Private Search: The Crazy Growth of DuckDuckGo


Target was hacked at the end of last year. The same thing happened recently to Michael’s craft store . And everyone who shopped there flipped out.

Because we are really, super, incredibly paranoid when it comes to putting our information out there. That’s where DuckDuckGo comes in.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, chances are you will soon. DuckDuckGo is a search engine, like Google, Yahoo or Bing, but with one very distinct difference – your searches and your IP address are kept completely, 100% anonymous.

Say on Google you search for “dinosaur.”

Typically, that search is recorded. The website that you click on in the search results page? Its owners know which keyword (“dinosaur”) led you to them. It also knows the IP address of your computer – that’s why those banner ads on the side of your web page reflect your past searches. Because after all your searches, Google has a good idea of the kind of things you like, based off the things you look for.

DuckDuckGo searches are anonymous, so that whole process is cut out – and that’s why its appeal has grown.


In the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden leaked details of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program. The next month, DuckDuckGo’s searches almost doubled, from 54.4 million to 105.6 million. That’s insane growth.

Last year, the total number of searches on DuckDuckGo was 1 billion. What would you guess that compares to Google?

In 2012, Google recorded 1.2 trillion searches. That’s over 3 billion searches a day.

With a couple billion handfuls of searches each day on Google, DuckDuckGo still has a long, long way to go before it’s a threat to Google. But, it’s rapid growth should tell us something, right?

Well, Danny Sullivan wrote a post last summer detailing DuckDuckGo’s massive growth – and how no one cares about private searches.

He argues that even though we said that our privacy is incredibly important to us, we don’t really do anything about it. And despite DuckDuckGo gaining speed after the NSA revelations, it didn’t grow at the substantial rate that it should have if the public was really that concerned.

So, where does that leave us? We know that DuckDuckGo has grown, but it also looks like a lot of Americans aren’t paying particular attention to the security issues. Either we aren’t concerned, or we don’t know about them. Chances are, it’s a little of both.

In January, DuckDuckGo broke its daily search record, serving 4.4+ million queries.

We’ll see what other milestones it hits as 2014 unfolds.