DuckDuckGo: The Search Engine You've Never Heard Of

Janet Wagner, Data Journalist / Full Stack Developer
Mar. 21 2012, 08:00AM EDT

This past Valentine's Day, DuckDuckGo announced via Twitter that their search engine had "received over 1,000,000 direct searches yesterday for the first time ever!" A major accomplishment for a search engine that is essentially unknown. And this search engine has an API.

What is DuckDuckGo?

The answer to that question is posted on the official website and states that:

"DuckDuckGo is a general purpose search engine that is intended to be your starting place when searching the Internet. Use it to get way more instant answers, way less spam and real privacy, which we believe adds up to a much better overall search experience."

The DuckDuckGo company philosophy places great emphasis on user experience and privacy. Stated on their privacy page:

"DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell. The rest of this page tries to explain why you should care."

The Search Engine You've Never Heard Of

Most people have never heard of DuckDuckGo, myself included, until I read an article by Paul Robert Lloyd that was recently posted on his blog. After reading his blog post, I decided to check out the DuckDuckGo Search Engine for myself.

The search engine provides clean, uncluttered results and is very easy to use. A variety of APIs are used to display beneficial features to the results pages (such as Wikipedia, MapQuest, WikiHow and The Free Dictionary). The feature that I liked best however, is DuckDuckGo "!bangs."

Search Results for Toledo Ohio:

Search Results for Toledo Ohio

Search Results for Jon Hamm:

Search Results for Jon Hamm

DuckDuckGo's "!bangs"

"!bangs" are special commands that give users the ability to search 100s of other sites directly from the DuckDuckGo search box (including other search engines). There are currently over a thousand !bang commands available. The most popular "!bangs" are also available in the drop down menu.

DuckDuckGo Drop Down Menu

For example, if you wanted to search for the TV series "Mad Men" at Amazon.com, you would type in the DuckDuckGo search box "!a Mad Men" (or use the drop down menu), which would then display Amazon.com's search results:

Command Used:

Command

Amazon.com Search Results:

Amazon Search Results for Mad Men

Below are examples of "!bangs" that can be used (command or drop down menu):

  • "!i Toledo Ohio" shows results from Google Images
  • "!bi Toledo Ohio" shows results from Bing Images
  • "!wiki Toledo Ohio" shows results from Wikipedia
  • "!yt Jon Hamm" shows results for Jon Hamm on YouTube
  • "!m Toledo Ohio" shows results for Google Maps
  • "!n DuckDuckGo" shows results for Google News

DuckDuckGo's "Zero-click Info API"

DuckDuckGo provides a "Zero-click Info API" that gives users free access to much of DuckDuckGo's topic summaries, categories, disambiguation, !bang redirects, definitions, and more.

The API uses RESTful protocol and the available data formats are JSON and XML. You can download client libraries for the programming languages java, ruby, python, php, and Obj C.

If you use the API, DuckDuckGo does require link attribution in each place you use the info. The goal of the API is to get more people using the DuckDuckGo search engine.

Conclusion

Google is still the king when it comes to search. However, DuckDuckGo offers the benefits of true privacy and pleasantly clean, uncluttered search results. DuckDuckGo proves that there's still room for innovation when it comes to search.

Janet Wagner is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, data visualization, machine learning, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter: @webcodepro, Google+, or send her an email.