Before starting with my brick of words, I would like to advise you that if you try my proposal, it’s going to have a big impact on your internet habits. Actually, I’m going to propose you to use a different search engine from the one you are used to, and I’m sure that at the beginning you will feel uncomfortable with it and you will be very keen to come back to your previous tool. But, honestly, give it a try for at least a month. The more you use a new tool, the more you discover how to use it correctly, and the more you enjoy it. After that pseudo-disclaimer, let’s begin with the interesting content.
Nowadays we use search engines a lot. They have become the standard way of finding websites on the jungle of information that the WWW is today. Web directories are a resource of the past, we just input our words of interest in a textbox, hit the Enter key, and rely on the answers of Google, Bing or Yahoo. They seem to work quite well, and they are free, so what’s wrong with them?
Just two things:
- You are getting a biased view of the web.
- Your telling A LOT about you to a company (and it’s third parties). Probably more than you would under other circumstances.
There is more out there.
When using a search engine, you are getting results according to its criteria. At the beginning, the results were sorted according to more or less objective parameters that measured the quality of the sites. But it has changed. You have probably noticed that you get different results for the same search when you use other computers or compare it with the results that other persons get. I could explain here why this happens, but the web page Don’t Bubble Us explains it with a lot of pictures, not much text and in a funny and easy to understand way. So, before continuing, please have a look at it (and then come back ;) ).
Done? Are you a bit disappointed about the search engine you use? I was. You have probably read the last part about DuckDuckGo, but I’ll talk about it later.
Searching for “herpes” is telling them (and other companies) that maybe you have it.
This is how it works. They know about your interests, your problems, what you are shopping… your life. Again, and in order to do not repeat what others have explained better, I recommend having a quick look at Don’t Track Us.
So, now you could just be in the mood of “I don’t care about all this bullshit, you are a paranoid” or “OMG! I’m selling my life and having a distorted view of the world! I’ll never use it again.” Or something intermediate, just a bit worried and willing to find a better search engine that keeps your privacy while providing a good service.
Emergency services use dogs. I use ducks.
In addition to that, they have some tricks that make the experience more enjoyable. One is the red box, also known as zero-click info. It is a red box (d’oh!) shown at the beginning of the search results, containing a topic summary or related topics. It could be the explanation of an acronym, the result of a mathematical operation or conversion between units, a short definition, etc. I’ve solved several of my quick searches just with that, with no need to go inside other sites.
Next tip I love is the !bang. There are a set of keywords that allow you to perform specialized searches. You can !python to look at python documentaion, !mineforum for minecraft forum, !images for Google images (yes, they don’t provide this service yet), !filestube for search in filestube, etc. So, kind of shortcuts for other sites. And the list of options is huge.
To sum up this short review, to get an idea of the overall capabilities of DDG, try the searches on the goodies page.
Putting a duck in your life.
If you have decided to give DuckDuckGo a try, do not rely just on opening the web page each time. You are not going to do it. You will just use the search box in Firefox or the omnibox in Chrome/Chromium, therefore relying again on you previous search engine. To force yourself to use it for a while, you have to configure it as you default search engine on your browser. Fortunately, it’s really really easy, just a couple of clicks. If you visit the DDG homepage, you’ll see a link with the instructions to do it. So, do it. Now. If you don’t like it, you can always come back. But I haven’t ;)