Highly personalized search is one of the key services that Google takes pride in offering to its users. Even though Yahoo and Bing are lagging behind, they try to follow Google’s lead in improving their custom search results too. The constant improvement of the personalized search has definitely facilitated countless people. However, it seems that a significant number of online users has decided against giving away their personal data and have opted for a less intrusive web search alternative.
What is personalized search?
Personalized search presents us with results that are tailored not only to our search terms but to our specific character as deduced by the search engine. Thus each person faces different information suggestions depending on whether he conducts a search on his own or on his friend’s PC. Basically the personalized search presents you with:
- A list of recommended websites that save from answering to your query would also try to be consistent with your past searches and website selections.
- A list of recommend local venues that would adhere to yours and your friends’ online reviews.
- Local specific data based on your current location, etc.
What’s wrong with that?
Personalized search is often perceived as a true facilitator, however one should not forget that usually every coin has two sides – the same rule applies here. The challenges that personalized search poses before us include:
- Being trapped in an artificial ‘filter bubble’ where the “intelligent” search engine of our choice decides what we need to see. Under the personalized search our choices are limited to the familiar sources that we have previously demonstrated interest in by recommending, sharing, or simply clicking and selecting them before the rest. Thus in the sea of information that is available on the web we remain blind to all the alternatives, we are stuck with the choices that the engine thinks relevant to our taste, interests, character. We live in our own filter bubble as Eli Pariser explains, but what is the most unsettling of it all – we don’t even realize it.
- Being an easy target to advertisers Monitoring and keeping a record of our search history, the search engines make us a target of web ads that follow us everywhere on the web. Having compiled all the personal data like purchasing records, search queries, frequently visited websites, preferred news stories or even time spent on the site and pages skimmed through during your visit, the search engines offer a valuable resource to advertisers, who pay to be able to use it and snowball you with “targeted” ads.
- Your search history is used for legal purposes Having a personal profile drafted at the given search engine your search history is kept on record and in case the government or a legal practitioner requires it, the search engine will immediately render the information.
How Is Unpersonalized Search Different?
- You are not presented with a biased choice of articles that your friends have recommended.
- Your IP is not being tracked, neither is your search history.
- Your profile is not sold, because you simply do not have a profile when using unpersonalized search.
- 3rd party advertisers and other parties are not able to build profiles about you in order to serve targeted ads, so your SERPs are not flooded with commercials.
- Your Searches cannot be legally requested.
Why unpersonalized search engine like DuckDuckGo is quickly gaining popularity?
As Greg Kumparak explains DDG is still small to compare to a search engine giant like Google with its modest 1 billion searches for the year 2013. In order to make a simple comparison he draws our attention to Google’s searches for 2012 – they amount to “3.2 billion searches, or roughly 3X all of DuckDuckGo’s annual traffic, each day.” Nevertheless, DDG’s popularity marks an amazing rise for the past year and its users grow by the day. It attracts investments and partners that believe in the respect for privacy that the engine promotes by not using tracking cookies and not saving a record of its users’ IPs.
DuckDuckGo’s CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg has openly stated that he has no interest in keeping or even collecting its visitors’ search history. Instead the search engine monetizes its services the same way Google does (showing ads triggered by the search term used) but without tracking its users.
Interesting result of this anti personalized search algorithm is the uniformity of results available to all of DDG’s users. Thus a specific search term triggers the same set of results for everyone regardless of search history and supposed interests. This provides unbiased information rendering that avoids the so-called filter bubble scenario.
Being more of a search engine aggregator DDG has a unique strategy for selecting its information sources. Unlike Google, DDG deletes the “search results for companies he believes are content mills”. Thus, while in Google’s top search results one often recognizes articles from eHow, DDG would never recommend them, as their thousands of daily posts submitted by paid freelancers are characterized as “…low-quality content designed specifically to rank highly in Google’s search index.”
The search mechanism of DDG actually aggregates the crawled results of several search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Blekko, WolframAlpha, and many others. And while DDG does not invest time and efforts in web crawling itself, it focuses on its users’ privacy, positive experience, spam free results, and its own instant answers. It gathers the results from various sources, choosing the best vertical search engine on a given topic, while also reassembling and matching the results with the ones rendered by its private crawler –DuckDuckBot, and a number of crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia.
DDG might just be the next step in the search industry and if it is early to be labeled as the future of search, it surely has a modern note to it that addresses the latest hot topic – about one’s right to privacy.
Nowadays the attempt to protect one’s personal information has lead to a lot of breakthroughs in technology. Take for instance how our currency has been changing throughout the recent years the modern virtual payment options like bitcoins promote lower transaction costs, immunity to inflation, and above all – anonymity. Privacy in web search is yet another rising need of the online users that alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo have proven to be able to address.