The Default Search Challenge

With the recent iOS update, Apple has added Ecosia as an alternative default search engine. Ecosia is similar to DuckDuckGo in that it is a privacy-focused search engine that isn’t Google. They don’t sell your data to advertisers and don’t use trackers. Instead of trying to build a monster-sized company, Ecosia is using its profits to plant trees. That’s right. Trees. One hundred fifteen million of them as of this writing.

So for the last week, I’ve been using Ecosia and, like DuckDuckGo, finding it up to the task. I would recommend you try DuckDuckGo (which has some nice tricks up its sleeve) or Ecosia (which is trying to help the planet) instead of Google for the rest of 2020. Just give it a shot. If you’re not happy with it by New Year’s Day, you can switch back.

To switch your default browser on iOS, go to Settings → Safari → Search Engine. On the Mac in Safari, go to Safari → Preferences → Search.

Duck Duck Go Bangs

I have been using DuckDuckGo for several years now. Recently I was talking to a friend about this, and she explained that while she likes the idea of DuckDuckGo, she still thinks she would occasionally need Google. “Then just bang Google,” I responded, and she looked at me like I just got off a spaceship.

A lot of people are not familiar with the concept of DuckDuckGo bangs. Bangs are just a series of shortcuts that DuckDuckGo added to its search bar, making it easy for you to search on specific domains. For instance, “!g MacSparky” in the DuckDuckGo search bar searches MacSparky through the Google search engine, anonymized. Here are a few that I use all the time:

!g – Google
!a – Amazon
!w – Wikipedia
!YouTube or !watch – YouTube
!reddit – Reddit
!yelp – Yelp
!imdb – IMDB
!apple – Apple
!appledev – Developer.Apple
!maps – Google Maps
!applemaps – Apple Maps
!archived – wayback machine

According to the DuckDuckGo website, there are currently 13,505 bangs. If you would like to switch to an Internet search engine that’s not quite so creepy, DuckDuckGo is the answer, and a few bangs in your pocket make the transition so much easier.

Getting More from DuckDuckGo

It’s been several years since I last wrote about DuckDuckGo and how I use it as my primary search engine. At this point, it is my default search engine everywhere for some pretty good privacy-related reasons.

I do not consider myself a tinfoil-hat-wearing privacy nut, but personal tracking on the web is out of hand. DuckDuckGo provides me some measure protection. Moreover, since using DuckDuckGo, I haven’t noticed much of a decline in search results over what I used to get with Google.

Another feature that I like about DuckDuckGo is its power-user features. There are a lot of them. It usually starts with an exclamation point and then some sort of code. DuckDuckGo calls them “bangs”. As an example, “!g MacSparky” performs an anonymous Google search through the DuckDuckGo system. There are, however, a lot more, and recently Brett Terpstra indexed the best ones on his website with the post appropriately called “The Ultimate Guide to DuckDuckGo”.

DuckDuckGo Growth and Its Future With Apple

9to5 Mac reports DuckDuckGo has grown 600 percent. It doesn’t surprise me that DuckDuckGo is growing. The word is getting out and its search gets continually better. I’ve been using it as my primary web search engine and I haven’t missed Google enough to want to go back. I’m not saying DuckDuckGo is as good as Google, but it’s close enough and the way in which DuckDuckGo respects my privacy more than makes up the difference.

John Gruber writes pondering what would happen if Apple made DuckDuckGo the default search engine on iOS. I can’t tell if he knows something and is being coy or just speculating. (I suspect it’s the latter.) Regardless, DuckDuckGo is a lot more in line with Apple’s stance on privacy and the idea that Apple would switch the default engine to DuckDuckGo makes some sense.

The Little Duck that Could

I’ve written about DuckDuckGo before. It’s an alternative search engine that has, as item number one on it’s white board, “don’t track users”. My searches really aren’t all that interesting but I don’t like becoming a Google product all that much either. DuckDuckGo isn’t as fast, or frankly as good, as Google but it is narrowing the gap. They continue to evolve and most recently announced a redesign that you can try right now at

The search results, show in the below gallery, are very attractive and pretty good. I’m back to using it full time and it’s not annoying me. The features to search images, videos, and the dictionary are very clean. Best of all, I’m not anybody’s product. If you’ve not tried DuckDuckGo in awhile, go back. You’ll be surprised.