Privacy As A Competitive Vector

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo has made privacy a big part of its value proposition. And slowly but surely, their search engine has gotten good enough that people are using it instead of Google.

DuckDuckGo publishes its search volumes publicly. They are doing 6mm searches a day now. This page says that Google does 6bn searches a day. So if that’s right, DuckDuckGo is doing 0.1% of Google’s search volume.

That’s not a huge market share. But DuckDuckGo is growing quickly. A year ago, their search volume was 1.8mm/day. So if they continue to triple their daily search volume each year for the next three years, they would have >150mm searches a day by June 2017. And assuming that Google’s search volume keeps growing at 15% per year, DuckDuckGo would be doing 1.7% of Google’s daily search volume in three years.

So there is certainly a market out there for people who will accept a slightly weaker product in exchange for privacy. It’s not 25% of the market. It may not even be 5% of the market. But I believe it is well north of 1% of the market.

And if that is the case, are there other big product categories out there other than search where privacy could be used as a competitive vector? How about email? How about messaging? How about maps? How about browsers?

I think we are going to see this play out in the coming years. DuckDuckGo is making it work. Why won’t others do the same?


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    I never expected, nor experienced, a VC getting excited (and investing) in a company that looks to claim between 0.1% to 2% market share. Most entrepreneurs who put that in their pitch are shown the door. So…this is interesting.

    1. fredwilson

      well Google makes about $25bn a year in search advertising1% of that is $250mmDDG has something like 10 or 15 employees

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yeah, I can’t argue with that. #justsayin’ #wow

        1. jason wright


          1. JimHirshfield


          2. jason wright


          3. JimHirshfield


          4. ShanaC


      2. LIAD

        How much of googles search advertising revenue is predicated on advertisers being able to target proficiently based on reams of data Google has about the searcherEven if ddg gets 1% searches won’t get 1% revenue.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Good point re revenue.I think 90% or more of the “data” Google uses are just the search terms when it comes to where their revenue comes from: AdWords.

          1. LIAD

            No chance. Advertisers micro target based on geo/demo data

          2. JimHirshfield

            Three data points: 1. searched for “mortgage”2. live in Chicago3. Male, 40s, 5 kids(not me)The most valuable, monetizable piece of data above is #1, the search term.

        2. Richard

          Has anyone else noticed the improvements in google’s targeted advertising? Particularly on youtube? Just don’t know how you do this without data? (Though you could probably predict who DDG’s 1% are.

          1. bsoist

            I’m not so sure. I know a lot of people who are concerned about privacy who have little else in common. People seek privacy for a lot of different reasons.

        3. Jim Peterson

          Not only the data, but the volume of searches creates competition. I pay 50% more per conversion on Google versus Bing. And Bing (Bing /Yahoo) is 33% the volume of Google for us.That said, DDG can build a very nice business.

          1. LIAD

            You’d buy keywords without knowing geo location of searchers?

        4. LE

          FYI: Being to smart and thinking to much is counter-indicated to making money. I’m actually totally serious. You can’t throw stuff at the moving metal blades if you are thinking to much. Luck and serendipity don’t happen to people that are to smart or think to much.Besides another point is something that is said off the cuff (what Fred did) is not the same as someone thinking that and then (prior to writing a check) realizing the point that you have made (which is valid I feel).I used to get totally annoyed at my Dad. I would say something off the cuff and then years later he would say “oh I remember when you wanted to bla bla bla”. And it was like “I had a fucking idea for a second I never did it maybe if you were creative you would realize that..”. Better to have ideas float in and out of your head than to have no ideas at all.

        5. Vasudev Ram

          Google also uses statistics and probably machine learning / AI techniques, etc., heavily on large data sets that they have, to further leverage their advantage. Not rooting for or against them, just mentioning it. Someone posted this (on AVC, IIRC) recently:Peter Norvig: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data:…(Peter Norvig is Google’s Director of Research).Which doesn’t mean that it’s the only or best way to do things, just that it seems to get some results.

      3. JLM

        .Argument to be made rates will be impacted by size of audience? Not linearly comparable.Targeted audiences will be influenced by user profile and likely not comparable.JLM.

        1. DM

          “Not linearly comparable”…What if Fred’s right in this assertion but by a factor of 5-10x in next decade. What does that say about a narrow product focus? Skip the gritty stories that get us there…what does firm ground feel/look like then for the customer?

      4. LE

        15 is 50% more than 10. A rounding error for sure.

  2. aminTorres

    Fred, I’ve been thinking about this very same thing lately, coming from a different angle but the same nonetheless. Glad to see you ask these questions.

  3. LIAD

    Ebb and flow.2004-2011(?) = open networks. birth of soc med. public graphs. UGC explodes. Golden age of sharing2012- = temporal messages. Private networks. Do not track. Crypto.Catalyst/pivotal event = snowdon? Parents/employers/advertisers catching up?

    1. bsoist

      This is why geeks can’t have nice things. Normal people always find out and ruin everything.

  4. jason wright

    does DDG have a unique proposition, that other search ankle biters would not, other than momentum?

    1. JimHirshfield


      1. jason wright

        how can that be unique to DDG? It has a privacy patent?

        1. JimHirshfield

          Unique proposition does not equal patent.

          1. jason wright

            it’s not defensible. a multitude of search startups could build a business model around the theme of privacy.

          2. JimHirshfield

            For sure. And I could build an app that shares photos with my friends and lets me edit them with different filters. So, let’s go back to your point on momentum: it’s execution.

          3. jason wright

            at $250mm for 1% DDG will need to find a defensible strategy very quickly to achieve Fred’s growth curve extrapolation. many will execute well at that price.

          4. LE

            Here’s an idea. Why don’t you stand up in front of a group of people and tell jokes? Better yet, why not tell the same joke as Seinfeld tells and see how many laughs you get. [1][1] Actually that would be an interesting “Starman” experiment (remember that movie with Jeff Bridges?)You find a group of people that aren’t particularly familiar with a comedian (say my mom who probably doesn’t know Louis CK). And you tell those jokes and see what happens. Split the geezer group in two randomly. One half gets Louis CK other half gets Poser CK. Watch what happens. Film the reaction. Also, serve them Sanka.

          5. JimHirshfield

            Oh, like a cover band, but for comedy?

          6. LE

            No it’s something I just thought of. You stand up in front of a group of people and tell jokes. The name I came up with for this is “comedian”. It’s all in the execution.

  5. awaldstein

    Dunno…Personally, this is not something that drags me in.

    1. LIAD

      Ditto. Privacy just not a big enough pull for me to switch. + can’t believe ddg can only be slightly weaker than goog. If it is, a lot of goog employees need to be fired

      1. Richard

        Or search algorithms have become a commodity.

      2. LE

        Last I read DDG passes all results which it gets from others basically. My understanding is that it’s a proxy for others who do the crawling.Back in the day there was metacrawler [1] which did something similar.generating its search results from key crowdsourced sites such as Wikipedia and from partnerships with other search engines like Yandex, Yahoo!, Bing and WolframAlphaThat said your point is totally valid.[1]

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      Yup – I am with you on this one!

    3. Richard

      I don’t see search as the two horse race fred seems to be implying. (privacy vs no privacy) Its more like the 1973 running of the Belmont Stakes with Secretariat. The others are Bing, Yahoo, AOl. Moreover, there the search 2.0 of twitter and facebook. Lastly, there is the birth of Apple search who either build its own search engine or Buys DDG within 3 years.

  6. mikenolan99

    In out family, we share accounts across Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc. One drawback is that the predictive preferences, ad served, etc. are fed by a jumble of my and Jules’ tastes, and those of the kids.Netflix recommends everything from Orange is the New Black to Ninja Turtles. Not sure if their predictive engine can handle our eclectic habits.I see the same thing sharing family computers – Amazon will push the last shopping search on my computer to ads across many platforms – interesting when my 19 year old daughter has just ordered personal hygiene items online.I’m going to try Privacy Mode/Incognito Browsing as a default, and will make DDG my default engine in the next few minutes.Might make a difference….or, we could launch Blip Enhance… 🙂

    1. JimHirshfield

      Just set up different profiles for each person…or accounts.And, pa-leeeese, stop embarrassing your daughter like that.

      1. mikenolan99

        Tried it, but too much hassle – and not built into the Roku (yet)…And, I think my daughter likes embarrassing me! (“….Oh Dad, grow up!”)

    2. vruz

      FWIW I’m a happy DuckDuckGo user now.Only rarely I use image search, or map search on other services, and even then it’s just more convenient to use DDG for that.For example, if you enter this in DDG:van gogh paintings <— you get standard DDG results, plus some imagesvan gogh paintings gi! <— you get google image search resultsvan gogh paintings bi! <— you get bing image search resultsJust more convenient to use DDG only.

    3. LE

      I’m going to try Privacy Mode/Incognito Browsing as a default, and will make DDG my default engine in the next few minutes.However if you ddg for “male incontinence products” and click through to the vendor they will place a cookie and your daughter will then be barraged with ads showing that you can’t hold your pee.So you are getting a false sense of security.Nordic track has been following me for about a month now. The new treadmill was delivered and installed weeks ago. Should be something that I can click that says “I already bought one..”

      1. mikenolan99

        “I already bought this” – great idea… I bought a cool new iPad case from Pad and quill. Now I see a ton of their ads. Think of the profit margin they are eating into by continuing to serve me ads.

        1. Kevin Trilli

          Click on that “X” in the ad above and you can mute this Ad. Click on the AdChoices icon to the left of it and you can opt-out of targeting which will remove the retargeting function completely — and all other targeted ads. (you can see the return of the dancing mortgage guy ad 😉 Here is a similar write-up of the concept – not sure if Google has one anywhere (

  7. johnmccarthy

    20 million plus users have certainly said that they value online privacy, made here in NYC……Edward Snowden a big fan of Ghostery.

    1. ShanaC

      ghostery sells that same said data to targeters. Ironies

      1. johnmccarthy

        Only anonymized information on trackers, not on users. And only from users who have opted in.…How anonymous am I?Totally anonymous. Not only do we not collect any information about you on purpose, we take steps to make sure we’re not storing anything that could get back to you if someone tried.We hash out IP addresses and only store an encrypted string of text, and we strip out any identifying information from URLs (we chop off query strings – anything after a “?” mark in a URL).Ghostrank is off by default. If you don’t specifically say we can, we won’t collect anything from you, ever.What we do with Ghostrank dataWe take that information, add our analysis, and sell it to brands and websites to help them evaluate their relationships with their marketing partners. Some ad tech companies use the data to compare themselves to their competition, while other research firms buy it to learn more about the industry.We also provide data to consumer advocacy groups like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), journalists writing stories about privacy, and students and activists involved in related projects and papers.

  8. Anne Libby

    Email, so much yes. I even dislike the idea that Google might be doing something with data on my side of an email exchange, when I correspond with someone who has a gmail address…

    1. Andrew Kennedy


  9. bsoist

    So there is certainly a market out there for people who will accept a slightly weaker product in exchange for Agreed, but I think sometimes that goes for more than just privacy. I think people will support a product sometimes for more than selfish reasons.I get different results with DDG, but I am not sure that makes the product weaker.I switched to DDG some time ago, but mostly in support of a good idea – not tracking users, etc. – not so much for my own privacy.I was also growing tired of Google for a lot of reasons. They were poorly handling multiple Google accounts at the time ( Tthat may have been intentional, I get it. ), the results were being filtered based on my G+ circles, etc. And I’ve always thought Google’s PageRank, while an interesting idea, would be susceptible to “gaming” which was impacting search results in a big way.I do a lot of searching. I search SO, IMDB, Twitter, and Wikipedia a LOT. I was using Google for everything else, and I was looking for different results. DDG gives me that. I do sometimes have that feeling that I’m not finding something Google would get me, so I still head there occasionally.

  10. pointsnfigures

    I think Privacy is huge for all the above, even to have non-searchable everything. I want to have a Facebook type social network, but don’t want it searchable by employers and everyone else (no more Facebook stalking). Security also is huge now.

    1. JimHirshfield

      That exists already, it’s called sitting in your dining room with your best friends having a meal.

      1. Sebastian Wain

        I don’t think so, I miss the like button… 😉

        1. JimHirshfield

          That’s been replaced with raising your glass and making a toast.

          1. LE

            (And to make the couple kiss would they also clink the glass?)

          2. JimHirshfield

            Remind me to never clink glasses with you if we ever meet IRL. Not that you aren’t ______-worthy; but that’s just not my thing.

          3. LE

            I kissed some men in the federal pen, not that bad. The ones in Turkey were though. Swen what’s his name?

      2. Andrew Kennedy

        yeah, but when your best friends live all over the world, that’s tough.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Premium social networks come at a price… in this case airfare.

          1. LE

            I’m actually amazed at the yung uns that I hear are always traveling all over the place for weddings of college or high school friends.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Wasn’t that you when you were in your 20s?

          3. LE

            A couple of years ago my cousin got married in Houston Texas. Nice affair at a top notch hotel. My sisters flew down there I didn’t go. My niece got bat mitzvahed in Israel. I didn’t go. (That got my sister really pissed off but she has forgotten that already..) In the hospital? The going joke is if I show up you are near death. I did drive to two relatives weddings one in the Hudson Valley and one at the Mandarin in DC. I didn’t even attend two cousins weddings locally in the area.In my 20’s I was in the federal pen serving time. The weddings were all walking distance from my cell.

          4. Richard

            Wow. What did you do to occupy your time?

          5. LE

            I was part of the wedding planning team obviously.

          6. LE

            Btw in case it’s not obvious I was joking about “serving time”.

        2. LE

          but when your best friends live all over the worldAre you married and do you have kids?I’m curious if there are people with jobs, kids and a wife that have time to keep up with an extensive group of friends from all over the world by phone or in person. All very time consuming.

          1. Andrew Kennedy

            ha. no kids. recently married. extensive groups of friends are quite different than close relationships. no one has time to waste, but maintaining relationships that matter is a different animal.

          2. LE

            Define “relationships that matter”. (Hmm. You mean from that fancy schmancy school you went to?)

          3. Andrew Kennedy

            someone pee in your corn flakes this morning? relationships that matter = the people that you would do a favor for and vice versa.

          4. LE

            someone pee in your corn flakes this morning?In stir, people actually do that.relationships that matter = the people that you would do a favor for and vice versa.I do favors for people that I’m not even friends with.But actually I’m curious if you could tell me some examples of favors that you did for said friends or that they did for you? If you don’t want to reveal actual favors you can use proxies for the type of favors that you are talking about.

          5. Andrew Kennedy

            we are caught up in nomenclature. “favor”, “friend” whatever. I am talking relationships. my best man recently moved from SF to Singapore and i hooked him up with someone that lives there. A “friend” is traveling to Greece and looking for a secluded island to visit —> Patmos. I don’t have to know the answer to facilitate the solution and the less time it takes the better.

      3. pointsnfigures

        Pabst Blue Ribbon is a meal?

        1. JimHirshfield

          All across this great land.

    2. Andrew Kennedy

      I agree completely

    3. Anne Libby

      I had made myself impermeable on Facebook (before I quit it.) It can be done, but it takes constant vigilance. And there are other strategies, like a law-enforcement professional in my circle who uses another family name for security purposes…

  11. Tom_Nocera

    Speaking as a Floridian, we have the right to privacy spelled out in our state’s Constitution.It was a “given” at the time our nation’s Constitution was drafted, so was only touched upon as an afterthought in the Bill of Rights. That right has been ravaged by case law by those who mistakenly claim security of the masses is of greater value than the privacy of the individual.I suggest online privacy needs to be a bigger selling point (USP) and demanded and that the NSA needs to stand down on its quest to snoop everywhere in a fool’s effort to try to know everything about everybody.

  12. Julien

    “slightly weaker product” I disagree… I actually find DDG pretty good in its latest version… and I know it will get better and better.However, I wish privacy was not a competitive vector, but a feature, something I could “pay for”. I’d love to pay $30/month (that google makes with its current business model) or the $3/month that Twitter seems to make so that I don’t get ads and they stop tracking me all over…

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      I thought Google make $30 per-quarter/per-user not per month ?

    2. bsoist

      “slightly weaker product” I disagreeI almost started my comment with exactly the same thought, but I see the argument that it’s a weaker product. I do like the results better for my searches ( most of the time ).

  13. William Mougayar

    Well, in Europe, privacy is a standard and the default. It’s not that other “option”. Not just online, but in real life.Fred- given that privacy is more top of mind there, does DDG have a bigger market share in Europe?

    1. JimHirshfield

      Maybe you’re the man, with the plan, to hit Milan?

      1. William Mougayar

        Why me? Seriously, since privacy is more important in Europe, I presume that a DDG push there would resonate.

        1. JimHirshfield

          “Cuz you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh-darn it, people like you!”Yes, seriously, I’d like to see their market share in EU.

  14. Tom Labus

    But what does “privacy” mean at this point?

  15. Aaron Klein

    I respect any entrepreneur trying to build something, so I don’t mean this to tear down DDG in any way, shape or form.But this notion of “privacy” is nowhere close to 10x better than Google. In fact, I’d argue that what Google does with search history — earning the revenue with which to constantly build a better product — is 10x better than the false concept of “privacy.”If I’m communicating with terrorists, the authorities will (and should) find out eventually. If I’m googling cancer a lot, remember that an incognito window is but a click away.PS: Disqus is so utterly unusable on mobile web. Getting old really fast.

    1. LE

      Disqus is so utterly unusable on mobile web.I don’t feel your pain directly because I don’t comment on the mobile web.But your pain raises an interesting point with respect to the value of ddg.There is no immediate feedback mechanism (pain or pleasure) from privacy from using ddg. [1]In fact, using ddg who are you protecting yourself from exactly that is a pain point for most everyday people? Why do I care if a bunch of computers knows what I am searching for? Or if BandH photo knows that I am interested in some particular camera. Yes, I’d find it interesting to do searches for a bunch of things that might be weird but I satisfy my curiosity with other things that I search for that aren’t weird.And DDG doesn’t give me privacy from things I would care about either.For example, this morning, in Starbucks, I saw Shakira on a CD cover at the counter and I looked at it, you know, “with lust in my eyes!”. [2] Would I want my wife to know that I looked at Shakira “with lust in my eyes!”. Of course not. Would I want my mother to know that? Of course not. My daughters? Oh shit that would actually be really bad.If I’m communicating with terrorists, the authorities will (and should) find out eventually. Really the thing that has me most upset about the Snowden stuff. The idea that even if the government has access to all this data that they are in a position to actually use it in a way to create problems for more than a fraction of the population. (In other words I’m in the camp of protecting us even at the expense of privacy of the masses and I think he is a traitor.).[1] They could do a bit with this using traditional advertising. In other words create the need for the product by showing people use cases which matter (after some research) to regular users. A bunch of “what if’s” perhaps. (I’d have to give it some thought but I know this can be done. Mad Adv has sold products with no apparent value with words and images so it’s not a stretch by any means).[2] Not really obviously. But maybe this guy did:

      1. Salt Shaker

        Sounds like the cop in Starbucks was also excited about the Shakira CD cover. Classic stimulus/response (without boundaries).

      2. Anne Libby

        Yikes, I hope your daughters don’t know your Disqus identity…

        1. LE

          Well let’s talk about this for a second then.(Forget the “lust” that was a joke you know the Jimmy Carter thing.)Men are very visual. As a general rule I’d rather be looking at, and talking to, even agood looking man than not. All else equal. (Rarely is of course). Likewise simply looking at something and finding it attractive is not the same as trying to “get that thing” or stopping your relationship with your current wife or partner. I looke at other cars all the time. I look at other houses all the time. It means simply having a positive feeling (non sexual) from something that your brain finds attractive.Along with this also comes respect though. My wife complemented me recently on how I never look at other women. Apparently this is unusual from her experience. I probably would do the same if I had lunch with you [1] that is I wouldn’t look at other women while having lunch with you. Wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Just the way I am. Probably wouldn’t do it with a man either for different reasons.So when I say “would I want my wife to know that” I mean out of respect for her (and since she probably wouldn’t understand) I wouldn’t want her to know that. Otoh I’m not really interested in what she does during the day.But check this out. When we first met part of her job involved (and I’m dead serious about this) giving digital rectal exams to State Troopers as part of their physicals. And she would tell me about it. Did I ask any questions? No. Did I need to know that? No. Did you need to know that? No.[1] She would be jealous so probably wouldn’t do that.

          1. Anne Libby

            I was being “funny” with you — if your daughters read all of your comments, they’d see you’re a decent guy.

      3. Techman

        Would I want my wife to know that I looked at Shakira “with lust in my eyes!”. Of course not. Would I want my mother to know that? Of course not. My daughters? Oh shit that would actually be really bad.That made my bust out laughing. Good one!

    2. Richard

      i don’t seem to have this problem

    3. SubstrateUndertow

      the false concept of “privacy.”ULTIMATELYPrivacy Control = Autonomous AgencyA simple thought experiment might help here!How would you respond to a technology that made your thoughts available to everyone around you ?That is the end point when you take the statement”the false concept of “privacy.””to its logical conclusion.

    4. Guest

      “If I’m communicating with terrorists, the authorities will (and should) find out eventually.”Oh dear, the Appeal to Terrorism to justify mass spying on people….Let me guess, “if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to fear”

      1. Aaron Klein

        No, not entirely. Though some surveillance is necessary to protect Americans. I’m not in favor of mass surveilling the country without a warrant.

    5. fredwilson

      hmm. i have found Disqus to be vastly improved on mobile web in the past year. what OS and browser are you using?

      1. Aaron Klein

        Chrome on iPad. The keyboard disappeared 6x while writing that, causing me to click away. 😉

    6. Techman

      Opening an incognito window will not help you out very much. Sure, the cookies generated won’t be saved but if you’re still accessing Google from the same IP, then Google could figure out that you are still you, quite easily. A better solution for more more serious anonymity is TOR.

  16. Richard

    All around the Web it’s been collaboration and NOT privacy that has won. I don’t see why search should be any different.

  17. Lee Blaylock

    Sharing your contacts privately is a huge one, because LinkedIn and Facebook weren’t built for the enterprise.

  18. William Mougayar

    There’s a difference between History and Privacy, and we tend to confuse them sometimes. History can be used privately to remember and synchronize services across devices only for me, but when history becomes public or shared, then that’s an issue.To answer your question, I thought that email and messaging are private by default, no?

    1. bsoist

      email is NOT private!only for meThat’s the thing, isn’t it. You might have heard of this thing the kids are into called Snapchat. 🙂 The selling point is privacy, but we have to trust the service using the data we send. I don’t know exactly how their tech works, but if the data is being sent over their network, even if they never store it in any way, they could.I’ve been using DDG for some time, in support of a good idea, but I have no clue if they actually hold up their end of the bargain. I send requests to their servers, and I either trust them or I don’t care enough not to send those requests.

      1. kidmercury

        i guess there are various levels of privacy/security. but for true security, it all needs to start at the hardware level.

        1. bsoist

          and even there, trust is sometimes the only wayApple has made a big deal in the past about how software cannot make use of the camera on a Mac without that little light turning on, but …1. that’s not true – it is possible to circumvent that, I didn’t take time to find it, but someone has done a proof of concept on that2. I still have to trust Apple. Unless I read all the code in the OS, how do I know Apple isn’t using the camera when I don’t want them to?In the early days of the open source movement, people sometimes ridiculed the notion that some of us want be able to read the code we run on our computers. I understand not everyone knows how to read code ( and not everyone, myself included, takes the time ), but if you do know how to read it, it seems reasonable to want to know what your computer might be up to.

  19. tw

    I think maybe we are asking the wrong question here. Perhaps it would be better to ask: how much is privacy worth? Does it have a value? What would companies be willing to pay for that information if it could be monetized? Can this private information be monetized for individuals?Considering the increasingly intrusive and creepy advertising across the net, especially in mobile, I think about privacy and the value of my information more and more. If the concept of privacy became a more important and enforceable issue, what would be the impact on many internet based firms? They rely heaviliy on people valuing the service more than the information they are surrendering.

  20. falicon

    I don’t think privacy is really a competitive vector…I think it’s a great feature that can hook some (especially when all else is equal or close to equal).But to me, competitive vectors have to be results focused for the end user. What can I really do that I couldn’t before? How does it really change my world or help me?In the search world, I think the things that could/might really challenge Google are not focused on features that change little parts of the search experience, but instead focus on the haystack you’re actually searching through (two examples are really great vertical search or cross-app search — both data sets, and approaches, that google really doesn’t excel on).At the end of the day, privacy is a middle-class problem…finding something more powerful/useful than the ‘link’ to calculate and index on is what will *really* challenge google.For all the other areas you mention…the secret is in changing the game…not just tweaking the rules a bit…

    1. kidmercury

      absolutely. the real formula for beating google IMO has three primary components:1. does not rely on brute strength crawling2. relies on social signals, or some type of curation, rather than backlinks, co-citations, and other factors google that play to google’s strengths3. does not monetize via contextual CPC advertising (i.e. adwords)i really think jdawg had the right idea with mahalo, but need to start with a niche first, perhaps a la stackoverflow.

      1. falicon

        I thought that project had some nice potential in the vertical approach as well… 🙂

      2. sigmaalgebra

        In simple terms, Google is keywords/phrases with results sorted by ‘page rank’, but there are many refinements for special cases.When a user has a few keywords/phrases that accurately characterize, better specify, what they want, which essentially means that the content has text in the content or at least in metadata that contains the keywords/phrases, then Google does quite well and with that have built one heck of a business.In the parts of Internet search where where keywords/phrases sorted by some broad measure of popularity, say, ‘page rank’, work well, then it’s a bit foolish to try to ‘beat Google’. They have done very well with that approach.But keywords/phrases are still a bit too close to an old library card catalog subject index and, thus, not nearly as powerful as one could wish for the current and future content on the Internet, searches people would like to do, and results they would like to find.My view is that ‘social graph’ data is far too ‘noisy’ and, thus, essentially useless.

      3. fredwilson

        DDG doesn’t crawl

        1. kidmercury

          yes, i agree DDG is partially disruptive based on how its index is built and how its results are calculated. however, they are still playing the CPC game. search is ripe for a textbook disruption in which a new business model, preferably one that commoditizes the incumbent’s model, is what takes over.

      4. bsoist

        rather than backlinksI always thought this was an interesting idea, but inherently flawed.

    2. ShanaC

      how is it a middle class problem?

      1. falicon

        By that I just mean that it’s not a critical problem for most…it’s something to worry about when life is all good and you’ve got free time to be thinking about how it just might/could/should be better…I just don’t believe the average internet user cares that much about if/how google tracks them (they just know google works and assume it probably knows a lot about them which can be used to make it even better — in a lot of ways they think of it like the old neighborhood doctor).At least that has been what I see from the internet users that I know/interact with/watch 😉

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          So we are at the end of history as regards the significance of digital privacy effects on public attitudes are we ?Or just maybe, it is possible that privacy as an instance of a social-overload hyper-feedback singularity problem has simple not yet reached a critical-mass required to trigger a collective pain response ?It seems a little early in the evolution of such a profoundly new social frontier to make a definitive call on this emerging issue!

          1. falicon

            privacy is important, but so is global warming…the trouble is that people don’t wake up to the slow boil problems until at least a few frogs start to die…

        2. Salt Shaker

          If you’ve ever unfortunately encountered identity theft or had your CC number stolen, then you’d likely have a diff POV re: privacy. All it takes is a single breach to seriously influence or modify one’s behavior, and that prospect pool does seem to be seriously growing.

          1. falicon

            I don’t mean to say that privacy isn’t important…I just think it’s not really front of mind for most internet users.There’s also a strong difference between passive tracking of internet usage vs. specific data collection/account creation…google does both across various products…which makes it even more unclear to the average person just what is happening behind the scenes…the only thing they know is that google gives good answers to their questions/searches…until it becomes clear there is a ‘serious personal cost’ to that (if there even is), people will not change that thought…

          2. LE

            Explain the tie in between google knowing what you do (and or advertisers) and identity theft. Along with the probability of actually having identity theft.

          3. Salt Shaker

            No direct tie-in, but if you’ve been victimized you’re leery about anyone knowing more about you than they need to know, inclusive of online shopping, curation and/or discovery. Some may view this behavior as paranoid, I view as being cautious. A $99K identity theft experience will do that to you.

          4. LE

            So then what I’m getting from the way you phrased that is you recognize that this is irrational similar to how you might be afraid to fly a day after hearing about a big plane crash or generally feel an event is more likely if you’ve got some close personal experience in some way. (Some general psychological principle that I don’t have time to link to right now but it’s well known and obvious.)I’ve had people who have not wanted to fax a credit card but will give it over the phone or fill out a web form. I’m not sure if they think that people intercept phone calls for credit card data specifically or if they are worried that people are lurking in an office and getting the cc data or dumpster diving. Or just have had a bad experience (as you noted) and are hyper sensitive.Interestingly adding the word “secure” does wonders. To wit:”Or you can fax your credit card to:”vs.”Or you can fax to our secure fax line: “Anyway, along the lines of the points you are making I suspect that there is comfort in feeling as if you are doing something, similar to how some people do all sorts of health things of dubious value because that way they feel as if they are somehow in control of future well being. [1][1] I’m not knocking or belittling this, I do some of these things as well and my brain is happy with the rewards I kid myself I am getting.

          5. The Silver Fox

            Footnotes in a blog comment – love it 😉 [1][1] I’m not knocking or belittling this

          6. bsoist

            I love they way @domainregistry:disqus uses footnotes in comments!

          7. Anne Libby

            Or if you have ever been trolled.

        3. LE

          I just don’t believe the average internet user cares that much about if/how google tracks themThere are a few levels of caring.One is more or less proactively caring. Another is caring if something is pointed out to you and in a sense how it is pointed out. (Particular language and angle can send lemmings off the cliff as we all know. Or the media if the story line will help sell advertising..)For example let’s take kids team coaches. (Something you know a bit about).My guess is that most parents don’t give much thought to what material their kid’s coaches view on the internet or what their private life is like.However it’s almost a certainty that if they knew their kid’s coach was viewing certain material they would be totally weirded out by it and not want their kid coached by a particular individual. I would imagine that there would be a difference between mothers and fathers as well given the same knowledge.Likewise similar with a doctor you go to. You don’t really give much thought to what the doctor does in their spare time but if you knew it very well might change your opinion of them. Might degrade the halo which is an important part of the trust process.So I my point is you can definitely stir the pot with people with this privacy thing which is why I was saying that some good madison avenue advertising could help DDG get more traction and usage. For sure. No question.(I’m also obliged to point out that the name isn’ helping it either..)

    3. fredwilson

      DDG is actually an aggregation model on top of all the vertical search engines

  21. Brandon Burns

    Why won’t others do the same? Because the startup / investment environment is different now than it was when DuckDuckGo started.A couple years ago, a working prototype and a grand vision raised seed rounds. Now, outsized traction and revenue raises seed rounds. If DuckDuckGo were looking for its first investment today, and if the company were in the same state it was in when it raised its first round, I doubt anyone would listen. If you think about it objectively, USV wouldn’t even listen. The investment market simply isn’t supporting businesses that look like that anymore, and I doubt DDG would be able to survive without capital. Neither will a fledgling browser, email client, map or any other business offering a “slightly weaker product in exchange for privacy,” unless that slightly weaker product already has outsized traction and/or revenue, which will be unlikely without the investment. Catch22.

    1. LE

      If DuckDuckGo were looking for its first investment today, and if the company were in the same state it was in when it raised its first round, I doubt anyone would listen. If you think about it objectively, USV wouldn’t even listen.Well two a few things:a) They probably wouldn’t walk into a meeting saying that they planned to only take .1% of google search volume. (“Better to be thought a fool than to open up your mouth and remove all doubt”) You can make numbers say anything you want.b) VC’s and angels are in no position to really assess the potential in most cases. Even they publicly acknowledge that (which means it may or may not be true of course).c) Well known that by the team investing theory (which is by the way a convenient way to get by “b”), anything can, um, pivot into something else.d) Something sticks, if enough is thrown at spinning metal that moves air.

    2. Salt Shaker

      Well, isn’t DDG’s biz prop far more relevant today than ever before, with NSA and general privacy concerns? My hunch is “a couple years ago” not many either gave a shit or saw the need, although not the case today. Don’t need outsized traction to make this “dog hunt,” a fraction of search share can be well monetized, although agree that’s not the case w/ most start-ups.

  22. vruz

    They won’t because advertising. And control freaks.In all these years it’s a very rare event when I’ve seen or clicked on a Google Ad that was actually relevant to my search interests. The idea that people click on something other than what they’re actually looking for is just a sham, and it’s even worse on mobile.Who pays attention to on-screen ads whilst using a smartphone to actually get something done?

  23. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Conversations I’ve had in my constellation lead me to believe that completely private and secure messaging would be a big win in the new distributed enterprise.

  24. Vimal Kumar

    Privacy is a big issue and online privacy has been invaded at so many level that sometime you do not know the details and hard to skip. When we visit any website then mostly those websites track our information, when we use maps or smartphone’s GPS then they track all the time. A while ago there was a program on CBS 60 Minutes(… where they have provided in-depth details how much our privacy is being compromised.

  25. Andrew Kennedy

    I agree. The evolution of email will happen or new products will take market share. Not being able to edit after sending, delete previously sent emails, gesture (like, favorite) and/or keep certain emails between certain people or groups are all needed improvements.

  26. Andrew Kennedy

    Can you define privacy? Your comments in the pando write-up re: ephemerality = control really resonated with me. It seems like privacy = control in similar way. I don’t want my emails to end up on the front page of the WSJ, but they need to be written with the possibility that they may one day be there.

    1. fredwilson

      i can’t define it, but i can feel it

  27. Mac

    @JimHirshfield:disqus Thought I’d pose this question to you. I’ve never gotten a good explanation why the Internet can’t support browsers within browsers. I was told it isn’t a technical issue but more to do with international standards and regulations. In addition, it seems to me more security could be built around this type of platform.Any A VC’ers care to add their understanding of browsers within browsers??

    1. LE

      Well first what do you mean exactly by “browsers within browsers”?And there are no de jure regulations though I guess there may be de facto regulations.

      1. Mac

        Thanks. I mean not opening a browser from the task bar, or ‘new tab’, or desktop/start menu icon if you want to go to another website. For example: clicking on DuckDuckGo link above and not leaving this page. Small window opens (essentially a new browser) displaying DDG start page within this A VC page. Could be I’m not using the tools available to me.Not sure I’ve explained that clearly

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          How exactly is that different than “right clicking” and selecting “open link in new widow” ?

          1. Mac

            Thank you for the suggestion. I’ve looked at that in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome. After right clicking and clicking on ‘Open Link in New Window’ – and after adjusting the new window for size and location – it appears that a browser is operating inside a browser. I think it’s overlaying a new browser window on top of the existing page.I mean something more seamless. Being able to left or right click on the DDG link in the first paragraph and have their landing page open in an area (let’s say in the right margin) that changes/removes the content in that area to display the page. Essentially the original content in that area of A VC (the light gray margin) is replaced by the DDG landing page content in a preprogramed size to fit. Are you following me? 🙂 Hard to describe.I have been told that that is a browser within a browser (not overlapping) and that international standards/regulations are the problem

      2. Mac

        Description in reply below. Thanks again

  28. Salt Shaker

    Is privacy really a sustainable point-of-difference vis-a-vis search? It can easily be emulated and if DDG does gain significant traction there likely will be other entrants to the field. DDG’s biz model seems conditional on its ability to be a low cost provider that can reap profits even w/ nominal (relatively speaking) search flow. Not sure w/ the absence of data capture how attractive the engine is to advertisers, as there likely will be a sizable drop in ad CTR and conversion. A bottom feeder’s delight.

    1. aminTorres

      CTR is not the only metric some advertisers/products care about.Take a promotion for an upcoming movie., all I need is to be made aware of the movie and then I can later go to my local theater and buy a ticket. Some things are promoted but not sold online, awareness campaigns and the like.

      1. Salt Shaker

        Perhaps so, but isn’t that more the exception than the rule? The beauty (and downfall) of online adv is in its ability to quantify performance. There’s too much emphasis placed on single exposure stimulus/response, which is antithetical to both brand and image building.

        1. Guest

          generally, yes but as the more specific you get the more those clicks tend to cost, you cover less ground and pay more. whereas if you don’t care for clicks, it is nice get a ton of exposure of much less money.

  29. kirklove

    It’s not just privacy. It’s niche. The web is splintering. Just like TV did (in fact exactly like TV did). So there will be fewer and fewer bigger “wins”. Tough for a VC, great for an entrepreneur, even greater for the end user.

    1. kidmercury


    2. LukeH

      Great point, Kirk. I see this with my 2 teenage boys. They care not one bit about what’s big online, just about what their friends are doing, and none of those kids are reading Techcrunch.

      1. kirklove

        Luke in the AVC comments!!! I stole your song this morning for my PeggSite. Heck I steal your songs like 2 or 3 times a week!

        1. LukeH

          Yeah, bud. I’m stalking you while you are stalking me!

          1. Ryan Frew

            I’m stalking both of you while you stalk each other. Just saw Cincinnati in your Disqus profile. Haven’t seen that on AVC before. What do you do down here (If I can pry)?

    3. Vasudev Ram

      Interesting. I don’t disagree with you, but can you give some examples?Decentralization?

      1. kirklove

        Quick one: You had NBC, ABC, and CBS. You still have them. They are still the “big” boys. But look at the landscape on TV. It’s completely splintered with amazing niche content. (AMC, TNT, FX, HBO, ShowTime, Netflix if you will, to name just a few). Same is happening on the net.

        1. Vasudev Ram


        2. fredwilson

          those are some big niches

          1. kirklove

            Spoken like a true VC ;)And I don’t equate niche with small. More the definition of well-suited for a particular market. One close to home for you is something like WattPad. Huge to a very specific audience. Not really known outside it.

  30. Amar

    This is a hard problem.Security -> Everybody needs it – society deserves it but it is as sexy as eating cardboard. Till we crack the “security vs convenience” tradeoff, I don’t think this will gain mass traction from the user end. It will be table stakes from the enterprise end due to compliance and legal implications.Privacy -> Everyone is for it but most of us are selling it on a daily basis. “You are the product” is a cliche but a very poorly understood cliche. Privacy will continue to face a up hill battle as long as the benefits offered in exchange for my private data continues to ‘feel’ incredibly compelling.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      Privacy will continue to face a up hill battle as long asOr as long as it take for people to get a clearer visualization of the accumulating longer term social costs associated with such casual forfeiture of their collective privacy.It is hard to evaluate the cost benefits of a trade-off when you have no yet accumulated enough experience to properly evaluate the more etherial side of the equation.

  31. Salt Shaker

    To be most effective and successful, DDG’s value prop prob needs to either implicitly (or explicitly) leverage the greatest motivator of all–FEAR.

  32. ShanaC

    I think the question isn’t about privacy – its about identity and how we react to machines.In order to make the internet really work for more people – it needs data. This is a data economy. But how a computer reacts is the difference between creepy and useful.We need to de-creepify the machine, and make it feel like they are working for us. Otherwise, the datasets will be poorer than they should be, and they won’t work for us.And it is critical that we get this data too – one of the reasons medical care in the US is god awful at times – lack of personalization – which a machine can handle :)(I was thinking of this article while writing this:

  33. David Silver

    Peter Thiel is vocal that a search company needs to capture 30% market share just to break even.…Fred is suggesting DuckDuckGo may not even grow to 5% market share, but would still be a good business.Is Thiel just wrong? Does DuckDuckGo’s privacy focus allow it to save massive costs by intentionally offering a weaker product?

    1. fredwilson

      DDG is profitable now so Peter is wrong

  34. Liban Mahamed

    Duckduckgo is simply a good engine even without the privacyIt is simple, has clean interface, and works with many browsers. It is great with Mozilla Fox, compatibility between the two. I hope they added an email service with no spamThey will make life really simple

  35. John Revay

    Fred – still assuming Google is scanning your Google apps data and serving up ads to you – via other feeds.

  36. Laura Yecies

    Differentiating through privacy is not new but it is taking on more importance in the current environment. Fred’s post asked about other categories and I believe we will see privacy differentiated apps across the board. We already have for messaging and new players such as and even Bittorrent do so for file sync & share (fs&s). In fact, I would argue that the fs&s space should be among the most sensitive to privacy based on it’s nature with potentially having full files out there in the ether.

  37. Peter Mullen

    And if you want to share files/content privately:

  38. Semil Shah

    1, it’s possible DDG is growing for reasons besides privacy, and 2, I’m not sure the public will believe products are truly private after the Snowden & NSA news. Even snapchat got hit with FCC penalties for not disposing of photos. It may be a feature but not driver. Maybe the big play here are pirate, ad hoc mesh networks.

  39. Isaac G

    The product I’ve been waiting for is a private simplified version of facebook that is based on a cheap subscription with no data collection or ads. Given that FB makes less than $2/user even a subscription of 5 bucks a year should cover it. Just needs a minor profile page, news feed, and ability to make events. The rest of FB features are superfluous. Everyone younger than 30yo is probably smart enough to use adblock and doesn’t see any of facebooks ads anyhow. I’d rather pay for the products I want than put up with advertising bs – a reason I doubt I will ever pay for cable in my life. success of netflix and spotify shows people are willing to pay and give up ads

  40. hypermark

    Specific to this notion, I have a thesis that Apple is going to go on a marketing offensive against Google, premised on the idea that the downside of open, free and loosely coupled is that it translates to less privacy, less security and the consumer as the product.Of course, Apple will wordsmith this in more marketing friendly terms, like user experience, integration and continuity, but it’s one area where Google is seemingly vulnerable.Time for a iOS vs. Android version of the Mac vs. PC Campaign?

  41. Danny Sullivan

    The others aren’t doing the same because players who had well north of 1% of the market in the past, such as, found that “private” search engines generally didn’t catch on. People really weren’t that bothered. And despite DuckDuckGo’s growth, that growth is nothing compared to Google. It’s literally nothing. But let’s assume DDG does manager to triple its daily search volume over three years — which is a pretty tough challenge. Handling that much volume will require more staff. It’ll also require more money. Money which will come from ads. When the audience you’re targeting is probably the audience least likely to want those ads.That’s a lot of ifs for the other companies to pursue for what’s likely to be at best, a marginal profit. There’s no real incentive for them to do what DDG is doing. Most of their users are absolutely not so concerned about privacy that they’re leaving (which is why DDG’s growth has had zilch impact on Google and Bing — they’ve not lost any significant users).If privacy really were a feature lots of people wanted, above and beyond the privacy that both Google and Bing provide (it’s not like they don’t provide any privacy at all), they could flip a DDG-like service on overnight.

    1. kidmercury

      damn. nothing but cold hard truth here. +1

    2. fredwilson

      Hi Danny. Thanks for stopping by and joining this discussion. I appreciate it. All that you say is true and we understood all of that when we made this investment. But there are few things that I would add. First, privacy seems to matter more to more people today than it did three or five or ten years ago. Second, what is insignificant to Google and Microsoft may be very significant to you or me. If DDG triples their search volume over the next two to three years, they will be a multi hundred million dollar revenue company. When you’ve only done one small round of VC (that you have never spent), the numbers work out differently for the entrepreneur and the VC

      1. Danny Sullivan

        Thanks, Fred — it’s a good discussion to have.I want to believe that privacy seems to matter more. I really do. But the believing doesn’t seem to be backed up by the behavior. The moves Ask did were precisely in response to a growing worry that Google was taking in too much data. It did nothing for them.The Snowden era has certainly ramped things up on the concern far more than that, but I still (sadly) think it translates into a lot of “meh” among most users. They’ll say all types of things about being worried how they’re data will be used, when you ask them — then they go right on using Google (which tends to be the biggest target for privacy accusations).To me, it’s sort of like all the credit card leaks. You’d think after people continually have their credit cards hacked, stolen, data taken, that there would be some big huge outcry. But there’s not. My own personal theory is that there’s a “what are you gonna do” attitude.Add to that the fact that each day, Google in particular continues to actually build up trust with its users. The most important thing they want are good answers. Each day they get that from Google, each day that Google effectively works as that “best friend,” the more faith they have in it. Sure, they might hear people question that maybe this friend isn’t to be trusted, that maybe this friend will go all bad, that maybe this friend is just using them. But for what they want most, it’s still being a good friend. And when you get into the amazing things it can do when it does build data profiles, such as Google Now, that’s especially a lock-in.I commonly hear people talk about Google Now as “scary good.” They get the scary part, of how much Google knows about them. But they also get the good part about what Google can do when it does, and the good seems to outweigh the scary.But as for DDG, I totally agree — kept small, there’s a business and potentially a profitable one. Perhaps its millions or hundreds of millions versus Google’s billions, but that’s still a business.But back to your question about why the others don’t do — for the big players, it’s not worthwhile for what’s effectively pocket change. For smaller players, I suppose some DDG rivals might come along, but I doubt few have a founder like Gabriel, who is such a driving force in DDG’s success.As for other product categories, email seems a huge potential. But then as Lavabit learned, the government can screw with you in ways to mess with your economics. But maybe other niche private areas will emerge.Oh, a personal plea — help DDG get a better name. It needs one. Lean on Yahoo, get them to sell AltaVista to DDG. Now there’s a name that could use a reboot, great history behind it.

        1. fredwilson

          i have told Gabe on many occasions that i think the DDG name is holding him back. he doesn’t see it that way and as you point it out, Gabe is DDG. so i have to trust him on these things.DDG is profitable and has been since before we invested.

    3. Fredrik Cornell

      (Disclosure: I am the founder and CEO of Motherpipe)Danny is quite right of course, we have been here before with Ask and so on, and what users say in surveys (Pew from last year found that 69% of Americans think that search privacy is important) is different from how they behave.But my feeling is that the Snowden effect is very real. People are now starting to realise what privacy is and that there are viable good alternatives to Google and Bing, like DDG. However, there is still some way to go in terms of educating people about privacy. For example, a lot of people think that the incognito window provides a lot more privacy than it actually does.But the really exciting story here is that much of the growth of the internet over the next few years will be in countries where users have a different take on privacy altogether. Indian users are considerably more concerned about their personal privacy online than German users for instance. This is why Motherpipe are rolling out in India, Turkey and Russia before many other perhaps more obvious choices.We estimate the anonymous segment to be 0.1% of the total search market today and close to a per cent in 2016 with 300% growth Y/Y, compared with 13% for the overall market. There really is no reason it cannot continue to grow, particularly outside the US and Europe.With global paid search adspend calculated to reach $71bn in 2016 – this niche market will be worth over $500m. This is a market we as a small start up are very excited to be in.Stats athttp://www.bigbrotherwatch….

    4. FerTo

      But i think there is a difference between what tried and what is duckduckgo doing. First, for years, has supported a lot of OS-projects with there ask toolbar, like google and yahoo, and in my opinion had a reputation of supporting some Spam-Projects, Adware etc.My personal experience with Ask was, that there was a search engine which was installed on my computer without realizing it. So my next reaction was to delete Ask and its toolbar from Firefox, IE.Second, as fredwilson writes it, there is a significant change in how people are thinking about privacy nowadays. Thanks to Snowden, a lot of people are getting aware of the fact that a lot of “trusted” companies are collecting, analyzing, selling this data. So you can’t generalize your statement that “users are not interested” in private search engines. It will take time and a lot of more scandals and security discussion in public media.As with DuckDuckGo, Google also started as a simple search engine and is now a big tech company. DDG is starting with “simple” Advertisement but i can imagine that after three years DDG is starting additional services and features. They could enter the mobile search market with specialized products. And according to… the mobile search business is not a google dominated market.

  42. Danny Sullivan

    This also gives you some perspective on DDG versus Google in terms of what a tiny share DDG really has, as well as how others have tried to play the privacy card in the past but not grown audience

  43. Mike Geer (MG)

    I work with AnchorFree (Hotspot Shield) and we work to give freedom of access and privacy to all people, no matter where they live, as they use the internet. There is definitely room for the privacy vector. However, I would say there is even more room for the decentralization of the internet. And not even at the magnitude mentioned earlier in the comments, but at a larger level. People’s desire for access to the world’s information, will drastically change the current face of the internet and in just the next 5-10 years. Bets like MESH networks and other p2p methods will soon reach a tipping point and that will both endanger all the companies with business models based squarely on the centralize internet, like cloud (dropbox, etc.) and will also open up tons of new niches that the bigger players will not be able to quickly run into.More importantly, this will create a more decentralized and thus robust internet, which is what is most crucial to the world.Happy to discuss more with anyone in that space.

  44. Pete Griffiths

    I recall commenting about this fairly recently. My point was that so many apps demand access to so much information – a good deal of which adds no value to the user experience and serves only to better inform the developer – that it is intrusive and that I felt there was a market for paid apps that do not demand that kind of access. I would buy those apps and I don’t think I’m alone. A niche indeed.

  45. Andrew Graziani

    In my experience, US consumers are frequently willing to trade (explicitly or implicitly) privacy for service or lower/no cost. To continue the generalization, European customers often start from a completely different standpoint — personal data is owned and can’t be used by third parties without explicit permission. And that cultural leaning is support by the law. Witness the recent Google “right-to-be-forgotten” decision in Spain. So my sense is the US market for DDG could have a pretty hard cap. To the extent you can share, is the relative usage rate higher in Europe?

  46. Ciaran

    Lavabit proved that privacy isn’t a sustainable model. I’d be interested to hear how DDG would deal with similar requests (which they undoubtedly will be if they get any sort of real scale)

  47. george

    Any company (like DDG) that can grab 6 million + searches per day away from Google has built the case study that privacy can be a competitive vector.I think we should all ask ourselves, are we more cautious about our data privacy today than we were just 5 years ago? I believe the majority would say yes; so that equals opportunity.

  48. dwanguard

    There is no weakness in privacy. It is just matter of where and when is implemented. Which is at the same time reason why some things are not caught on or present on web.Without privacy many tasks have no sense and percentage on use will be much higher than in case of search engine as it becomes more important factor.Then you have a block chain, so no excuse for not providing those services.Web has to transform it’s perception to become safe and productive environment. Privacy is one part of that effort.

  49. jason wright

    is ‘privacy’ the right word? perhaps ‘autonomy’ is the vector.

  50. Sean Hull

    When I read this headline, I think of the Android versus iPhone debate. I think of Windows versus Mac. I think of beta versus vhs. I think of railroads that built incompatible tracks to thwart competition.There are countless examples of how open standards have lost, even while they are clearly a win for consumers.I think privacy is like this. Its very good for consumers, but just like open standards it rarely drives them to buy. I would argue most people choose what’s easy in the short term, even if it’s more painful in the long term.Perhaps this is why despite all the privacy concerns, Android is still growing.(And Fred, I think you’re wrong about Apple…

  51. Sergey Nazarov

    Totally agree on a lot of this… solves the email issue by sending email through the NXT blockchain so nobody has to trust the company’s servers with their messages.I mean, how private are you *really* if the company hosting your information can still see it?Making data public is also a good move, what if you could put valuable data through a blockchain and nobody could manipulate it, even if they really wanted to; I would trust that data.

  52. John Skorick

    Capturing 1.7% of Google’s search volume and being a multi-hundred million dollar revenue company (projected) is proof that there is a market for privacy in search. However, I believe there is also truth in what Danny Sullivan says regarding peoples behavior indicating that privacy is not a big concern. At least not for most. Sure, there has been a lot of outcry about the NSA, the Target breach or what have you but in my opinion, much of this due to people loving to outcry for the sake outcrying. Especially when they can do so via the massive soapbox which social media has become. I do believe, though, that people can and do care about privacy in certain instances and that this will only grow with raised awareness.I am the founder of a privacy startup in the mobile communication space and when we originally sat down to put together a paid search marketing campaign it was maddening. Not due to oversaturation of competitors, but because there was so little search volume in the category. This raised the question, was it because people didn’t care (big problem), or people didn’t know (solvable problem-hopefully)?Call it blind optimism but our feeling was that this was due to people not knowing such tools existed or, more importantly, the many ways in which their privacy was being violated which, in turn, would lead them to seek out a solution. With this in mind we set out with education as a key marketing strategy. Over the course of a year, we created a massive number of blog articles in a wide range of privacy related topics and to this day, the most popular article by a wide margin is one regarding whether children should have cell phones in school. Now, granted, parents are going to seek out articles related to their children and kids and cell phones is a popular topic. However, we wrote about many popular topics, pressing topics and downright scary topics and they received little attention in comparison.I’ve also personally educated everyone from friends and colleagues to strangers on a plane to the nice young woman who used to cut my hair (I moved) about the information that is out there. Things such as people search sites are selling their info to strangers and what could be done to mitigate this activity. This was almost always met with shock and horror and a lot of omg and promises to follow-up and seek the help I’d offered(for free) but rarely did said follow-up happen. Perhaps I’m not very convincing or the omg’s were directed at me giving a damn about such things. But people use our service. Like DDG in search, it’s a small share of the call/ text space but our customers use more data every month and retain month over month so, also like DDG, I believe we have proof of concept.I believe it still comes down to education, as well as the category. In the case of the NSA or Target I agree with Danny that people have a “what can you do” attitude becausethose are such massive obstacles. But in the case of search, email or other communication mediums, people need to first be made aware of the actual privacy implications which exist, and then the tools available to help them.

  53. awaldstein

    as either for me.

  54. bsoist

    Indeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently.

  55. SubstrateUndertow

    Are these two goal necessarily mutually excessive or can we evolve some optimizing tools for setting our preferred tipping point between the two ?

  56. JimHirshfield