In March 2006, Gabriel Weinberg left United Online with $10 million in his pocket, after selling The Names Database. Two years later, in 2008, DuckDuckGo would make its first appearance.
The DDG project in its infancy
With only a few servers in a dusty basement, Weinberg sets the first version of DuckDuckGo (DDG), a Search Engine that is not ”watching” you.
DDG is not the typical Search Engine as it follows a different approach. It collects results using over 400 external sources such as Bing, Yahoo, Yammly; it also includes crowdsourced sites such as Wikipedia. As for the name, it derives from the Duck Duck Goose game, as Weinberg himself has stated:
Really it just popped in my head one day and I just liked it. It is certainly influenced/derived from duck duck goose, but other than that there is no relation, e.g., a metaphor
Until 2011, Weinberg was essentially working on the DDG by himself, except for perhaps some external partners. All this is changing with the recruitment of Caine Tighe, the first full-time employee of DDG. Not long afterwards, Union Square Ventures decides to invest in the Weinberg project.
We didn’t invest in it because we thought it would beat Google. We invested in it because there is a need for a private search engine. We did it for the Internet anarchists, people that hang out on Reddit and Hacker News.
The company, consisting of its founder and only one employee, is now leaving the dusty basement and relocating to their headquarters in Paoli. The team is gradually expanding and hits 55 employees.
In 2010, DDG had 39,000 daily direct searches on average. It reached 1.5 million in 2012, while in 2017 it exceeded 20 million searches in one day! Manifesting the importance of data privacy, Weinberg has succeeded in becoming a key player, if not a key threat, in the search engine market. With Safari and Firefox now offering the possibility to set DDG as the default search engine, and the DDG mobile applications for Android and iOS becoming a reality, Weinberg seems to be ready to face up and tame the Search Engine titans.
Let’s watch his speech at GEL in 2013:
Protecting searchers’ privacy, personal data, and preferences from being shared, sold or commodified, DuckDuckGo is certainly worth a try. We’re looking forward to your opinions and insights.