DuckDuckGo, well known for its privacy-focused search engine, at long last launched its desktop browser for macOS today as an alternative to Google Chrome or Safari. The new app enables Mac users to surf the web and evade data collectors. Previously, users who preferred the privacy-centric search engine could only use it as an extension within Safari or Chrome, or as a standalone app on iPhone and Android.
Since its founding in 2008, DuckDuckGo has attempted to position itself as a more private alternative to search engines like Google and Bing, and has since waded into the browser wars, where it competes with Google, Safari and Microsoft Edge. But without a browser app, the company has trailed behind. The macOS browser is still in beta and requires joining a wait list. Still, it's a start.
“At DuckDuckGo our mission is to show the world that protecting privacy is simple. We know that in order to do this we must build apps that are a pleasure to use and provide as comprehensive privacy protection as possible, whether you’re on your phone, at your desk, in a hammock, or somewhere that is even nicer than a hammock,” reads a company blog post.
A desktop app is essential for the company to truly take on Google — as Wired noted, 67% of Chrome users are on desktop, and the browser app allows Google to collect a ton of data.
But even so, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg’s ambitions don’t stop here. He pitches DuckDuckGo as not just a search engine, but a “privacy company” that will make privacy settings accessible for everyday users. DuckDuckGo has a suite of privacy tools that go way beyond search, like an email protection service that removes trackers from your inbox. That service is enabled by default in the new app, and the browser also defaults to DuckDuckGo's search engine.
That's the biggest advantage of using DuckDuckGo: the suite of privacy protections. Users even have the option of letting the browser sort through those irritating cookie preference pop-ups (you know the ones). When that setting is enabled, the browser will manage cookie pop-ups about 50% of the time, a ratio that should increase as more people use the beta app, Wired reported.
But there are some drawbacks. There's isn't a bookmarks tab, for example — instead, bookmarked pages auto-complete when users type them in, and sites marked as "favorites" are suggested at the top of a new tab page. Users also can’t review their browser history yet. These are pretty critical tools for a web browser.
In some ways, DuckDuckGo’s privacy focus — and the way that is perceived as “less censorship” by some users — has begun to haunt it in recent years. The company recently ended its relationship with Russian search engine Yandex. Now it's taking an even more proactive role by downranking misinformation about the war while highlighting reputable news coverage.
DuckDuckGo may not have Google's scale. But with its new browser app, it's one step closer to breaking Google's grip on the internet.
Update: This story has been updated to include information about how users can access bookmarked and favorited websites in the DuckDuckGo browser.