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Shopping for search: Have you tried Duck Duck Go?

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I've been cheating on Google quite a bit these past few weeks with a new-ish search site called Duck Duck Go. I first heard about the site — which operates out of that hotbed of technological innovation, the veritable Silicon Valley of the Northeastern corridor, Valley Forge, Penn. — from its main venture funder, Union Square Ventures. USV's Fred Wilson has blogged about Duck Duck Go a few times. I use other services/companies in USVs portfolio — Disqus, Dwolla — so I was intrigued.

Duck Duck Go is not Google, but that's the point. I'm not sure if it's even really a new kind of search, nor do I think it sells itself that way. It is definitely less fussy, quicker search. I'll let Fred tell it:

[I]t may also be that other search engines are doing things that some users don't approve of and those users are shopping around for a new search engine. If you are in that camp, join me at DDG and see what clean, private, impartial and fast search is like.

I love a read-between-the-lines sales pitch! The experience of finding out about Duck Duck Go and then using it for a little while reminds me of a time about four years back when I decided to find an online email service that was ad-free (Gmail, obviously, isn't). This led me to a service that is now part of Zoho. For a time, I used it as by batphone email and for certain consulting projects.

Duck Duck Go appeals for two reasons, both alluded to by Fred above. First, the interface is simple. There's no advertising, which of course makes me wonder how DDG is going to make money, but I imagine there's a plan that doesn't involve a gajillion little text-based ads.

Second, DDG emphasizes privacy and search-neutrality. Let me explain the latter half of that: Unlike Google, DDG isn't aiming to personalize your search results. It's giving you a broader range of search returns, which pits it against the Holy Grail of search, relevance. But then again, one man's relevance can be another man's annoying narrowness of search results. You might not want you results customized by your Google Plus circles and your geographical location. You might also not want to have your searches predicted for you. In other words, you might want Google, circa 2002.

The privacy thing is a bigger deal. Now that Google has said that everyone who has a Google Account must abide by its new consolidated privacy policy, people are getting weirded out by how much Google (as well as many other sites, mainly Facebook) knows about them. 

Duck Duck Go doesn't keep track of your searches and insists that user privacy is its gateway drug. To be sure, this means that DDG can reap the benefits of being an anti-Google. The question is, Will it be able to build a business out of this?

Wilson's blog post indicates that more people are using DDG. In fact, he indicated that DDG may pass AOL for search later this year. So the traffic is there. All that's left is for DDG to find a good way to make money off it that doesn't violate any of the company's guiding principals. And that's a tall challenge. But for the moment, I'm really enjoying Duck Duck Go. Hey, I didn't think I'd bail on Firefox or Safari until Chrome came along. And now that I am a Chromer, I'm gazing at RockMelt, and Opera Mini is my favorite mobile browser. So let's see how it goes with Duck Duck Go.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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