Could DuckDuckGo Overtake Bing?
Amid growing privacy concerns and a deal with Apple, DuckDuckGo has the potential to become a major player in search.
In just a few days, Apple will be launching iOS 8, its latest version of the mobile operating system used on the iPhone.
One of the new features in the operating system will be the ability for a user to select DuckDuckGo, the self-proclaimed “search engine that focuses on smarter answers, less clutter, and real privacy” as the iPhone iOS 8’s default search engine.
Not familiar with DuckDuckGo? Well you should be, considering the iPhone is still the go-to smartphone, according to our recent consumer trends study.
So in advance of a potential new flood of users, we sent a survey to more than 500 people via SurveyMonkey Audience to get a better understanding of who’s already using DuckDuckGo and to learn how people feel about their online privacy.
But First, What’s DuckDuckGo?
DuckDuckGo is a search engine just like Google, but it relies less on a crawler (though it has one) and more heavily on external sources like Yelp, Wikipedia, and WolframAlpha to generate instant answers and recommend pages.
And while DuckDuckGo ingests data from other sources, it still ranks the results using its own proprietary algorithm that uses links — apparently even nofollow links, since Wikipedia is used as an example link — as a strong ranking signal.
Since its founding in 2008, DuckDuckGo has been steadily increasing its audience (last year a billion searches were performed on the engine), but its inclusion in the upcoming Apple operating systems should generate a significant boost. But what do the data from our survey show?
DuckDuckGo’s Gotta Grow — But People’s Online Privacy Concerns May Give Them A Boost
Here’s the skinny: Out of the 521 responses, only 7% of respondents say they’ve heard of DuckDuckGo. (This is quite low, especially when compared to Chinese search engine Baidu, which 9% of respondents claimed to have heard of.)
We also found that…
- 5% of respondents have tried DuckDuckGo, though only 1.34% are daily users
- Only 0.77% say they use DuckDuckGo as their primary search engine
Clearly, DuckDuckGo would like for everyone to use its search engine, but the primary appeal of DuckDuckGo is that it guarantees privacy to its users. And people are definitely concerned with online privacy. In fact, in a previous survey, we learned that 90% of people had some level of concern about their online privacy.
And in this survey, we decided to dig a little deeper to understand exactly what their concerns were. Here’s what we found:
- 60% are concerned about the privacy of their keyword history
- 72% are concerned about ad networks having access to their search history
- 66% are concerned about search engine ads targeted to their past search history
What most respondents probably don’t realize is that Google ad networks (Google Sites) comprise the largest ad network in the U.S. as defined by unique visitors (according to comScore). The 98% of respondents who said they’ve used Google have effectively piped their search history directly to an ad network. (Additionally, comScore puts Yahoo at #3 and Microsoft at #11; so essentially, anyone using a major search engine is sharing search history with an ad network.)
As a follow-up to our questions about privacy concerns, we were also curious to see if people would pay to protect it.
- 83% of respondents say they wouldn’t pay for an ad-free search engine; however, 12% say they would pay up to $5 a month
- 76% wouldn’t pay for a search engine that doesn’t track them; however, 17% say they’d pay up to $5 a month
The survey data seem to show there’s a natural audience for the primary non-tracking features of DuckDuckGo, and that the search engine would have more adoption if more people were aware of its brand. Apple’s iOS 8 will be giving the engine a major boost in terms of brand awareness, and we can expect its market penetration to increase as more people learn about it.
Q&A With DuckDuckGo’s CEO
Prior to launching our survey, we collaborated with DuckDuckGo on drafting some of the questions. After the survey was completed, we shared the results with the company and had a chance to ask some questions.
Here’s what DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg had to say about his company’s search engine:
Eli Schwartz: Why should someone use DuckDuckGo over Google/Bing?
Gabriel Weinberg: We focus on smarter answers, less clutter and real privacy. We believe a significant percentage of people would like private alternatives where they can get great service without being tracked — in other words, where they can get the benefits of privacy without any sacrifice in quality. DuckDuckGo offers that alternative in search.
ES: How much should users be scared about searching on Google/Bing?
GW: We created a microsite to explain.
Most people have started noticing ads following them around the Internet. That’s the annoying result of companies tracking you across the Internet — and that’s just the most visible evidence. Your information can be legally requested. You are also being charged different prices online based on this same data profile. There are many good reasons why you don’t want to be tracked.
At some point, users may get fed up with having their online usage constantly tracked and thus may start paying more attention to the privacy advantages that DuckDuckGo offers.
With more consumer awareness of alternatives like DuckDuckGo, that tipping point might not be too far in the future. If ever this event occurs, it is entirely conceivable that the surge of new users could push DuckDuckGo ahead of Bing. (According to our survey, only 7.7% of respondents used Bing on a daily basis.)
The prudent thing for all marketers would be to at least have a look at how they are ranking and displayed on DuckDuckGo.
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