From its humble beginnings as a one-man project from a basement in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, DuckDuckGo has grown to become one of the most respected privacy focused browsers in the world.
Starting as a search engine, its aim from the outset was to challenge the dominance in the space by the likes of Google and, in the words of its founder and CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, "offer a user-centric alternative."
With the company now celebrating its 15th birthday, Weinberg has outlined DuckDuckGo's journey to becoming a popular browser choice for those concerned with their online privacy, as well as what he thinks the future has in store for the internet and its users.
DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008, before, as Weinberg puts it, "the world had started to realize the scary power and creepy surveillance of companies like Google and Facebook."
Although progress was slow, he notes that 2011 was the real breakout year for DuckDuckGo, expanding the team with new members who continue to work at the firm to this day. This was also when the "vision to raise the standard of trust online" was established.
Privacy-focused browsers, although gaining popularity, still appear to be struggling as compared to the likes of Google Chrome and Apple's Safari, which are pretty much the default choices for many. This is despite the privacy issues such browsers have, indicating that perhaps people are still willing to sacrifice some of their privacy for the sake of convenience.
However, Weinberg is bullish about his own company, saying that DuckDuckGo is a, "healthy, profitable company that protects user privacy, instead of exploiting it." Furthermore, he believes that people's concerns about their own privacy online is what "what fuels our growth." He cites a recent study from Forrester as evidence, which found that nearly 90% of US adults, “use at least one privacy- or security-protecting tool online.”
Weinberg claims that the DuckDuckGo browser and its extensions have been downloaded over a quarter of a billion times, and Cloudflare puts its search engine at number two for mobile users third overall in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, India, Australia, Canada, and others.
And looking ahead, Weinberg only sees the desire to make the switch growing, as big tech companies like Google and others commit "ever-increasing exploitation of personal data." He also believes that DuckDuckGo offers a simple and easy way for users to protect their online privacy, with the company being, "laser-focused on our product vision of being the “easy button” for privacy."
However, things aren't so straightforward in the world of online privacy. Last year, a spat between DuckDuckGo and one of its main rivals, Brave, took place over the former's supposed allowance of Microsoft trackers.
The altercation involved some deeper technicalities, but ultimately a company spokesperson defended DuckDuckGo, saying that the issue referred to "ad clicks only, which is protected in our agreement with Microsoft as strictly non-profiling (private)... these ads are privacy protected."
Weinberg did concede, though, that, "unfortunately our Microsoft search syndication agreement prevents us from doing more to Microsoft-owned properties. However, we have been continually pushing and expect to be doing more soon."
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Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers.
His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.
He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.