Without Tracking Users, Search Engines Can Also Make 'A Ton Of Money'

Megan Gray
General Counsel and Policy Advocate at DuckDuckGo

If the web is a forest, then websites are the trees. Without proper guidance (search engine), one can be lost even when trying to visit just one website.

If it's a wilderness out there, search engines are making the web more tamed. The top in the business, is Google that owns roughly 90 percent of the market.

With its massive audience and influence, the search giant is able earn a lot of money by pointing its users to the most relevant information, by tailoring its search results to meet those people's particular interest. This ability, makes Google the most popular search engine of the past, present and future.

DuckDuckGo on the other hand, is also search engine.

As a significantly smaller search engine company, it's noble and plausible for DuckDuckGo to enter the market and eat away Google's pie. But to compete directly against Google, in a commercial perspective, DuckDuckGo may experience a hard time.

But here, DuckDuckGo has one big advantage: it offers what Google can never offer, and that is privacy.

Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that claims to never track its users.

Megan Gray

DuckDuckGo boasts to protect user privacy by not tracking or sharing what users search on the site, and emphasizes in providing the best search results instead of the most results. Aside from its own search engine, the company also offers browser extensions and apps that block tracking cookies for users of the web.

According to Megan Gray, DuckDuckGo’s general counsel and head of policy, this approach can also make a lot of money:

"It’s just like Google, except that we don’t track you. We make money from contextual ads… not the really creepy, personalized, targeted ads,"

"We make a ton of money. We are a privately held company, so I can’t tell you exactly how much we make. But we are subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which requires at least $25 million in annual revenue, and we are well above that."

DuckDuckGo is a significantly smaller search engine than Google. Even when it succeeded in getting more users, the search engine founded by Gabriel Weinberg still earns a tiny fraction of what Google makes.

But according to Gray, "It’s not really a trade-off," saying that:

"The search experience is just as good on DuckDuckGo. It’s not a matter of saying, 'I want to protect my privacy. Therefore, I’m going to have a less optimized experience'. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t care about privacy. It’s a question of what’s the friction involved with being able to educate yourself, take the time to change your search engine, have a tracker blocker installed. There’s so much… but it shouldn’t be this hard."

"There are lots of reasons why there should be some transfer of personal information from one company to another so that your experience online is more facilitated."

"For example, I would really like it when I click on a tweet that links to a news story, it takes me directly there, and I’m signed in and don’t have to remember my password… But, with search, it doesn’t need to be that way."

Another way of saying this: if people care about something and are willing to go to great length to get that, they can.

It may be difficult for most people who are experienced in the web to dump Google. But if they care about privacy, DuckDuckGo offers them the solution that Google can never give.

And that solution is surprising profitable for the company.