In our introduction to DuckDuckGo, we went over that it was created to be a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Search and the other two of the "big three" search engines. But how well does the world's most popular private search engine stack up against the world's most popular search engine overall? Here's a breakdown of what each search engine does that the other one doesn't… at least, not very well.
Advantages of DuckDuckGo over Google Search
This is the big advantage that DuckDuckGo has over Google Search, and pretty much its main reason for existing. DuckDuckGo has options that allow you to use a secure version of the website, making your search activity difficult to track and decipher. You can also redirect your search requests through DuckDuckGo in a way that prevents the websites that you search for from tracking how you found them, or tracking that you've even searched for them at all. On top of that, DuckDuckGo also refrains from recording your Internet address, browser specifications, date/time and location of your search, or anything tying your search or its terms directly to you. Google Search doesn't do any of these things.
Accessibility customization options
There are all sorts of other ways to make DuckDuckGo look and act the way you want it to. Google Search has a few of them, such as changing the language that it displays in, changing the results page layout, and determining whether or not quick answers are displayed for you. However, DuckDuckGo has other accessibility options, such as changing the background colour or the style, size, and colour of the text if you're having trouble reading your results.
Ability to search directly within websites with "bangs"
Leaving aside Google Search, this is a feature of DuckDuckGo that not many other search engines in general — if any of them — have. By typing in a "bang" before your search terms, DuckDuckGo will take you directly to the website that the "bang" is for, and conduct your search from there. This preserves your privacy while saving you the trouble of searching through irrelevant results when you want to look for something on a particular website only. You can search directly on over 6000 websites this way!
Unique search type options
Google Search covers several basic types of searches: web pages, images, videos, news, shopping items, and so on. DuckDuckGo has some of these and not others, but it also has a bunch of other search categories that Google doesn't. For example, you can search for profiles on social media websites, software applications, alternatives to certain services (including DuckDuckGo itself!), and even words that rhyme with your search terms.
Handy hidden functions
DuckDuckGo also has a bunch of other neat functions that you can get by typing in specific questions or commands. Examples include:
Displaying a calendar with the current (or specified) date
Changing the case of some or all letters in your search terms
Counting the number of characters (i.e. letters, numbers, symbols, spaces) in your search terms
Letting you use a virtual stopwatch
Checking whether a website is currently online or not
Calculating how much you have to pay for a loan
Google Search has some hidden functions that are similar, but not as many as DuckDuckGo.
Advantages of Google Search over DuckDuckGo
More overall results
DuckDuckGo is a relatively small company, and as such, most of its results and information are supplied by its tech team and groups of volunteer enthusiasts. Google, on the other hand, is a multi-billion dollar corporation with large tech teams and countless indexing programs constantly scouring the World Wide Web for anything new that shows up. As a result, you will receive many more results when searching on Google Search, which usually means that you have a better chance of finding what you're looking for, especially if you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
Better filtering options
One thing that DuckDuckGo surprisingly lacks when compared to Google Search is the ability to narrow down search results beyond just the general type of result that you're looking for. With Google Search, you can filter your results based on parameters such as when a piece of content was uploaded, how big a picture is, how long a video is, whether something matches your search terms word for word, and so on. DuckDuckGo doesn't have any of these options (or at least, they aren't immediately accessible like they are on Google Search), which is one of its major weaknesses.
Broader search type options
Just as DuckDuckGo has some unique options for things to search for, Google Search has some broad search categories that DuckDuckGo doesn't have. These include books, news, locations on a map, financial information, online journals (blogs), and scholarly writings.
The bottom line
The takeaway here is that both DuckDuckGo and Google Search have their own strong points, which should each be taken into consideration when deciding which search engine to use. Google Search gives you more overall search results while giving you more (readily-accessible) tools to narrow down what you're looking for. It's also relatively simple to use, but lacks customization options. And it isn't very privacy-friendly.
On the other hand, DuckDuckGo has much better privacy and customization options, so you can really control how it works for you. It may not give you as many search results (or ways to sort through them) as Google Search, but it can give you certain kinds of information on what you're looking for that Google Search can't. It also has a host of other handy gadgets, including the "bangs" convention that lets you quickly and easily search on one particular website at a time. It will depend on how much you're willing to tinker with the settings and explore how the extra functions work, but DuckDuckGo may end up being a more versatile and privacy-friendly version of Google Search for you.