DuckDuckGo Moves Beyond Search

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo which offers a search engine that doesn’t store your search history or track you announced some new offerings this week.
Here’s a quote from the announcement:

Over the years, DuckDuckGo has offered millions of people a private alternative to Google, serving over 16 billion anonymous searches. Today we’re excited to launch fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, extending DuckDuckGo’s protection beyond the search box to wherever the Internet takes you.

As I understand it, you can get this browsing protection via the DuckDuckGo mobile app and from their browser extensions.
You can get them here:

FirefoxSafariChromeiOS, and Android

DuckDuckGo is moving beyond search into a broader suite of privacy offerings. They have built up the trust of users over the years and can now apply that to a wider set of problems.

Along the way DuckDuckGo has built a great business too. As founder/CEO Gabe Weinberg explains in this interview with Techcrunch, DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014.

It’s very satisfying to me to know that in an era where billions are being made walking all over our privacy, a great business can be built protecting it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. kenberger

    I Googled “What is duckduckgo’s business model?”, and found it a quick (and not particularly shocking) read:

    1. JimHirshfield

      Like any search engine, just not using user level data. Strongest signal is words people use in their searches.

      1. Pointsandfigures

        Gotta assume small, lean and scrappy team.

        1. JamesHRH

          Second gen founder who codes. He could, literally, be doing this w a couple of buddies, ala Marcus Frink.

  2. JimHirshfield

    I read and tweeted that TechCrunch article this morning. So great to see DDG grow and expand into a broader offering. So right for the times. Prescient of you to invest in this so many years ago when many laughed at you.

    1. Richard

      I don’t recall anyone challenging this investment beyond saying that privacy for the millennial generation is a niche that is of little importance.

      1. JimHirshfield

        The criticism that I recall from back then was, who in their right mind would try to compete with Google in search sector. Value of privacy less on investors’ radars.

        1. jason wright

          DDG isn’t competing. It’s going in a direction that hitherto Google has been unable to go (I’m not sure if a token model might change that). I think that was the central point that prompted the USV investment (an Andy Weissman spot?).

          1. ralphtweety

            Sorry, but, something’s off about your comment … Maybe this part, “… a direction that hitherto Google has been unable to go …”!?? You mean unable like, hands-tied? Google goes where it plans to go which is decidedly and openly in the opposite direction of privacy, and hooks us with really good tool sets. Good news is, they’re not the only ones with good online tool sets, including search tools and infrastructures. (There is life after Google.)

          2. jason wright

            Google goes where its network effect monopoly business model takes it. It has no greater ‘values’ than that. It’s an autocratic monster, a dragon, and it needs to be slayed. All web monoliths need to be slayed.’Internet We’.

          3. ralphtweety

            We’re on the same page. Do you want wing meat or thigh meat?

          4. JimHirshfield

            That’s understood by most of us around here. But at the time, some strictly questioned whether the market needed another search engine, especially since google is so dominant.

  3. Richard

    DuckDuckGovernment – 2012-2016 FBI

  4. bsaitz

    Sorry, I find DDG pretty useless. It’s basically a front end for wikipedia. And the lack of maps and other adjacent search repositories further erodes any value. And using bing ads is a path for a small to limited revenue stream – i get amazon ads 90% of the time.I trust Fred, but assume they hope to get bought, I don’t see another exit possible

    1. Kent Karlsen

      DDG are profitable since 2014. Why sell?

      1. bsaitz

        with those crappy ads? good for them. still dubious about a real future

  5. Druce

    Makes a lot of sense … first step, block the Big Brother apps like Facebook and Google from tracking all your info, next step maybe blockchain enabled apps sharing your profile data of the kind the platforms collect, but in a win-win for the user and ecommerce companies, instead of Google & FB strip-mining the user’s privacy.

  6. Twain Twain

    Andriy Burkov, Gartner’s Head of Machine Learning, shared that Duck Duck Go is a UX layer on top of Microsoft’s Powerset search engine so is not a search engine as such.

    1. falicon

      I believe it started as a layer on top of Yahoo search…but being a ‘techie’ (who has built a search engine), this has always bothered me as well. It’s not a ‘search’ company. It’s a privacy company.The first product was a privacy layer that sits on top of, and augments the experience of, a search engine.If you classify the company in this way, I’m all in and love it…just please don’t call it a “search” company.

      1. Twain Twain

        Thanks! I literally didn’t know until Andriy shared his views on search engines a couple of weeks back. I’m learning lots of things on LinkedIn!

      2. PhilipSugar

        See above.

        1. falicon

          Agree with your overall point…but it’s like saying selling and marketing are the same job (because the general public thinks so).I am only sensitive to it because I have actually built a search engine (and it isn’t easy)…but yes, would not argue the point outsode of this board or other tech circles…

          1. PhilipSugar

            Exactly. 100% agreement.

      3. Jean

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    2. PhilipSugar

      Here is the thing, and I am in no way being negative.To the user……it is a search engine.Ok you and I know and can be precise.But the user who has no clue???? Just confusing, and you lose.Let me give an example.We have a process that runs every 15 seconds to give a clients customer a message.A fucking developer insisted on proving that he was the smartest person in the room to the client and pointed out that the process was not real time.The only thing that client a marketing person who could not program on ten orders of magnitude with any of my 10 year old Lego League kids??I need it real time, I need it real time, it’s not real time. When is it gong to be real time??!!!I want to strangle the fucking programmer, because he was the one that pointed out we need to run a process to not slow down the transaction going in sub 500ms and we could then run a process every 15 seconds.So it is great to discuss on these boards, but to the customer?? Hell no.Being the “smartest” is what kicks technical people in the ass every time.I am the “stupidest” I am Columbo. People think I am the lowliest person in the room. This is judo. This is why tech people have to bridge the gap and that is what I do.

      1. Twain Twain

        I didn’t know it wasn’t a search engine until Andriy said so either, and I’m technical!A lot of it is to do with the way products and technologies are marketed and communicated.It’s like the issues to do with “What is Blockchain/bitcoin/ethereum?” There have been numerous posts and threads where AVC community’s batted those around.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I again am being in no way negative, it’s a great discussion point.If Duck Duck Go said well we are “UX layer on top of Microsoft’s Powerset search engine so is not a search engine as such”Versus you get to search in private. They would not be successful.If you tell marketing people my AI algorithms are better because of X, Y, Z, versus: The majority of buyers are women and that is what you are using AI for, but men have been the ones building these algorithms and they are skewed masculine, but I know and have been able to get it done correctly for feminine because I am one of the very few women in the field, you are going to get much better results with the latter.

          1. Twain Twain

            Ah, Phil, we’ve all worked out you’re never negative about anything! Haha!Yes, to the marketing people, we say we’ve walked in the shoes of the target market being female ourselves.To the investors, we give them metrics and cap tables that make them happy.

  7. JLM

    .Privacy is dead. Long live privacy.To put that into perspective, Google does almost 4 Billion searches per day (DDG does 16 Billion per year, YEAR) and more than 2 Trillion per year.On Google, they retain your search history justifying it as a means of speeding up subsequent searches.On DDG, they do not retain your search history touting it as a privacy measure.I love the idea. Does it really mean anything?The question gets down to the legal issue — “Does anyone have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy today?” The answer to that is becoming not just “no” but HELL NO.Still, I love the idea that somebody is thinking about privacy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      On Google, they retain your search history justifying it as a means of speeding up subsequent searches.You can turn that off if you are logged into google. Also if by cookie you can clear those out periodically if it matters.I don’t know of a case where google is logging you by either ip address or browser footprint. Possible but not very likely.Most ‘normals’ don’t really care that much about this entire issue. It’s something that whiny tech people think a great deal about though. Or the EFF. I think it has it’s roots in what I will call ‘pot paranoia’. [1]The other paradox is this. The people who seem to discuss this are usually doing it in a open and non-anonymous manner. And they are exposing themselves in far far more personal ways than anything that a search engine would ever have or care about.[1] You know something similar is when you are a kid 16 and get your first drivers license and you start to speed you get all paranoid when a cop passes you on the other side of a divided road and you think he will actually turn around at the jug handle and give you a ticket because you were going 20 mph over the posted 55 speed limit. As if.

    2. Salt Shaker

      How do you define a biz? By what the biz does, how it benefits the end user and how the biz is monetized. GOOG and DDG sort of compete on the first point (search) and it fundamentally ends there. Niche product whose relevancy has and will continue to grow w/ time. Seemed irrelevant a few years ago, certainly to me, a lot less so today.

      1. DJL

        What am I missing? Search is the perfect blockchain token business model. Rather than Google getting paid every time I search, i get paid. Certainly someone is doing this. But better to start with an organization that has some search footprint.

        1. Salt Shaker

          Agree. Easily testable model too, assuming token incentives drives traffic and affiliate sales, w/ out eroding margins too much.

        2. LE

          Rather than Google getting paid every time I search, i get paid.Paid for what exactly? So you do a search for ‘how to build a bomb’ and who is paying you and for what reason?Even if you search for ‘room humidifier’ why is someone paying you for what exactly and why? Part of this is already how google makes money obvious with the bid platform.And forget what happens if you incentivize people to search and pay them (in whatever way you want). So then people simply game that to make money.And google would fail to exist as a search engine w/o ad revenue that is what keeps them in the game.

          1. Salt Shaker

            Suppose incentivization was based, not on traffic/searches, but bounties tied to purchases made via affiliate sites in the form of a token credit. DDG can control margins, profit and any potential gaming. In essence, it’s a rewards type program. You could also segment users into Platinum, Gold and Silver tiers w/ enhanced benefits at the top. Potential acquisition target for AMZN: e.g., another way to feed the e-commerce funnel?

          2. DJL

            Yes – What you said! Google has essentially become the world’s largest middle-man.

          3. DJL

            My point (which I didn’t really discuss) is that Google gets way too much of the pie between my eyeballs and the advertiser. And they give crappy results in a lot of areas. There needs to be an incentive system to switch from Google. They are a monopoly and treat their paying customers (advertiser) like shit.

          4. PhilipSugar

            Serious question do they visit you? Our former next door neighbor was a huge payday loan company (I know sleazy as it gets) They targeted loans mainly for government employees because they pretty much had to pay (just when you thought it couldn’t get sleazier) and they would pay Google something like $50k a day because while they made little or no money on the first loan it was the repeat loans that made money (yes I talked to them but made sure I disinfected myself afterwords)I did get invited to some mighty nice dinners in limos (people like dragging me along, it doesn’t cost them a penny) on Google’s dime.

    3. DJL

      They are missing the boat, in my opinion. The REAL opportunity is to scoop up all of the disenfranchised advertisers that hate Google but cannot leave. Provide a clear and fair advertising model and can gain market share (accept for the goofy name).

  8. jschless

    Love this. Started to use Brave browser which has DDG integrated. 2018 is the year of increased privacy and privacy awareness for me.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  9. Steven Kane

    Love it. I’m in.

  10. jason wright

    how is DDG making its money?

    1. DJL

      The Google monster is funded by almost completely by PPC. I am wondering how DDG compares in conversion rate and Cost-Per-Action metrics.I see only one Ad for a keyword I routinely pay $2-$3/click for. To me their competitive advantage should be honesty and transparency with advertisers.

  11. DJL

    This makes sense. But this privacy feature is a key part of the “holy grail” of blockchain. (Especially as highlighted in Stephen’s NY Times piece.) Does a blockchain-based search make DDgo irrelevant in the future?

  12. sigmaalgebra

    Yup.Actually, my startup and Web site are not in competition with search at DDG, Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.Yup, for user privacy, early on and still, I’ve decided that my Web site startup should be one of the best for protecting user privacy. For one, the site doesn’t make any use of HTTP cookies, and that also made writing the software a little easier! For another assurance of privacy, the user’s Web browser does not need to enable JavaScript. Microsoft’s .NET ASP.NET for developing Web pages writes a little JavaScript for me, but I have not written even a single line of it. I’m not sure just why ASP.NET writes some JavaScript, but maybe it has to do with some issue of convenient, default cursor positioning. Whatever the reason, the Web pages work fine without JavaScript. Note: There is a recent article, my reference to it is not available to me at the moment, on some of the surprising privacy and security threats of JavaScript.My startup hit a chuckhole in the road: After a lot of work, my development computer setup, configuration, tools collection, etc. were terrific, and I quickly typed in the 100,000 lines of the software — apparently ready for production. Then that computer got some data corruption. Then maybe it got well. Then the corruption returned. I struggled with the corruption and shopped for parts for two new computers, one for development and one for the first server. The corruption got worse, and finally a week or so ago the corruption was so bad that Windows would not run at all.Yup, I had essentially all my files backed up to a little Western Digital (WD) Passport 2 trillion byte (2 TB) USB-connected hard disk drive!Then I didn’t have a computer at all so rushed out and got an HP laptop with Windows 10, restored my main tools from the WD drive, and now have the HP okay for simple things. I continued my shopping for parts, ordered them, have received some, and have the rest are on the way. It will be a nice computer — (1) AMD FX-8350 processor, 8 cores at 4.0 GHz, (2) 16 GB of error correcting coding (ECC) main memory, (3) two disk drives at 500 GB each plus two more disk drives at 200 GB each from my old computer at which time I will have access again to the last two weeks or so of my files on my old computer and not backed up to the WD.What’s with this ECC stuff? Well, Microsoft’s SQL Server insists on ECC. I like it. too. E.g., once I took a whole grad course on algebraic coding theory! No doubt the ECC ideas are just some relatively simple parts of R. Hamming’s work at Bell Labs.So, with so many disk drives, there will be a lot of backup, internal and external. If any one hard drive fails, then I will keep going, replace the drive, and lose little or nothing. The computer case is large with lots of room. So, when needed I can expand to 2 TB drives and a solid state drive (SSD). If the site starts to get popular, there is one place in my software where an SSD drive could give a big performance boost.Look at the price and performance of those parts and conclude “amazing times we are living in”!!!My rough, back of the envelope arithmetic indicates that if people like my Web site well enough to keep that AMD FX-8350 processor even half busy, then I will have a nicely profitable business, a good “life style” business, and a lot of promise for a lot of growth. Back to “amazing times we’re living in”, the arithmetic suggests revenue of ballpark $250,000 a month. The cost of the processor? As of last weekend at Amazon, $115. Did I mention amazing times?The problem I’m solving has been around for a long time. Various people have taken a swing at the problem, but in football terms so far no one has even gotten to a first down. E.g., way back there, a computer science grad student at CMU tried: Apparently some people gave him a reading list of some elementary math. He went off and read and concluded that a solution was not possible due to four problems. He gave a talk at Google on his negative results. He was right about the four problems. And if just look at some of the elementary math in a simplistic way, then can conclude that there can be no solution. But by the time I saw this guy’s Google foils, etc., I’d already seen the four problems, derived some solid, original math for an astoundingly good, fast solution, designed and written the code, and had it running and giving good results.Lesson: It’s not a computer science problem. The computer science needed is trivial. Instead it’s an applied math problem. And there, need some original work in applied math.So, why is the problem still sitting there? Likely and apparently I’m the only person in the world who, all of, sees the problem, was able to do the original applied math, and was motivated enough to do the rest of the work.Essentially everyone else who would consider this problem would assume that, because some computing, even amazing computing such as the AMD FX-8350, was involved, it was a computer science problem. Nope. Sorry guys.Applied math? Uh, some of the math prerequisites are advanced! If all this works, then I should be good to the university grad school that guided and taught me some of the math!

  13. Mike Masello

    I gave this a shot. In theory I like the option, but in practice they don’t seem to want to have people easily use duck duck go AND google. Or is Chrome to blame? After installing the Chrome extension it made itself the default for the omnibar (address/search box). I then wanted to toggle between the two and there’s no easy way to do this. You can’t even have it setup in chrome://settings/ to use the default search engine drop-down to switch between the two. The extension is either enabled or not. If they can change this I’d use it.

  14. PhilipSugar

    GO PAOLI, PA. Gabe as a Connestoga HS Grad, and my Dad’s homestead on 252 reach out anytime. Yes I was raised in DFW which makes me a “cockroach for this SuperBowl, but my business partner AirBNB’d a house 6 stops south of the stadium on the light rail.What a great use case. The owner could not care less but she gets an all expenses paid trip to SF and he gets to stay.

    1. PhilipSugar

      You know what would be a cool case for AirBNB? Barter. You trade your house for a trip to another.

  15. ralphtweety

    As an end-user I’m a little disappointed to learn that MS lies beneath DDG, but, oh well. I like it and am otherwise glad to hear that it’s continuing to be developed.

  16. PhilipSugar

    Actually no that is not the answer. Because now you are building custom software. Go down that path and you have no product.

    1. falicon

      I didn’t say actually build anything (worst case, up the scheduled task to every 10 seconds) – remember it’s all about the perception 😉

      1. PhilipSugar

        Yes. To a non technical user getting an email or text after performing an action within 15 seconds max is “real time”Now realize if you are on a point of sale or website, above 500ms is not real time. But also under 500ms is really not much of a goal as an eye blink takes 400ms.But you will still get jackasses that say can’t you make that 100ms, to which you say that is the delay my voice on the phone that you can’t even tell.My point is this and I am in no way being nasty I am being instructive. Tech people spouting about specs and end users just think faster is better, and since they really have no clue in almost all of the times they just “want it all” In some cases it is, but if you asked me on the processor speed of the computer I’m typing it on, I don’t know.

  17. Drew Meyers

    I love it. I really hope there are many models like this prioritizing privacy coming in the future.