Duck Duck Go & Private Search Market Growth
DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Startpage all offer users a variety of privacy features and settings, and have increased numbers of users and revenue. Private search engines in general are growing in demand, with a variety of websites now that offer varying services and products, as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of just how much data is being collected and used by search engines. Google, who does not shy away from using these data collection tactics to remain at the top of the market, nonetheless has taken some measures to deal with the competition such as using the top four market competitors in their we browser.
- DuckDuckGo's website states that they have 1.8 billion searches each month and growing, with a Twitter post on their website stating that as of April 15th, they are "the #2 search engine on mobile in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, New Zealand, & Portugal!"
- In April 2019, there were more than 30 million searches on DuckDuckGo each day, with data indicating it will continue to grow. It ranked then as the fourth largest search engine user base in the U.S. and had more than 1 billion searches each month by users across the globe.
- In 2019, Google maintained 88.5% of the search engine market share, Bing had 6.12%, Yahoo! had 4.11%, and DuckDuckGo had 0.99% of market shares, with another site stating it is now 1.27%. The estimated net worth DuckDuckGo is $901 million.
- DuckDuckGo states that their policy on privacy "is simple: we don’t collect or share any personal information." Features offered such as "The Privacy Grade" show if a site can be trusted before and after Privacy Protection, the use of encrypted connections when possible to protect data, and tracker blockers to stop tracking from advertisers. DuckDuckGo states they do not track users in any way whatsoever.
- Qwant's website states that they had 2.6 billion search requests in 2016, with 0.78% of the market share of France as of March 2020.
- Qwant has over 40 million users visiting its page as of March 2020, with the company receiving over €43.5 million in funding. The company will donate at least 5% of ad revenue to French media companies.
- Qwant, who is designed and based in Europe, is "the first search engine that protects user freedoms, ensuring that the digital ecosystem remains healthy" through privacy and neutrality. They state that they "respect the web and it's users," putting values such as privacy, freedom, and neutrality at the core of their mission. They never record searches and never use personal data for advertising or any other purposes, and offer features such as unbiased search results, and "panoramic search."
- Qwant allows all search results to be visible without bias or discrimination, with sorting algorithms that are equally applied for every user on each site, without placing certain websites forward or hiding others for other interests such as political, commercial, or moral.
- Startpage had over 61k U.S. users as of March 2020, with the highest percentage of use in Germany. The company's market share in 2020 was lower than Yandex's of 0.45%, and in 2019 was the same percentage of market share as the preceding three years with a slight decrease at the end of 2018. Although it may not be the most reputable source, Owler was the only source of Startpage's estimated annual revenue of $2 million.
- Startpage is dedicated to "providing quality, unbiased search results while respecting online privacy and never storing consumer data." The search engine uses results from Google while giving users the privacy that Google doesn't, featuring a proxy service allowing users to browse websites that are found anonymously, and a custom URL generator allowing users the ability to save settings without accepting cookies.
- The company distinguishes themselves from the majority of search engines through user privacy that is focused on not storing any personal data whatsoever, including no IP addresses, search history, personal data, or tracking cookies. Startpage states that other search engines stop protecting users as soon as they click to another website, but they offer an “Anonymous View” feature that allows users to browse privately on any site linked from Startpage’s searches.
Growth of Privacy Demands
- A study by Cognizant on “The Business Value of Trust” found that 47% of people said they would switch to a digital startup which better protected their data.
- A growing number of internet users are considering where to draw the line in terms of data collection, for what is acceptable and what is invasive, seeking out alternatives to the norm that instead respect their privacy. This has led to an increase of users for search engines such as Startpage, DuckDuckGo, and Mojeek, who not only provide privacy but rid of filter bubbles that use tracking to target and customize results.
- Traffic numbers show that internet users are beginning to use search engines like Mojeek in Britain, Qwant in France, and Unbubble and Swisscows in Germany, which promise to not track user data, filter results, or show ads based on behaviors. In 2018 the French parliament and army announced they would no longer use Google and instead use Qwant as their default search engine in efforts to reclaim “digital sovereignty.”
- This growth in demand for privacy is evident in Google's move to quietly add DuckDuckGo as a search engine option for Chrome in 60 markets. One of the top private search engines, DuckDuckGo took seven years to reach 10 million searches in one day, but only another two years to hit 20 million, and less than another year later to reach 30 million.
How Search Engines Track and Use Data
- To put it simply, major search engines track everything we say, do, and go online, as the true cost of using their "free" services. Companies leverage personal identifiable information of users as their business models, collecting not only search queries, but gender, age, location, hobbies and much more.
- Google has gone to the "extremes" for data collection at the expense of privacy, including obtaining web activity from WiFi networks through Street View cars or bypassing tracker cookie settings in Safari to monitor all activity of users.
- Not only does Google use data collection for revenue, but they also can group data together in useful ways, such as the trends and behaviors of users or groups, and also for entire cities or countries. Google utilizes the information for a wide array of uses, such as market research, decisions, refinement of products, and much more.
How Google Stays Ahead
- Ever since 1997, and the start of Google Search, the global market share of search engines has been lopsided, with Google dominating the market at an 87.35% market share as of January 2020.
- Google had the early advantage of having simply the best product, with the earliest versions of Google’s now legendary search algorithm already able to return much more relevant results than the competition. The user experience was also emphasized by Google, ridding of early models of internet monetization. Other search engines used ads on their page and kept a frame around results to keep users on their site and thus seeing their ads, while Google kept their page simple and sparse, letting users leave to visit the web results quickly.
- As Google’s market share continued to climb and competitors were behind, Google invested in other ventures and products such as their email service (Gmail), web browser (Chrome), and hardware such as tablets and “Chromebook” laptops, among others.
- The majority of Google's revenue is through advertising, though with the help of these other ventures Google earn one of the highest revenues in 2019 for tech companies with nearly $160.74 billion, despite growing numbers of competitors.
- Google is not afraid to base their business model on tracking every aspect of its users including searches, gender, age, location, hobbies and much more, with ad revenue alone reaching almost $116.3 billion in 2018.
- Through a wide variety of Google features and other companies such as YouTube, more than 90% of all searches on the internet are taking place through the company.
- Google included the top four market share competitors under their own Chrome browser, giving users the ability to use these other search engines, including Bing and DuckDuckGo. With Bing at the second highest market share of 2.55% in 2020, and DuckDuckGo and other private search engines on the rise, Google is essentially utilizing the services of the competition to enhance user experience.