Is it time to stop using Google search?

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Is it time to stop using Google search?
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DuckDuckGo, the privacy-conscious search engine, is growing in popularity. Here's why, and what you need to know about it.

Let’s face it, Google probably knows everything about you. Whether it’s through the search engine, Chrome browser, Android phone or Gmail, the company is learning new things about you each day.

In fact, last year, Google launched an opt-in service known as ‘My Activity’, a page where you can see everything Google has learnt about you in one place. 

It’s not just Google either. The likes of Apple and Microsoft also know a fair bit about you through their various devices, software and services. In fact, a recent report rated tech companies on how much they can be trusted with your data.

However, you can take action to improve your privacy. We’ve explained elsewhere how to use My Activity to discover, edit or remove everything Google knows about you, lock down your privacy on Windows 10,  encrypt  all your data across all your devices,  and compared some free and commercial VPNs. And if you can reduce how much Google learns about you in simple ways, such as not being logged into your Google account when web browsing.

You can also stop using the Google and other popular search engines altogether.

‘A search engine that doesn’t track you’

DuckDuckGo is an alternative that describes itself as “the search engine that doesn’t track you”, promising not to collect any information about its users, including their IP address.

And perhaps not surprisingly, it’s gaining in popularity.  According to figures from Alexa, DuckDuckGo has almost doubled its popularity in the past year.

DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008 by founder Gabriel Weinberg, who funded it himself until it secured investment with Union Square Ventures in 2011. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Unlike other search engines, when you click on a link through DuckDuckGo the site you are sent to knows nothing about the words you used to find it. “What you search for is your own business and we’d like to keep it that way,” the company says.

DuckDuckGo recently reported that only 24% of adults care enough about their online privacy to take action to protect it while 65% would be motivated to switch search engines if they knew the search engine wouldn't collect personal data. 

DuckDuckGo features

The search engine is aimed at providing a quicker answer, requiring fewer clicks. It uses features called Instant Answers, which provide an answer without leaving the app, and !bangs, which take you straight to a particular website.

Elsewhere, the website offers a service that automatically changes the address of well-known websites to encrypted versions, if you click through its search engine.

Plus it offers fewer adverts. “Less clutter, less spam, fewer ads and an overall cleaner design,” the company says. “We can do this since we just focus on web search and therefore don't have to promote other services on our results pages.”

When it comes to advertising, DuckDuckGo makes money based on the keywords a user searches for, rather than the details of the person, meaning it does not need to collect any other information to create lucrative advertising.

Next: Integrating DuckDuckGo with your web browser

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