DuckDuckGo Vs. Google – The War Gets Dirty

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DuckDuckGo is a relatively new search engine, and a wannabe competitor against Google. The search engine, which promotes itself as a “fair search” competitor to Google, has been extensively endorsed by sites like The New York Times,, and even on Search Engine Land, as a long-term threat to Google search dominance. It was one of the top 50 sites on TIME Magazine in 2011, and it is pretty much seen as an Internet phenomenon.

What sets DuckDuckGo apart is the claim that it doesn’t track your IP, or your search history. There are many other great features, like the ability to see official websites before Wikipedia answers, the ability to search directly on YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, etc… But this is not a search engine review.

Gabriel Weinberg, who started five years ago, told Reuters, in an interview this Wednesday, that it is difficult to make his DuckDuckGo the default search site in Google’s Chrome web browser, and that Google disadvantages his company in the Android mobile operating system as well.


Savvy Chrome users know that they can make any search engine the default in Chrome web browser, but DuckDuckGo founder is not happy with the steps needed to achieve this position for his site. Perhaps DuckDuckGo needs preferential Google Chrome treatment?

DuckDuckGo has a Chrome plugin that allows you to search DuckDuckGo using the browser’s context search (right-click on highlighted text); get DuckDuckGo’s instant-answers on Google and Bing results; and access the DuckDuckGo !bang tags. But the plugin doesn’t allow to search DuckDuckGo using the browser’s address bar and to search DuckDuckGo using the browser’s search bar, since Chrome’s search bar and address bar are combined.

Weinberg claims that adding this plugin to Chrome is very difficult for users:

“It’s one-click to get onto Firefox and it’s five steps on Chrome and people generally fail,” he told Reuters.

Of course, the alternative, would be to set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for Chrome. But, Weinberg doesn’t address this alternative in front of the media, preferring to insist on the plugin, and the perceived disadvantages DuckDuckGo allegedly faces on Android mobile operating systems.

Manually setting DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for Chrome is quick, and it can be done in Google Chrome settings. By default, Google offers popular search alternatives like Yahoo!, Bing, Wikipedia, eBay and others. But if you want to add even more search alternatives to the list, you will need to click on “manage search engines” and manually add them to the list.

Managing Google Chrome default search engine settings.

It’s really not that complicated, and it’s a matter of seconds to set up. No unfair treatment from Google against DuckDuckGo – any new search engine would need to go through the same process.

Saying that Google purposely harms a competitor’s search engine, in a time when the search giant is being investigated by the FTC for “using its power in the market to smother competitors”, is misleading and unfair. It’s fighting dirty – and bad PR.

Mihaela Lica Butler
Mihaela Lica Butler is senior partner at Pamil Visions PR and editor at Everything PR. She is a widely cited authority on search engine optimization... Read Full Bio
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  • Gabriel Weinberg

    Michela, I appreciate your perspective, but I just want to clarify that with regards to Chrome I was not talking about the plugin, but in fact setting the default search engine.

    I’ve written about the usability issues with adding search engines to browsers extensively at

    That drop down you reference does not include DuckDuckGo in it. In the US, it just as Google, Bing and Yahoo, so that is not a way we can instruct our users to add DuckDuckGo to the omnibar.

    As the blog post details (with screenshots and explanatory notes) on IE and Firefox there is a Javascript command that makes it the default with one click. This is not the case on Chrome, where you have to navigate to the advanced settings, find us in a long list (which may or not be in there depending on various factors), and then make it the default (which is disabled in certain situations). People generally fail or give up somewhere along this process, whereas they don’t when using IE and Firefox. We know this empirically from our feedback.

    Safari used to be an issue, but now their new extension framework allows you to set the omnibar via the extensions. As you noted, Chrome has extensions too, and if they allowed us to do that it would be another way we could help our users add us. But unfortunately, as you pointed out, that doesn’t work either as changing the search engine is not possible via the current Chrome extension framework.

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      Hi Gabriel, I did point out all the issues you mention. There is only one thing I don’t really get: DuckDuckGo is not (yet) as popular as Bing and Yahoo! – it has such a long way to go. Hakia, Quora, Wolfram|Alpha are not in that drop down menu either, and there are so many alternative search engines that could claim a position there… You cannot expect Google to put there all search engines known to man, can you? I added DuckDuckGo manually, and it worked in seconds. Maybe there are a few usability issues with how to set a default search engine in Chrome, but you imply that Google goes specifically against DuckDuckGo, which is not the case.

      • Gabriel Weinberg

        Michela, I think there are further misunderstandings.

        I was not arguing that they add us to that drop-down, though of course that would be nice :). I was also not arguing that they targeted us specifically in this Chrome issue.

        With this Chrome issue, I was merely explaining to the reporter that we find empirically people have a much harder time adding us to Chrome than the other browsers. That is if you look at our feedback requests, we get a ton for Chrome and hardly any for the other browsers.

        Yes, people technically inclined can figure it out (though not always! mainly because there are some weird cases that come up), but the less technically inclined have significant issues in doing so. This is what we find every day in our feedback emails. These usability problems have been around for a long time (my article is over a year and a half old, for example). And more importantly there are easy remedies, like implementing the same standard JavaScript functions IE and Firefox already use.

        The only piece I thought was directly targeted at us (DuckDuckGo) was the redirect of to Google search, which only happened after I inquired about it.

        The main issue I have with is consumer confusion. A lot of people remember that we are a search engine “duck something” and so naturally try As a result, there is a lot of confusion, e.g. these are from real feedback:

        “I was telling someone about DuckDuckGo and they thought it was and they went to Google. Is Google using this to find people who make the mistake to instead of DuckDuckGo?”

        “Can’t you do something about this? I keep going to when meaning to visit They are using the DuckDuckGo name to get people to search Google.”

        This only started happening after I asked about the domain name. It used to point to a history page about Duck Corporation (previous name of On2 —, similar to, which was acquired by Google in the same acquisition.

        Google should legitimately not sell it to me, though it would have been of course nice to do so when I first asked in 2010. I think an appropriate remedy would be to either point it nowhere, point it to the original page it had been pointed to for many years, or point it to the acquisition page (as still does) — all things they do in other cases if you look at past acquisitions.

        Just to be clear, it is only anti-competitive because it causes confusion, and relates to their core search product. The facts of the situation (that it switched shortly after I asked, and only seemingly that one domain) make it appear to be deliberate. And if it were not deliberate, I’ve brought this up many times and there has been ample time (including now!) to correct the situation.

  • Bangkok Website Design

    a long-term threat to Google search dominance – let’s hope it’s not too much longer . . . πŸ™‚

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      I honestly like most of DuckDuckGo’s features, and it is now my default search engine in Chrome – for testing purposes right now. Anything that improves my search experience gets a plus – and Google deserves strong competition. πŸ™‚

      • Gabriel Weinberg

        Michela, awesome! Not sure if you’ve seen it, but check out our new goodies page: — this is improving daily, with new open source goodies being made via our instant answer platform for developers: The usability of this page is also improving as people start to interact with it more, so I’d appreciate any feedback from people on it.

  • Bob Jones

    There is always the opportunity for DuckDuckGo to start developing their own browser and mobile OS πŸ˜‰
    On a more serious note, what if they started offering additional value, such as Google does with its Gmail service for example? Or how about developing a FF toolbar and a Chrome extension? It’d have to add some more than just search though…

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      I am sure they are all brilliant people, and will find a way to bring more than search. It takes time. But it would be interesting if you tested DuckDuckGo, Bob, and then let me know what you think. I love some of its features right now . I will probably follow up with a review later on this year, after I’ve tested it long enough – unless you write it first. πŸ˜‰

      Right now we need to make it very clear for people that Google does nothing against DuckDuckGo as the Reuters article implies. It’s only fair.

  • Andy

    Google Competitor? Please, lets get serious now. If they can not provide more accurate search results I wonder why they are even mentioned here. If i order a bot from a freelancer site for 200 bucks with some first grade algo and get it to index several million pages, does that also make me a google competitor?

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      Only if you describe yourself as such. πŸ˜‰ DuckDuckGo does advertise itself as a Google competitor.

  • Scott McKirahan

    I had never even heard of duckduckgo until this article (I really need to leave this cave sometime). I just checked it out and was very pleased with the search results. I love the infinity page, not having to click “Next” all of the time and it certainly gives websites in lower positions much more exposure. I also liked the fact that there did not seem to be repeats of the same domain.

    Best browser I have ever used!

  • Chris Ainsworth

    I welcome new search engines and long for the day when Google have some decent competition; but at the moment I have to agree with Andy that I don’t think DuckDuckGo is anywhere near reliable enough to be classed as a Google competitor yet.

    I’m not overly familiar with DuckDuckGo’s algorithm and haven’t performed any extensive testing, but do a quick search and you’ll see that DuckDuckGo seems heavily reliant on domain and URL structure and certainly do not seem to factor in any kind of geo-targeting. 3 factors which Google has been all over recently and 3 factors which really do enhance the user experience.

    Full credit to DuckDuckGo for giving it a go. No doubt their search platform will develop with time and I’m keen to see what they can do in the future; but I doubt Goggle are panicking just yet.


    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      I seriously doubt that myself too, but if all the mainstream publications continue to push it, DuckDuckGo might get an important piece of the pie.

  • Alex

    I actually like duck duck, it is a great search engine in my opinion. Too sad they are shutting down:

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      No it is not, Alex, this was the point of this article, and this is what I argued with Gabriel Weinberg . His statements were misinterpreted by the media. Google is not shutting DuckDuckGo down, no one is.

  • Nob Bobby

    I had never even heard of duckduckgo until this article but i want to try DuckDuckGo to promote my product. Google is still best on my mobile browser but i will change default SE on it for a week.

  • Bangkok Graphic Design

    DuckDuckGo are a long way from being a real threat or serious competitor to Google at the moment, but they are perhaps able to get there one day with some serious backing and investment.

    My only concern is that once they get a large slice of the pie, they’ll go down the road that Google has in terms of restricting content and advertising too much.

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      Well, let’s hope that they will not go there. No advertising yet, but they will have to monetize somehow. We’ll see what happens.

      • Bangkok Graphic Design

        Sure, they have to make money somehow of course, I just find Google to have gone overboard in terms of monetizing things and with their rather draconian attitudes to everything.

    • SolarUX

      I totally agree, AND it’s simply a historical fact.
      No one can name one, that has NOT ? ended up that way.
      They simply ALL get “greedy”, …, or will be, including DuckSoup.
      What used to be good about Google is now all tracking soup, anti-privacy, bullying tactics, …, absolutely ridiculous amount of advertisements, …
      Google should just rename themselves to what they’ve become:
      …Just a lot of “Goo”.

      • Ingo

        Agreed. Please give me more 3-result SERPs flooded with 10 AdWords Ads, 2 Google Base/PLA Ads, Google Car Insurance, Google Hotel Finder, etc. etc. etc.

        Oh and what i also dont understand is why Google didnt name all their recent updates “amazon-pimping 1-X”. Seriously ridiculous how Google is pushing their biggest Ad-buyers artificially in the SERPs…

        Too bad good stuff like DuckDuckGo always takes like 2 – 10 years before it arrives in Germany…

  • Luiz Soares

    I’m from Brazil and I use since last year. Before that, when I was searching with Google, I had to open a new browser window and type the website I found using Google. It was time consuming but I didn’t want to share my privacy data with others. I didn’t want Google tracking my searches.

    I think is doing a great job.

    • Mihaela Lica Butler

      I think that too, Luiz. It will take them a while to get a good market share though. πŸ™‚ And the way to go about it is not accusing Google of wrongs they are not doing.

  • JP

    This is a great news πŸ™‚ since the “panda release” I was praying everyday for a new company who can do some damage to google… Thanks “god” I will tweets this new search engine all across the world, and I hope that SEO companies should do the same… Google is to greedy… too bad for them πŸ˜‰ muahahahahaha

  • duckfeet

    I pretty much agree, that duckduckgo shouldn’t complain: only took me about 20 seconds to set it all up…I’ve been using DDG for some time now…I used to love google, like the way they just outclassed all the competitors back when there were about 4-5 search engines to choose from…but of late they’ve gotten just a little big for their bridges and seem to want to know way too much about me…why? They’ve got enough money…

    So now, when it comes to class, and just making a decent search engine, I like the ddg crew…and I’ll stick with them, but they don’t need to complain, more and more of us are switching over….

  • Jero

    It is impossible to install the extension. Tried at least 10 times, smells like Google sabotage to me!

  • Jason

    I think this article demonstrates a fundemental lack of understanding about the DDG problem in Chrome. The author asked “Perhaps DuckDuckGo needs preferential Google Chrome treatment?”

    There’s the misunderstanding. I don’t think anyone was ever talking about preferential treatment! What users of DDG want is not to be singled out for exclusion from the basic ability to input and set a default engine, which is available in Chromium, Chrome, Comodo, Yandex, and all other Chromium-based browsers. Give it a try in your settings. It’s something you used to be able to do, but then Google attacked DDG users as a part of their war on user control and user privacy.

    I say we storm Google HQ!

  • dean

    I have been using DuckDuck for several months and have no intention of going back to google. I like the simple uncluttered look of the page and the “no track” policy. Google made me feel like I stepped through a spider’s web every time I opened it.

  • BigBen

    Not hard to do, but a mildly obscure fix that will exclude many average users.

    HOWTO set up Chromium for Duckduckgo :

    Click on the spanner, top right, then on Options, make sure the ‘Basics’ tab at the top is selected.
    Look for ‘Default Search’ box, click on ‘Manage’, then on ‘Add’

    Fill in the form:
    Line 1 = Duckduckgo
    Line 2 = duckduckgo
    Line 3 =

    …and click ‘save’

    You should now have Duckduckgo listed as a Search Engine.
    It will probably be near the bottom of the list, perhaps under ‘Other Search Engines’
    Select the line with Duckduckgo in it – so that it is highlighted, then click on ‘Make Default’
    The line with Duckduckgo in it should now have the tag:- (Default)

    Close the ‘Manage’ and then ‘Options’ windows , and test the ‘Awesome’ bar – it should now default to DDG.

    The bar is useful idea that I first saw a l o n g time before Google Chrome appeared.
    As to this bit of tricksy impairment of the competition, I’m disappointed.
    Google should review their original mission statement. Whilst this slippery trick is not pure evil , it is equally clearly not up to Google’s earlier standards.
    So, is Google becoming more evil?

    hth, Ben

  • Vivian

    I tried DuckDuckGo on a recommendation of one of my friends when Google wasn’t working on my computer(in Google Chrome, I might add). I think it’s wonderful though it’s easier just to use Google because it’s set as the default everywhere.