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How DuckDuckGo Earns Money Without Surveillance

As described in the previous post The Case Against Google, I am using DuckDuckGo exclusively now for quite some time. Although I am happy with the search results overall, there have been (rare) occasions when I reran queries through Google because I could simply not find what I was looking for in an adequate time frame.

DuckDuckGo Logo

Comparing the sheer size of the two search engines and the teams behind them, it would be naive to believe that a complete replacement would be achievable in such a short time frame. After all, DuckDuckGo only started in 2008, i.e. about the time Google Search already owned around 60% of the search engine market share in the US and roughly 10 years after Google Search started to serve first queries as a newcomer against the then unrivaled champion AltaVista.

Although it was clear that DuckDuckGo also needed to earn some money and although I could envision ways to earn money without tracking individual users across the web, there wasn't a lot of information that I could find at the time I configured DuckDuckGo as my default search engine. So in a sense I needed to trust that DuckDuckGo wasn't some whitewashed surveillance capitalism with a cute logo.

A recent Quora article by Gabriel Weinberg (CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo) now finally allows me to replace this trust with more knowledge. The article nicely summarizes how the business model works without tracking users. In a nutshell DDG sells advertising by keywords entered into the search rather than by the tracked identities performing searches.

As DDG is profitable since 2014 this seems to work well in the "advertising finances and shapes the internet" world view that is currently unchallenged.


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