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Ducking Google in search engines

• www.washingtonpost.com
PAOLI, Pa. — Not far from Valley Forge, around the corner from Bravo Pizza, up the road from Paoli Auto Body, there is an odd-looking office building that resembles a stone castle. An eye doctor is on the first floor. On the second floor is a search engine.

The proprietor of the search engine is Gabriel Weinberg, who is 33. A few years ago, when Weinberg told his wife about his new business idea — pitting him against more established outfits such as Google and Bing — he admits that she briefly thought he was nuts.

“She was like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Weinberg said. “She thought the idea was crazy.”

Her theory was hard to dispute. A start-up taking on Google in search is much like a raft taking on a cruise ship as a vacation option. But Weinberg is not delusional. With money lining his pockets from selling a start-up for $10 million, Weinberg bet there was a place in the market for a product capitalizing on users’ emerging annoyances with Google — its search results gamed by marketers; its pages cluttered with ads; every query tracked, logged and personalized to the point of creepiness.

He called his little search engine project DuckDuckGo, after the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose. (Instead of “Just Google it,” think “Just Duck it.”)

“My thesis for the company was, what can we do that other search engines, because they’re big, can’t do easily?” Weinberg said. “Because what’s good for Google business is bad for Google users.”

So: DuckDuckGo does not track users. It doesn’t generate search results based on a user’s previous interests, potentially filtering out relevant information. It is not cluttered with ads. In many ways, DuckDuckGo is an homage the original Google — a pure search engine — and its use is soaring, with searches up from 10 million a month in October 2011 to 45 million this past October. The growth has attracted attention and cash from Union Square Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Twitter. Not long ago, a headline in the search industry bible SearchEngineLand. com asked, “Could DuckDuckGo Be The Biggest Long-Term Threat To Google?”
 
 

 

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