With all the commotion about Google’s new privacy policy and realizing how much the Internet giant controls my online life, I wanted to do an experiment. A week without using Google for search.

If you take a moment to think about it, Google knows everything about you. If you have and use a Gmail account, Google+, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Reader, … they know who you are, who you communicate with, even in which languages, what your interests are, what you like to read, etc. It starts to get scary, right? On top of all that they also know what you look for on the internet.

Now, I can live with all that, because their products are simply the best. At least, that’s what I’ve been thinking all this time. Maybe it was time to see if Google really is the best search engine out there.

One other reason for my experiment is my disappointment about Google using Google+ results in search and upcoming plans to do more in that area. I’ve been using Google search in a different browser or in incognito mode a lot, because I don’t need all this “personalization” crap. I just want good results, based on my query. Not based on my friends, on my interests or on my location.


One search engine that seems to be getting some traction is DuckDuckGo. After exploring the settings a bit, I could immediately see why. You can tweak the thing as much as you like and make sure you get the most neutral result possible. And it makes a big deal out of not saving anything you do and having a user friendly privacy policy. So I decided to use DuckDuckGo for my experiment.

#Wolfram Alpha

I’ve been using Wolfram Alpha for a while now, for things other than real search. It’s really good as a Wikipedia replacement if you just want basic information in an efficient way. For example, if I want some info on Copenhagen (where exactly is the city located, how many people live there, which timezone is it and how close is the nearest airport) I just look for “copenhagen” in Wolfram Alpha and everything is there. It also seems to be well integrated in DuckDuckGo, for example when you want to perform currency conversion. This is nice and I think I’ll be using it more than usual this week, because I sometimes do some calculations and conversions in Google.

#The experiment

So I started my week by replacing the standard search engine in my browsers by DuckDuckGo. Now, I recently switched from .NET to Android development for my full-time job, so I need to look up a lot of things. A lot of times I want to look for things in the Android developer documentation. DuckDuckGo has this really cool thing called bang syntax that makes it super simple to search all kinds of sites, including the Android documentation, but also Wikipedia, YouTube, WordPress, a whole bunch of developer resources for a wide range of languages, maps, blogs, shopping, … The list is huge! There are shortcuts available for some of the bang syntax and you can even do a Google search with DuckDuckGo using “!g”. Crazy shit. If you want to know more about this awesomeness, check out the entire list. This is a lot more convenient than adding search engines and shortcuts to my browser.

Another cool thing is that for queries that have a lot of video results you get a top result embedded in the page.

DuckDuckGo with embedded video

Also pretty cool is you can read xkcd straight in DuckDuckGo. Besides that there’s also the calculations and the integration with Wolfram Alpha helps to find facts like James Hetfield’s birthday.

OpenStreetMap is present too. When looking for a city, a little map appears on the right and when looking for exact coordinates, the first result you get is a map of the area. And more integration! You can search for a Twitter handle and you will get some info straight from Twitter.

There’s a page dedicated to techies (read: nerds) with some information on how to find math formulas, get your own IP address, look for things on StackExchange, github, … If you want to find out what a specific git command does, DuckDuckGo can tell it for you without even clicking through to a website.

#Conclusion I’m making this all sound really good, because it is. But to be honest, I did have to use Google ( or at least “!g” ;-) ) a couple of times to find something for work, so I don’t think I’m ready for a Google search free world. But the week of the experiment has passed for a while now and I haven’t switched the default search engine for my browsers back to Google. I’m liking DuckDuckGo a lot and it will remain my default search engine for a while.