Reality Check

Meet the Startup Eyeing Google’s Crown

August 4, 2020

We've entered a new era where coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and surveillance have made many people feel like they are giving up privacy for security.

In many ways, we already choose between privacy and convenience every day—especially now that we're all spending more time on the internet.

You probably see it in the form of ads and search results so personalized, it's easy to wonder if search king Google (GOOGL) is reading your mind.

But what if you could get some of that privacy and security back… conveniently?

One Pennsylvania-based outfit is not only ready to take a shot at Google's crown, it's also the type of company that Google Ventures’ arm would fund.

There's a Good Reason Google Has Its Eye on This Company

More people and websites use Google than any other search engine… and it’s not by just a little bit.


Source: WebFX

With its 92.5% share of the global search engine market in 2019, none of its competitors even come close.

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Bing and Yahoo! together can't even come up with 5%. Baidu was created for the Chinese market, and Yandex was created specifically for the Russian market.

Google is a powerhouse. But it wasn’t always that way. Google wasn’t the first search engine… or even close.

The web became available to the public in 1990, even though most people didn’t have a computer in their homes. The first web search engine would arrive in 1993. And Google didn’t break onto the scene until 1998.

We're not going to go through the entire history of search engines. Most of you probably won’t remember them, and they aren’t even relevant now.

The point is, Google has clearly done something right to make its way to the top.

Build a Better Mousetrap…

and the world will beat a path to your door.

At least, that’s how the saying goes.

So, how can anyone improve on Google’s ease and efficiency?

Consumers realize that companies value their personal data more than gold these days.

Millions of dollars are made every year from selling the personal data of people just trying to navigate the web. And consumers have all but come to terms with that reality.

But DuckDuckGo instead asks people everywhere a simple question: “Tired of being tracked online?” You might have even seen one of their 2,245 billboards in the US or 2,261 billboards in Europe with the same message.


Source: Twitter

The company is based just outside of Philly and prides itself on protecting searchers' privacy.

It doesn’t collect, store, or pass along any personal information about its users. And, it completely avoids the filter of personalized results by showing all users the same results for a given search term.  

That's important because your personal data can remain on sites and other search engines indefinitely. It can even be subpoenaed by lawyers.

DuckDuckGo does not collect any info from users… ever. That includes not going back to websites and reporting which search terms led users there.

Although privacy seems like something so simple, it really is a novel concept when being applied to search engines.

More users are catching on:

  • In May 2012, the search engine was attracting 1.5 million searches a day.
  • By May 2020, 66 million searches occurred every day on DuckDuckGo.

Part of this is due to the access becoming easier. DuckDuckGo is a search engine in browsers like Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and, you guessed it, Google Chrome.

Plus, if you run a website, the company makes the code available to add the DuckDuckGo search box to your website for free.

And the billboards… which we recently saw pop up in a rather remote area of Florida… aren’t hurting the cause.

The only question left now will be whether enough people still believe that their privacy is important enough to make the switch.

Google’s targeted advertising is one of the main income streams that has allowed it to rise to its Goliath status. Ads are responsible for 70% of Google's revenue.


Source: Visual Capitalist

That is only possible by collecting billions and billions of pieces of consumer data. But as more and more companies experience data breaches, consumers are finally starting to get weary of where their data ends up.

Whether DuckDuckGo ends up being the disruptor of the stale search engine industry or paves the way for someone else, this is a disruption we can’t ignore.

DuckDuckGo has already proven that it can get angel investors, so it’s only a matter of time before the company decides to go public. 

Tell us: Do you use DuckDuckGo or think it would be a worthy investment on the publicly traded markets? Or is "online privacy" an oxymoron? We'd love to hear your thoughts—send them our way here.

Parting Thoughts

Big Tech was under the microscope on Capitol Hill last week. But investors are fixated on their earnings, which have been leading the markets higher. Here is some news for the record books…

  • Who needs advertisers? Not Facebook (FB): Mark Zuckerberg's company saw revenues surge 11% to $18.7 billion despite more than 1,000 advertisers boycotting the social media platform this summer. 
  • The economy notched its worst quarter: GDP fell 33% between April and June, which was better than expected. Next quarter looks brighter, with the Atlanta Fed estimating nearly 12% growth.
  • Meanwhile, Apple (AAPL) saw its best quarter: In calendar Q2 (Apple's fiscal Q3), Tim Cook & Co saw an $11 billion profit on $60 billion in sales. iPhone sales only grew 2%, but iMacs, iPads, earbuds, and services like Apple Music all saw double-digit increases. Look for the company to split its stock 4-for-1 at month’s end. This is Apple's fifth stock split.
  • Amazon (AMZN) gets an A+: In Q2, Jeff Bezos' baby saw its quarterly profit rise 100%, to $5.6 billion. Sales came in at $89 billion, but what's interesting is the 175,000 jobs the company has created since March. Amazon's good fortune gave UPS a boost; its home deliveries are up 65%.
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Comments

william_healey@ssga.com

Aug. 16, 5:39 p.m.

I have started using Duckdockgo and it has made my computer faster when I search websites. It also alerts me to unsafe websites. Did you guys know that the Mauldin website shows up as unsafe?

obyrnejeff@mac.com

Aug. 11, 7:11 p.m.

Changed the selection of search engine on my iMac when Safari/Google started changing the order of found items from the Google reference criteria to advertising. Compounding this was the insertion of more and more selections generated by my prior search history and other unknown criteria. This had gotten to the point that the real search results started on the second page.

Jim Gargano

Aug. 5, 6:42 a.m.

Duck Duck Go is what I use and its great that they are growing but if they want to keep those customers they better not sell out to big tech.

ktmacmillan@aol.com

Aug. 4, 11:10 a.m.

how do I purchase this stock, as it is not now on any platform such as mlol,etc.?

Anna Nagrath

Aug. 4, 11:03 a.m.

Google search has long ago ceased being useful to me. For example I put in the name of a hotel I already know about. I get search results of which the first page + are links or ads to third party booking sites. Very inconvenient when I am looking for the hotel website.

Similarly the different search results for different people. The same widely available information should be available to all seekers of it.

I have been using duck duck go for a very long time. It’s what google used to be. I have always been disturbed by the idea of google having access to all your emails, all your search, all your documents… well the list goes on and on. While convenient, it’s a recipe for abuse and big brothers most convenient place for one stop shopping of your personal previously 4th amendment protected information and documents.

I encourage people to use duck duck go. I think it works better than google search. I think probably I have used it for ten years. As soon as I tried it I was very happy. It has saved me lots of time sorting through useless “google” results.