My take on how DuckDuckGo can outperform Google.

The Current Status Quo

If we look at Statcounter’s data for the usage and popularity of search engines, we’ll find that Google is the absolute number one. It has a monopolistic position when compared with its closest follower (Bing with a 3.3%)

Nevertheless, let’s look at the United States. We start to notice a bit of competition and a new player emerging, DuckDuckGo, that is reaching the popularity of the ex-number one Yahoo.

They’re currently managing 21,754,180,069 queries for 2022. Also, they’ve had almost exponential growth since 2010, as shown in the chart below.

There are many justifications about why this is happening in the U.S., but one of the most widely accepted is its high focus on privacy for its users. Thus, this search engine is mainly preferred by people interested in preserving their privacy.

Some of the current key features that this search engine offers are the following:

  • All the searches done are always anonymous.- They won’t store their search history, won’t track their IP address, and essentially has no personal data to sell.
  • Business location directions are provided exclusively by Apple Maps. Strengthening its position to care about the privacy of its users.
  • Instant Answers pull responses from more than 100 sources around the web.
  • And its most popular and used feature is !Bang, which allows its users to search directly on different websites (like Amazon, Wikipedia, Yelp, and others).

Nevertheless, some people still argue that DuckDuckGo is still not good as Google because of its tiny market share. Nevertheless, I consider that there are some opportunities for growth that Google is not paying attention to.

Opportunities.

Stop trying to look like Google.

In July of 2022, we got the news that some Google Executives suggested Instagram and TikTok are eating into Google’s core products, Search and Maps. Indeed, as you can see in this Reddit post, more users are looking for different alternatives when looking for information.

I’ve experienced this when looking for technical references, documentation, and open source projects. It’s easier to access a specific community on Reddit and search for information because it’s easier to navigate information on social networks than on SEO-optimized websites that are probably just ads.

Thus, indexing and pulling information from sites like Reddit, Twitter, TikTok, and others is the first opportunity. Furthermore, including multimedia results by analyzing videos is a great way to show valuable content to users. Maybe including a !Bang to search into TikTok could be a killer feature.

Arrange that algorithm to make it less vulnerable to SEO hacking.

We only need to run a simple search in Google to find the current problem with how marketing agencies are wrongfully abusing SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Also, you must scroll a big part of your screen to find results that are not paid or just inferior content optimized to rank first on the results.

Nowadays, the Internet is flooded with SEO gurus and optimization tools that put low-quality content high on the ranking leaving good content below, making it difficult for users to find valuable content. I’ve personally experienced this when looking for information on Google, so I prefer to access directly to a credible website and then search for information. For example, try to look for business classes, and all the free lessons available from credible business schools (HBS, MIT Sloan, etc.) will rank lower than a high-cost BootCamp.

This makes me wonder if Google now is actually different from AltaVista, Lycos, or other search engines in the early 2000s. The focus of most of those portals was to present ads and keep the users as much as possible on their website.

So, that’s another opportunity for DuckDuckGo, by ranking the results based on the content’s quality and relevance, as Google used to do before. I consider that there are some methods to accomplish this; one could be to rank the content through the community or actually use artificial intelligence to categorize the academic/relevance level. Also, there is a new opportunity opening for the ads product now that the Department of Justice of the United States sued Google over its Digital Ad Market.

Discard AI-generated text.

Another major source of low-quality content is websites that automatically generate content using AI. Advanced APIs like GPT-3 can automatically create articles that are tailored to rank higher in response to trending topics. Most of these articles don’t care if they’re adding value but how they can push a product/service.

These types of services are making life easier for SEO Managers and Salespeople, but it’s flooding the web with repetitive content that doesn’t add value. Making it more difficult for users to find useful and valuable results.

For me, it’s hard to imagine a world where 90% of the content is automatically generated with marketing tools. So, here lies another opportunity for DuckDuckGo to be a better search engine. Actually, Google is now trying to solve this issue with AI-generated content.

Results in other languages

This is a massive opportunity to be tapped because there is a high growth potential for users in other regions of the world. According to Wikipedia, languages like Spanish and German represent around 5% and 3% of the internet content, respectively.

According to some estimates, only by expanding into South America there is a market of 533 million people. I’ve queried looking for results in Spanish, but now DuckDuckGo is not performing well, showing results even in Portuguese. I consider that now is a good moment for expansion.

Building up on that point, DuckDuckGo can help democracy and fight misinformation in developing economies by showing relevant and verified information. Something that has increasingly become a problem.

New opportunities

I’ve seen new products and services planned in the roadmap for DuckDuckGo, and I see there is a culture to innovate while taking care of their users’ privacy. The web browser is a tremendous effort that can lead to more opportunities for them and other independent developers.

What do you think? Have you ever used DuckDuckGo? Do you see a future in which we look for information and get fewer ads as a result?

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Danilo Salazar Ramos

Danilo Salazar Ramos

Techie, Geek, Gentleman, Dreamer, disciplined entrepreneur and pirate thanks to MIT. From #Ecuador