In 2020, I started my second attempt to quit using Google Search. My first attempt lasted less than a day. My second attempt is still going strong. I have been using DuckDuckGo for about 3 months now. I even think I’m starting to like it. During my second attempt, I noticed something interesting: I had to change my search behaviour.

The ease of Google

Let me start by saying that Google is very good search engine. As Google developed its service throughout the years, it got better and better at predicting what people are looking for. I often use search to find the opening hours of a place I want to visit, e.g. a coffee bar. The place I often look for in my home town is called Buutvrij.

When I look for Buutvrij on Google, this is what the results show me:

Pretty neat right? It automatically shows the relevant data for me; it tells me if it is currently open, and if not, when it will open doors. Exactly the information I need.

The extra effort of DuckDuckGo

Now what does the same search get me in DuckDuckGo? Let’s have a look:

This is not the exact information I need. It’s not even showing the link to the right website. After some modifications to my query, I get a result that is a better fit for my needs:

In my second query, I added some context to my query by adding the name of the city I’m in (Tilburg) and what data I need (opening hours). The results still require me to visit the website and look for the opening hours.

So why do I want to stick to a search engine that makes me do more?

Why I try to keep using DuckDuckGo

By using DuckDuckGo, I noticed that the convenience of Google search made me a lazy searcher. For some queries, as my example query, this is not really a problem. It is easy to say that it saves me time. Google saves me the effort of detailing my query because 1) it knows my location, and 2) it assumes that most people who look for a place want the information they display in the card. In other words: it has data on me and billions of other users. And they use that data in a smart way (I think it is one of the few good examples these days of a direct user benefit that results from data sharing).

But what if my search is about a more serious topic? Let’s say I want to know more about some scientific topic, about climate change.  A search engine that changes results based on data it has on me and other (similar) users could alter results on what ‘works best’ for users that are like me. It could influence the information it returns to have it resonate with me.

In this case, it could be beneficial to have a search engine that has less control over its results.  As I find out information about a topic, I can add details to my query to drill down, making the knowledge gathering a more conscious effort.

I’ll use my coffee bar example to illustrate the difference:

  • With Google, I search for Buutvrij, assume the machine knows what I want (and it is often good at it), and accept the results.
  • With DuckDuckGo, I search for Buutvrij, and notice the results don’t really help me. I have to think about what I actually want. Modify my query. And help the machine get the information I need. It’s a more active experience.

By using DuckDuckGo I think my searching behaviour is changing. I am slowly coming to grips with a more active way of searching the internet. And I like that.