Home New App DuckDuckGo Hopes to Take Away the Pain of Mobile Search

New App DuckDuckGo Hopes to Take Away the Pain of Mobile Search

DuckDuckGo, a search engine unique for its libertarian privacy policy and dedicated pursuit of the “zero-click result,” has announced its new iPhone app is out of beta.

“Zero-click” refers to information that pops up at the top of the results page – a snippet from Wikipedia, for example. It’s designed to get users what they want to know without having to click on any of the links.

Mobile browsing still sucks

“The premise (is) that going to sites on your phone sorta sucks,” said Gabriel Weinberg, a self-described “hacker angel” (hacker and angel investor) and founder of DuckDuckGo. “If we can prevent you from doing that by giving you the info you want with zero clicks, then that’s great.”

Weinberg expects mobile search will continue to suck for another five to 10 years. Browsing sites on a 3G connection will continue to be slow even as more sites optimize for mobile devices, he said.

Finding answers in the fewest clicks

DuckDuckGo generates zero-click information from Wikipedia and 25 other sites. It also tries to save you time and clicks by going to the top results for a search in real time and pulling the most relevant paragraphs, which appear at the top of the results page under the label “Topic Summaries.”

DuckDuckGo also offers instant answers for unit conversions, zip codes and other queries using the WolframAlpha computation and search engine.

The zero click and topic summary information isn’t always helpful – sometimes the excerpt is irrelevant, inscrutable out of context, or far-too-lengthy explanation – but more often than not, at least one of the at-a-glance results will settle the question and end the search there.

The “fewest clicks” mantra is similar to mobile search engine Taptu, which aims to deliver users what they are looking for in “10 taps or less.” Taptu only indexes mobile websites.

Going up against Google

Weinberg said DuckDuckGo’s real competitor is not other mobile search apps like Taptu or SearchIt, but the elephant in the room – Google, which controls around 98% of mobile search.

Google’s native app doesn’t shoot for zero click info. But it almost achieves the same effect by popping up the first sentence of the relevant Wikipedia entry in the description of the first result. Still, DuckDuckGo seems to save more clicks – a welcome feature for mobile users weary of their small screens and 3G speeds.

The thing we missed most in the DuckDuckGo app was search suggestions. There is a plug-in that does this for the web search.

Privacy and advertisers

One area where DuckDuckGo surpasses Google is its fierce protection of user privacy. Searches are encrypted, and DuckDuckGo does not track IP addresses or search sessions.

“We have a really strict and readable privacy policy. We go farther than anyone else in that regard,” Weinberg said. “We don’t store anyone’s IP address, so we don’t know who you are at all. We don’t have search sessions, so we can’t even tie your searches together.”

DuckDuckGo will place an “unobtrusive” ad on the results page that is tied to the search query, but that’s the extent of targeting, Weinberg said.

“I don’t see the tradeoff there of getting a little more money, for us, being important enough to give up the privacy,” he said.

A previous iPhone app was not a full native app, just a copy of the website. Weinberg is working on the BlackBerry and Android versions of the new app.

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