Startups

Friday Q&A: Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of Duck Duck Go

Duck Duck Go. It’s a name that’s sure to bring the Valley Forge-based search engine company attention just by folks trying to figure out what it means. Some have called it silly. Others have mentioned a common childhood game by the same name. CEO Gabriel Weinberg says it isn’t named after anything special. “I wish […]

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Duck Duck Go. It’s a name that’s sure to bring the Valley Forge-based search engine company attention just by folks trying to figure out what it means.
Some have called it silly. Others have mentioned a common childhood game by the same name.
CEO Gabriel Weinberg says it isn’t named after anything special.
“I wish I had a good answer for you. I don’t. It came to me one day and I really liked it,” he says during a telephone interview.
If anything, Duck Duck Go is just something different. In the Web search industry, that’s important. It might be one of few ways of chiseling away at Google’s dominating market share the search giant currently queries 63 percent of U.S. searches.
That’s OK with 29-year-old Weinberg. He says Duck Duck Go offers features Google can’t: uncluttered, human-sourced, friggin’ fast search results. Direct to you from the ‘burbs.
Last week, the company unveiled its Firefox toolbar, a search tool that redirects users from parked domains and spam sites, part of Duck Duck Go’s fight against typo squatting. It’s the second Duck Duck Go-branded software release, the first, a search app for Apple’s iPhone. Traffic has been good to the company, increasing steadily month by month, Weinberg says.
We spoke with Weinberg about what makes Duck Duck Go special, how the two-employee company plans to continue growing, and his vision of the future of search, after the jump.
Transcript of interview was edited for length and clarity.
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What put the idea for Duck Duck Go into motion? Was it planned out or did you just start tackling the project?
I’m all about rapid prototyping. The initial idea was that all these human-powered sources Wikipedia, Del.icio.us had been built-up in the past decade. There’s a lot of info, a lot of links that people have hand selected. I thought, ‘If you mashed these two things together you could get some interesting results.’
It’s interesting that you’re marrying human-powered technology with search technology. Is this where search is headed?
Human-powered sites have people on them really spending time crafting the best links, which are often better than you get through algorithmic approaches. But so many other areas could also be the future of search. Personalization, recommendation, all sorts of areas are exciting and interesting.
Is it worth chasing Google?
My take on search is that the idea that one search engine fits everyone is fundamentally flawed. Different interfaces and different results appeal to different people. Our goal has been to appeal to the non-negligible percentage of people that would prefer our engine. That’s one of the reasons that Ask, Live and Yahoo haven’t made headway against Google in the last few years; their results just look like Google’s.
You say you’re blocking 44 million spam sites. That’s still only like, .0001 percent of the Internet, right?
We actually block about 35 to 40 percent of the Internet. I work with the Parked Domains Project which is literally crawling the top U.S. domains every month. We go to 110 million a month, look at them and decide whether it’s parked or not. Duck Duck Go just omits the parked domains.
Is that a technology exclusive to Duck Duck Go?
Parked Domain Projects sells the information to interested parties on a case-by-case basis, but so far there’s no other search engines using it.
What are your monetization plans?
Plans are to put some kind of advertising on the site at some point relatively soon, but still keep it at much less advertising than other search engines. My main problem with ads is that there’s been a number of studies that say that most people have no idea on Google which ads are paid and which aren’t paid. Other people have said, ‘occasionally I do click ads and occasionally they’re useful.’ There’s some balance there where some amount is beneficial to the user.
What makes you Technically Philly?
We’re totally interested in staying in Philly for the long-term. I hope that we’re contributing to the “technically Philly” community. I love to have technical conversations, so the more of them that exist, the happier I’ll be.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

Companies: DuckDuckGo / Google
People: DuckDuckGo / Google / Gabriel Weinberg
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