facing products are hurt by the engineering culture.I am a designer and once looked at a design position at Google. “BS in Computer Science, Master’s degree preferred”. For a design position. Makes no sense outside of that culture. I do think they are getting better. We’ll see.

      3. Elia Freedman

        Us hackers influence almost everyone around us, family, friends, etc. If I say switch to DDG then almost everyone I know switches. I have had this effect a number of times for various services.

        1. Mark Simchock

          Perhaps this isn’t the right forum but it’s Friday and I’m feelin’ a bit loose and saucy…We all influence each other. Why are techies so egocentric? If you early adopt enough times sooner or later something is going to stick. But how quickly the non-sticks are forgotten as the ego clenches the exceptions.The reality is that’s not how the average punter functions. They don’t have the time nor desire for endless process / experimenting. Sure, they’ll try something if it better solves a problem but that has nothing to do with technology. It’s human nature. Hackers didn’t invent that.What I’m implying – saying outright? -is that the tech-centric view of the world is a blind spot topped with self-fulfilling tunnel vision. Perhaps if we stopped patting ourselves on the back we’d stop and realize how frustrating and useless “technology” is for too many users. The way I see it, the only difference I see between “us” and “them” is our tolerance for bullshit.Fred, my apologizes for ranting a bit while standing on your soapbox.

          1. JamesHRH

            I agree. I know of no ‘normal’ person asking for a search engine that has shortcut codes & other ‘deep’ features. DDG doing something, but replacing a large part of GOOG isn’t it.

          2. Alexander Close

            There’s a certain truth to that. I love the !Bang feature, I use it all the time. But I doubt if most are going to learn another alphabit just to slightly decrease their search time.

          3. LE

            “But how quickly the non-sticks are forgotten as the ego clenches the exceptions.”People do this with stocks and business deals. You hear about the stock picks and business deals that worked not about the losses.Over time I have learned that you should wait until the kinks are worked out in a product (hardware/software) before buying. I know that lesson well and it has worked for me over the years in terms of stability in terms of computing.I bought a new car about 2 weeks ago and it was the first 7 speed transmission of a completely redesigned model to hit the US. The dealers weren’t even trained on it yet. I literally took first delivery. I knew I was taking a chance. But dammit I wanted the car! So this morning I found out that they have to fly a new transmission in from Germany (at tremendous cost) and they are flying my transmission (car has 200 miles on it) back to Germany for a post mortem). I’m sure my Dad will have a field day with this one.

    3. Mark Simchock

      Pardon me for being a bit contrarian and perhaps speaking a bit out of turn but I think you’re over-estimating the originality of some of the ideas in that P.Graham rant-lite (?).



      2. Luke Chamberlin

        His point is that the real challenges are not about originality.Landing on Mars. Curing cancer. Etc.

  13. John@PGISelfDirected

    I think DuckDuckHunt would be a better title!

    1. John Best


    2. falicon

      I don’t have the graphics skills to pull it off…but how awesome would it be for someone to do a true DuckDuckHunt hack? Type in DuckDuckHunt and click search…have the old school duck hunt game play in browser (mouse click to shoot) 😉

  14. falicon

    Since they announced this the other day, I’ve been reading through the docs and thinking about the best hack I could offer up as well just because it’s an interesting idea/opp…If I do one, I will probably do something related to turfd.com and either sports news or sports scores (only one or two of the suggested hacks in the DDG list were of interest to me so far)…anyone from around here have specific hacks/suggestions they would like to see built?

    1. fredwilson

      Real time sports scores?Or off court injuries like lacerated hands and shooting yourself in the foot?Its hard being a knicks jets mets fan!

      1. falicon

        I feel for you…it’s not much easier being a Falcons, Mets, Knicks, and Caps fan. 🙂

        1. William Mougayar

          It gets worse. Raptors, Leafs, Blue Jays

          1. falicon

            Since you don’t list an NFL team, I will assign you as a fellow Atlanta Falcons fan…the good news is that because of your suffering with the other teams you like, you are well prepared to be a Falcons fan now too 🙂

          2. JamesHRH

            No, you can’t do that! The Bills (yes Buffalo) play home games in TO & William has to adopt them.In the last 45 years, the only championship brought home by any of Williams listed Toronto teams is…….

          3. William Mougayar

            Jays 83Leafs 67I moved to Toronto in 86 so it was before my time.But I was in Seattle in 79 when the Sonics won.

          4. JamesHRH

            Which has to be offset by the Raptors giving Isaiah his first NBA gig!Jays – 92&93 to be fair.

          5. William Mougayar

            Oops. 93 you’re right. I remember it now.Also Vince Carter & Damon Stoudamire were great Raptors.

          6. JamesHRH

            Drafting great players b/c you are horrible is a booby prize!No credit for that 😉

          7. William Mougayar

            But they had a chance with Carter. They kept blowing it.

          8. ShanaC

            be nice :p

          9. William Mougayar

            It’s Friday 🙂

          10. FlavioGomes


          11. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            I am also a fellow Toronto resident like William Mougayar and we definitely live in the worst performing sport’s city North America. We do have a Canadian football team (Argonauts) and they are also terrible!!

  15. Varun Shetty

    This is an interesting idea. Definitely the direction that Google is trying to head in with improved predictive capabilities when you type in a term.Do you think that adding in these instant answers devalues the “normal” search results in any way? It would be neat if the clicks on the instant answers somehow helped teach the normal algorithm so that it could be more precise.I also think this a unique take on the idea of “social” search – relying on humans to help teach the machines.

  16. reece

    just installed the chrome extension and the zero click info – both available in the Chrome Web Store. pretty cool

  17. andyidsinga

    love duckduckgo android app….oops ..if you type ‘qr code for avc.com’ in there you get a bunch of unformatted html as top answer

  18. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Of course you check your own Wikipedia page. 😉 #purplelink

  19. John Minnihan

    Recently, I’ve mentioned DuckDuckGo to friends + family members as an alt to the googborg. Each time I mentioned the name, I got back a ‘what?’ or ‘how is that spelled?’The name is so awkward, I can’t imagine it not inhibiting adoption.

    1. LE

      You are right it will make it much harder to get to the tipping point. In order to overcome that they either need to rebrand, or they need to start to have a slew of traditional media mentions where the unusual name would actually help them. This was what happened with both yahoo and google where an absolute un-buyable amount of early free publicity overcame and defied naming gravity.



        1. fredwilson

          i totally agree FG. this is one of the things i push gabe on from time to time. what do you think of ddg.com?

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. fredwilson

      you are right

  20. Richard