Around 2 months back, I switched the default search engine on Chrome on my MacBook Pro to DuckDuckGo. It was the first time I had done this – ever. And I’m not going back.

I didn’t do it because DuckDuckGo has a superior privacy policy (they do), or because I hate Google (I don’t). I did it simply because when a friend of mine introduced me to !bangs, I was sold. The fact that DuckDuckGo (DDG from here on) isn’t tracking my every move and isn’t exploiting my personal information to serve me better ads is just the cherry on top. I’m well aware of what Google is doing. I’ve tried to opt-out of as many trackers as possible from Google settings and I’m knowingly letting Google use my voice search recordings to better its service because I really want to use global OK Google functionality on my Android phone.

DDG Header

DDG is not for everyone. And I’m only using it on my Mac. On my Android phone, Google search serves me better. But DDG is basically for geeks/power users/netizens/what-have-you. DDG is for people who know where they want to go and just need a service to get there faster. For the classic, “I have no idea what I’m looking for searches”, Google still triumphs.

Bang Bang

Bangs

So what are !bangs? They’re essentially search modifiers created by the community and approved by the DDG mods. And they work everywhere – from desktops to your iPhone. Say I want to search for headphones in Amazon. All I do is type “!a headphones” in Chrome’s omnibox and I’ll be taken directly to Amazon’s search page. Yup, a search engine just let me bypass its own search page (and in turn, ad revenue). This is why I like DDG. Google’s mojo is to get all my personal information, serve me ads and make money. DDG, on the other hand, strives to provide me with a superior search experience and serves ads not based on my personal information, but on the search keywords (the good old fashioned way).

Duckduckgo Headphones gif

I still use Google search. I use it all the time actually. DDG’s search is strictly OK. It’s getting better, but it’s no match for Google. In fact, according to Google’s own history stats, I used it 348 times last month. On an average, I make around a thousand searches a month. The others were on DDG (I’m guessing because DDG doesn’t seem to be tracking my searches and didn’t give me a solid number). Google for me, is now a fallback. When I’m on a DDG page and it’s not doing it for me, all I have to do is add “!g” to the search and boom, I’m on the Google search page for the same query (and DDG defaults to Google’s encrypted version).

DDG maps gif

I think you too, dear reader, should give DDG a shot. If you’re here, reading this, chances are you’re much more than an average internet user. Along with !bangs, DDG has rich auto-suggest, keyboard shortcuts and not to mention Instant Answers for looking up definitions and the like. Plus, bits of DDG are open sourced and for the hacker in you, there’s DDG’s Community Platform. It will let you suggest better searches, and pitch ideas for newer, better Instant Answers features. For example, DDG already has a built-in Timer feature. But it doesn’t start till you press the Start button. You can use this platform to suggest a better implementation or code up a whole new Instant Answer on your own.

DDG Timer

Somewhat ironically, I like using DDG the most for accessing Google services. Because I can search in Google Maps just by typing “!maps delhi to agra” and I’ll be taken directly to the Maps website with directions from Delhi to Agra (here’s a GIF of how it works). To do this in Google, it would take me 2-3 clicks and I’d have to wait around. It’s the same case with Google Images (!gimages).

And there are thousands and thousands of !bangs. For almost every major website out there. If you want to find out what’s the keyword for your favorite site, visit this really long page and search through or just go to DDG’s homepage, type in “!” and the websites name. If it exists, the keyword will show up.

If you decide to give DDG a shot, do let me know how it goes in the comments below. If you’re a DDG veteran, I’d love to hear some tips and tips from you.

Disclosure: The title of the article was changed to avoid unwanted comparison with this article over at TNW.


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is a freelance technology writer. He's always trying out new apps, tools and services. He is platform agnostic. You'll find an iPhone 5 and a OnePlus One on him at (almost) all times.