DuckDuckGo's new Windows browser goes all in on privacy tools

Photo (c) Dr After 123 - Getty Images

Spam? Algorithms? Adios!

If you’re tired of being tracked, tired of website algorithms feeding you things you don’t have an ounce of interest in, or tired of fighting spam, there is now a browser that fights all those annoyances for everyone.

A year after rolling out its nuisance-fighting browser for Mac users, DuckDuckGo (DDG) has released a version for Windows users.

The company claims its alternative to Google search and Chrome won’t track you for a minute, plus it can block other companies from tracking you, too. “Just a fast, lightweight browser that makes the Internet less creepy and less cluttered,” the company calls it.

DuckDuckGo isn’t exactly a household name, but it has proved to be the little search engine that could. Since it first launched in 2008, its daily searches have moved from the hundreds of thousands to the hundreds of millions.

Is privacy important to you?

Privacy is at the heart of DDG’s browser update, a fact the company’s CEO doesn’t want to be lost on anyone.

“Search alone doesn’t actually solve the privacy harms people are concerned with,” Gabriel Weinberg said. “Like ads following you around, unsettling targeting, or people grabbing up your personal information. Search is part of that, but there are lots of trackers hiding behind websites.” 

That privacy crusade begins with DDG’s Duck Player, a YouTube player that lets you watch YouTube videos without privacy-invading ads and keeps video views from impacting the recommendations pushed your way.‌‌

Another plus is tracker blocking which the company claims goes way past what’s available from Chrome and other browsers. For example, its Tracker Loading Protection is designed to block hidden trackers from companies like Google and Facebook that may be lurking on other websites before they ever get a chance to load. ‌‌‌‌

There’s also…

  • Smarter Encryption to guarantee that more of the websites you visit and the links you click on are encrypted and secure – at least relative to other browsers.

  • For those who don’t like leaving any trace of where they’ve been on the internet, DuckDuckGo is introducing the Fire Button, which supposedly burns recent browsing data in one click. On the flip side, there’s also a handy “Fireproof” option for any sites you want to stay logged into.

  • Another privacy perk is Email Protection, which has the ability to disguise your email address with unique email addresses so when you’re signing up for things online, your Gmail or other regular inboxes don’t get spammed with spew.

Users like what they see, but there’s room for improvement

In the reviews ConsumerAffairs saw of DuckDuckGo, it’s hard to find any naysayers. Out of the 1.81M reviews on Google Play Store, the app averages a 4.7-star rating.

The only thing pundits say is a concern is that DDG’s competitors like Microsoft and Google have tied their services tightly to their apps and it’s making it tougher for someone to make the switch. For example, Google Docs is tied to Chrome.

“DuckDuckGo’s hope is that it can get people to do the one download to get into the browser, and then the company can provide all kinds of services,” said The Verge’s David Pierce.

And both Weinberg and the company’s product director, Peter Dolanjski, said Pierce is speaking to the choir when it comes to features. Weinberg cited DuckDuckGo’s email protection as one example. “Ideally, these are features that protect you, that we can also make more visible,” he said.

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