back to article DuckDuckGo AI Chat promises privacy for bot conversations

The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine has introduced AI Chat, an optional, free chatbot service – within limits – that provides a choice of models and "can be easily switched off." Nothing expresses confidence in a product like reassuring potential users that there's an off-switch. But perhaps given the backlash against …

  1. jokerscrowbar

    Nope

    Duck Off

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nope

      Agreed. Microsoft trackers were bypassing DuckDuckGo's browser privacy protections and sucking up all that "private" data.

      Search.Brave.com.

  2. ecofeco Silver badge
    Pirate

    Nope

    Nobody can guarantee cloud privacy.

    Nobody.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why DDG?

    All right I'm just going to put it out there. Is DDG worth it? If it's so good, why aren't more ppl using it?

    The world wants a Google replacement. Hallucinating AI isn't what we want. Bing isn't it. What's holding ddg back?

    And I say this as I promise to use it more

    1. Monni

      Re: Why DDG?

      I'd think people don't want to change, because the benefits are unclear and fighting against ever-occurring default search engines can be tiresome. The name isn't helping, it doesn't sound natural in speech and thus feels like an off-brand product.

      Part if it may also be about patterns - if Google has already personalized profile about you and your interests, results from other engines probably feel a bit "off". I you're not aware of the effect, it can be offputting. And vice versa, sure.

      What I myself like the most in DDG is bangs, and they help me in my work tremendously. E.g. as a software developer, just typing '!cpp std::conditional_variable' for C++ class will search the somewhat authoritative cppreference.com for that class documentation. '!w <something>' searches Wikipedia etc.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Why DDG?

      "What's holding ddg back?"

      Microsoft using every trick in it's OS to set and keep the MS defaults as Edge + Bing

      Google paying Apple literal billions to make sure Google is the default search on i-Stuff

      Google aggressively pushing Chrome, and through that, Google search, on a lot of it's hefty web presence

      Ignorance of many users who don't know the difference between an OS, browser, search engine / search provider, who mostly have no idea of the amount of personal data that is being captured, and who mostly, even when knowing that, shrug their shoulders and carry on regardless.

      DuckDuckGo not having a massive advertising budget, EXACTLY because their privacy-focused model limits their revenue stream (its competitors make multi-billions by plundering user data )

      1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

        Re: Why DDG?

        "Microsoft using every trick in it's OS to set and keep the MS defaults as Edge + Bing"

        While I agree with your other points, I'm not sure this is true. I hardly ever see bing / edge on domestic PCs, and on the odd occasion that I do, the user invariably asks me to set the default to "proper" chrome and Google.

        I haven't used DDG in a while, simply because last time I tried it, it didn't find what I was looking for while Google had it somewhere on the first page, under a shedloads of ads. Maybe it's improved and I should give it a go.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Search efficiency through experience

          For me, DDG offers better results then Google. I guess a lot depends on learning to use the search engine as good as possible in order to gain the best results. That includes to learn what combination of search terms gives you the best results for the particular search engine you use. If so, then you get better search results on search engines you use a lot and learned to use. In your case, that seems to be Google. In my case, that is DDG.

          When comparing Google with DDG, it's important to keep in mind that Google doesn't just use your search query, but lots and lots of other data it gathered during your previous searches and much of your entire browsing history. DDG yields results based on nothing but your current search query and the country indicated by your IP address, but you can select other locations at will.

          When searching for example for the word "bolt" in DDG with explicitly setting my region to the US, English I get results like a ride app called Bolt, A Chevy Bolt, The Estonian company Bolt's Wikipedia page, the Disney movie Bolt and only a single indirect result on the first page to what I was looking for (a bolt such as in nuts and bolts): a link to the Cambridge Dictionary defining the word bolt.

          If I were to use Google and have done plenty of browsing for things in the maker community, I would likely get plenty more links and advertisements for mechanical bolts. In DDG I have to further specify bolt.

          One can find Google better because you searched for mechanical bolts and it provided you links to it, even if you didn't specify it. Or you can find DDG better if you learned to better specify your search by for example typing "steel bolt" or "mechanical bolt" or "bolt fastener" or "bolt definition". If you do that then you likely get better results for what you are looking for then with Google, especially if you had been looking for new cars for weeks before it since the Chevy Bolt is made of steel too. On top of that, you don't have to wade through advertisements on DDG. They have a few of them and they are very easy to discern, removing the need to exert your brain to filter search results from advertisements.

          Anyhow, in the end it still comes to this: change search engine from search engine A you used for years to search engine B you never or very rarely used before, and your results will likely appear to be worse in B then in A.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why DDG?

          > While I agree with your other points, I'm not sure this is true. I hardly ever see bing / edge on domestic PCs, and on the odd occasion that I do, the user invariably asks me to set the default to "proper" chrome and Google.

          So what you're saying is that it /is/ being changed to edge+bing because you're getting request to change it "back"? And because that "changing back" you do is to change it to what those individuals have been conditioned for as considering their search engine (google) is why you're not seeing other search engines it in the wild?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why DDG?

        I'd say it's held back because it actually isn't that great. It's very similar to Bing.

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Why DDG?

      What's holding ddg back?

      1. Google and Bing shoehorn themselves as default in most ecosystems - Bing by being default in Windows/Edge, Google by shovelling literal billions of dollars at Apple, Mozilla and being default in Chrome/Android/ChromeOS. DDG does not have the resources to compete with that.

      2. DDG is mostly just a metasearch which returns Bing results by default but with privacy. They're not running their own index. You can specify other providers with bangs like !g, !w and !cpp, which is neat, but doesn't necessarily provide a compelling USP/distinction from the underlying Bing/Google engines unless you're a power user or particularly concerned about privacy.

      To my mind, the way forward isn't necessarily to be a general search engine. Step back towards a more traditional PageRank model (as detailed in 1997) and rather than doing lots of very clever stuff to filter out the garbage, take the GIGO approach and stop the garbage in at source. For instance a UK-centric index might:

      * Bake in priority for .gov.uk/.nhs.uk domains - e.g. a health query would surface NHS results before WebMD, etc.

      * Bake in priority weightings for safety-oriented services like Women's Aid, Childline, etc

      * Don't even index most gTLDs

      * Don't index most social media - the home page would be indexed, but no attempt would be made to index every post nor surface them in search results. Having the equivalent of "-site:pinterest.com -site:twitter.com", etc baked into every search would clear huge amounts of cruft from search. Some technical subreddits might have to be allow-listed in, since they're genuinely some of the most useful resources on the web for fettling curious edge cases.

      * Don't index any site using AI-generated content.

      * Don't index news sites which rank poorly on fact-checking services for accuracy. They can be as politically extreme as they like - but they can't fabricate stories or tell lies.

      Don't get me wrong, it's a miracle Google works as well as it does. But as we deal with a deluge of AI-generated spam, it seems like the sensible alternative approach might be to bake in an idea of known-reliable sources (which is viable at a national level rather than a global level). Rather than sweeping in everything and then trying to automagically rank out the cruft and calling yourself "neutral" (ignoring the biases embedded into the algorithm), there's something to be said for a local, opinionated search which has no problem saying "a variety of independent sources have ascertained that dailymail.co.uk is unreliable" or that searches for depression and suicide open up with NHS and the Samaritans instead of AI telling you how to off yourself. To an extent, Google and Bing already do this - but it's a bolt-on to a global index that came as a fix to a problem. I see it as something that a socially-responsible operator should bake into the index from the off.

      Obviously the majority of the index would be generated algorithmically, but offering a local focus, weighting in local authorities and excluding spam-laden gTLDs and some fringe sources from the index entirely could provide a more relevant experience for 99% of people. This isn't about censorship or bowdlerising search results - just baking in a bit of basic safeguarding (rather than bolting it on as an afterthought when a dead teenager's parents start a Parliamentary campaign about search providers teaching people how to commit suicide). Politics searches should return UKPol first and make people specify if they want US or overseas results.

      Bringing down index generation to a national level allows for a better level of tuning (especially in English-speaking countries where US sources predominate), in much the same way as Mastodon/Fediverse have largely overcome the issue of moderation by shrinking the issue down to relatively small communities and servers which can still communicate, but have their own rules and standards and a given admin isn't responsible for millions of users.

      If you really look for stuff, then you'll find it - but it might not be the top search result.

  4. xyz Silver badge

    If....

    The search engine you are using isn't Google or Bing, it's Bing under the hood.

    The giveaway is Ai "summaries." Find one via Bing and then run the same search on your fav search engine and Bing-o.

    Pic results seem to be completely different for some reason though.

    1. Bendacious Bronze badge

      Re: If....

      I suspect you are mostly correct, although I'm pretty sure I read that Brave have their own crawler/index, so I doubt they are using Bing under the hood. I have no problem with private search engines using non-private engines, if they hide who is using it. I've used around ten engines in the last few years, currently settled on Qwant, and they are all much the same. None of them are worse than Google, I type in my search term and 99% of the time find what I am looking for on the first page. I've never tried personalised searching though, where the engine knows me, so I might be missing out on something amazing but I doubt it as again, I look for it and find it nearly all the time. There is a huge list of private search engines out there, most of them with slightly better privacy than DDG (IMHO). They all do the same job in essentially the same way so it makes no difference which one you use. Keeping a bit of privacy costs you absolutely nothing when it comes to search, maybe a few seconds changing your browser default.

  5. IGotOut Silver badge

    Startpage...

    ...over DDG any day.

    Much more European friendly and better privacy protections.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Startpage...

      Qwant is better if you want a European search engine. Startpage is just a front end for Google that strips out tracking.

  6. jokerscrowbar

    Optional Options

    I have DDG as default but also:

    Presearch

    Marginalia Search

    Dzen

    Startpage

    Google

    PicClick

    as desktop favourites. I find it best to image search and work back from there but all of the above these days give too many stock images and Pinimage results.

    They all need an EXCLUSIONS box.

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