Duck Duck No?
August 30, 2021 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I've always preferred to use the "Duck Duck Go" search engine, for reasons of privacy, anonymous results, and avoiding the worst search cruft. But it seems like just lately my results are suddenly terrible/not useful--has DDG changed, and what should I do?

It feels like my search results became suddenly much worse and less helpful very recently--maybe even just in the past couple of weeks. Did Duck Duck Go just recently make some big change?

For instance, if I type the search "Latin America", I do get the Wikipedia article "Latin America" in the sidebar, but other than that, the first handful of results, in order, are: Virginia Tech's homepage, awning company,'s page about "our financial services in the United States of America", Land 'N' Sea Distributing, IRMN your total source for forklifts, the United Church of God homepage, OOCL your vital link to world trade, Chambers and partners lawyers,, and

I get this sort of terrible, unrelated jumble with all of my DDG searches now.

What happened? And I guess more to the point, what search engine should I use? I came to rely on Duck Duck Go, after a short period using Startpage...should I go back? Any other recommendations?
posted by theatro to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I believe they've been using Bing lately, know....

But seriously: I agree, I want my privacy, but these results are unusable. There is currently a thread in the DDG sub-reddit titled "DDG suddenly useless" -- so it's not just you!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2021 [8 favorites]

When I search DDG for "latin america" I get in order: the wiki page for Latin America, the wiki page for Latin Americans, a page "What is Latin America", a list of Latin American countries, the Britannica page for "history of Latin America", "Latin America Statistics and Facts, the BBC News page for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the CNN en espanol page for Latin American news.

Perhaps you have some adware or spyware running? Do you get the same results for Latin America if you use a different computer/browser or incognito mode?
posted by caek at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I was just thinking this earlier today when I searched for a site with a made up word as their name and got a ridiculous list of nonsensical, unrelated results. It's not just you.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:47 PM on August 30, 2021

Response by poster: Hm, I don't think there's anything funny on this PC--I'm at work, and the IT setup here is pretty strict (only allowed to visit approved sites, etc.). But to test, I tried again on a PC across the room, and the results were mostly the same (with the addition of things like 'The Othering and Belonging Institute').

The original search in my question was on Firefox (my preferred browser), with extensions uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, Facebook Container. The search just now on the other PC was in Chrome (bleah) with no extensions.

That Reddit thread, while sad, is also reassuring, in the sense that we're all in this terrible boat together. I wonder why caek's boat is so much better?
posted by theatro at 12:47 PM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wonder whether caek is using some "bang operators" that improve their results -- like the one that says to use Google as the back end. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:51 PM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do you get different results if you use a private/incognito window in Firefox/Chrome?
posted by plastic_animals at 12:52 PM on August 30, 2021

Best answer: I just tried this, and bizarrely, got the opposite of what I might have expected:
"Latin America" got me the same strange mixture of useless results as the OP
Latin America, no quotes, returned relatively useful results similar to caek's

I have no theories as to what might lead to those results.
posted by eponym at 12:54 PM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: No, no difference at all in a private window.

I've been using the quotation marks in this sample search. Just now I tried it without, and all the results were very targeted and useful. A very interesting data point, eponym!

If quotation marks are a problem/the problem, I'm going to have to switch, because I often need to use them in searching for particular phrases (or trying to mandate inclusion of a word or phrase in a longer search string... do quotation marks still do that?).
posted by theatro at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don’t have much help for you, but I have personally noticed a big decline in DDG’s ability to handle quoted search terms (in recent months, I think). It’s less than ideal.
posted by ripley_ at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2021

Best answer: My results were identical to eponym: Latin America returned relevant results, "Latin America" a useless jumble.

If you're mandating a particular word or phrase, the format is general search terms +word or general search terms +"phrase". At the moment, it looks like using quotes with general search terms is skewing results for some reason.
posted by givennamesurname at 1:45 PM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I got the same results as caek. I'm guessing that they're doing some A/B testing, and B is getting hosed?
posted by nobeagle at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just checked. Latin America works as expected. Latin America in quotes returns as the 2nd result and VA Tech as #3.
posted by COD at 2:39 PM on August 30, 2021

Best answer: Ah, my results were based on searching without quotes. When I include quotes I get the same gibberish as you do. How strange. I assume this is a bug rather than deliberate changes to PageRank.

I'm not a regular quote user in searches, and I always start at DDG. I do occasionally try the same search on Google if DDG's results aren't helpful (often true for very technical programming searches). I haven't noticed needing to do this more often recently though.

If it helps, I find the quickest way to redo a search in Google very quicky from the DDG results page is by hitting the following keys: /, left arrow, !, g, space, return (rather than using the mouse).
posted by caek at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Brave is beta testing their search engine. They do their own web indexing, and as a company are privacy focused. I haven't used it heavily, but when I've used it I've been happy with the results and I like their presentation. Announcement.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 3:13 PM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just tried and found (like others) that all quoted searches returned weird results, unquoted were fine. I'm guessing there was an update to their search algorithm and something is wonky.
posted by jzb at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: > If it helps, I find the quickest way to redo a search in Google very quicky from the DDG results page is by hitting the following keys: /, left arrow, !, g, space, return (rather than using the mouse).

You can also add bang operators to the end of your search text, which is much easier, especially on mobile.
posted by action man bow-tie at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For the very reasons you cite, I switched back to Startpage. I'm not enamored of it, but it gives me results related to my search.
posted by bryon at 4:38 PM on August 30, 2021

Using “Latin America” in quotes did not give jumbled results. The quoted words were found in text within the page. It was looking for specific text, not a subject. For instance, the Virginia Tech result at the top of the list has the term “Latin America” (no quotes) in the linked page. I looked at several other results and found the same thing…the result pages had “Latin America” in them. It’s not skewing results so much as finding text in results.
posted by lhauser at 5:08 PM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Huh, is it limiting to results where the phrase appears *exactly* once? Or just sorting from least to most relevant...
posted by unknowncommand at 8:00 PM on August 30, 2021

Best answer: I am extremely upset with DDG right now as I've noticed they are prioritizing fake pages put up by delivery services before the site run by the restaurant itself.

I don't know if everyone sees the same thing but, for example, a small French place opened nearby, so I typed "la chaleur amsterdam" without quotes and the first result is this deliveroo page:

Note the deceptive url. The actual restaurant page is: which is farther down the page.

This happens with other restaurants too. Google gives me the restaurant page as the first result.
posted by vacapinta at 11:58 PM on August 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've been using Neeva and finding the search experience to be much better than DDG.
posted by shw at 4:39 AM on August 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Gee, DDG seems to be working perfectly for me.
posted by james33 at 4:41 AM on August 31, 2021

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