Duck Duck Go!

Recently I’ve starting using Twitter Search to find people talking about topics that interest me. One of my serendipitous finds was Gabriel Weinberg, who is reported to have single-handedly built a search engine called Duck Duck Go. I’ll suspend judgement on the name–after all, Beyond Search blogger Steve Arnold proudly calls himself an addled goose.

Regular readers know that I’m highly skeptical of quixotic attempts to take on the web search market. And I have no reason to believe that Duck Duck Go will achieve meaningful market share in our lifetime.

But Weinberg has truly done more with less. For example, when I do a query for SIGIR , I get a disambiguation dialog that bootstraps on Wikipedia. Yes, these are also the top two hits on Google, but with a dialog that implements clarification before refinement.

Unambiguous queries like Endeca or Warren Buffett need no clarification and instead return clean pages of top results from the major content types.

I supsect that Weinberg is heavily leveraging Wikipedia. But why not? Why work hard when you can work smart?

And Duck Duck Go can go off the rails, particularly for harder queries. I haven’t tested it enough to scientifically compare its quality to that of the major web search engines.

Still, it makes a strong first impression and have a great interface. At the very least, he’s raising the user experience bar for the common web search use cases. Check it out!

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

6 replies on “Duck Duck Go!”

Thanks for pointing this out — I’m definitely impressed with the super-clean interface.

But, this doesn’t seem to be a full-text search engine in the traditional sense. It really seems like a smart front-end to Wikipedia and other (semi-) structured collections, with some full-text search as a fallback. From what I can tell, data sources are give here: .

The disambiguation and federation (or vertical selection, or whatever you want to call it) seems to be quite high quality, as do the data sources. This takes enough of the focus off of the actual text search to make it a little tough to get a sense for the quality of the document ranking.

All in all, an impressive tool.


I really like what they’ve done. How cool. And how completely non-intrusive. It seems like a natural flow in one’s search interaction with the engine.

One thing I don’t like about the interface, though: Why does the default only show 2-3 disambiguatory options. I tried a few TLAs, and sometimes the one that I meant would be ranked 4th.. I’d have to click the “see more” thing.

I’d much rather see all 8 or 14 options at once. If I find what I’m looking for at rank 4, then the remaining options, further down in the list, don’t really distract me at all. So it seems like there is really no reason not to show only 2-3 options at a time.


I think it does matter to keep the options manageable (preferably visible on the screen without scrolling), but I agree that the cut-off is sometime too harsh. Part of what I find so appealing about the interface is that its results feel less like a ranked list and more like a small, diverse set of alternatives.


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