While Google maintains its dominance in search, despite big efforts by Yahoo and Microsoft, there appears to be room for young upstarts to grow. DuckDuckGo has doubled its traffic from 500,000 searches a day in December of 2011 to 1 million searches a day this week.
The company sets itself apart with a strong focus on privacy. It doesn’t keep a search history or attempt to provide personalized results through social networking connections. At its current rate of growth, DuckDuckGo is on pace to pass AOL this year, a remarkable feat given the volume of traffic that flows through AOL sites.
But advertisers are increasingly looking to sell highly targeted ads, meaning DDG’s approach to privacy is a real hurdle in terms of growing a revenue stream. That doesn’t seem to bother Union Square Ventures, one of the top funds in the nation, which invested in DuckDuckGo in October of last year.
“Our confidence in Gabriel and DuckDuckGo is informed by having watched the decline of Microsoft’s hegemony in the 90’s,” Brad Burnham, co-founder of USV declared. “We invested in DuckDuckGo because we became convinced that it was not only possible to change the basis of competition in search, it was time to do it.”
DDG differs from Google in that it draws on crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia when establishing authority in search results. It also creates its own pages of content to provide fast answers. As founder Gabriel Weinberg put it, “While our indexes are getting bigger, we do not expect to be wholly independent from third-parties. Bing and Google each spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year crawling and indexing the deep Web. It costs so much that even big companies like Yahoo and Ask are giving up general crawling and indexing. Therefore, it seems silly to compete on crawling and, besides, we do not have the money to do so. Instead, we’ve focused on building a better search engine by concentrating on what we think are long-term value-adds — having way more instant answers, way less spam, real privacy and a better overall search experience.”
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