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[liberationtech] DuckDuckGo vs Startpage [was: Help test Tor Browser]

Michael Carbone michael at
Mon Jun 24 18:18:05 PDT 2013

Hash: SHA1

On 06/24/2013 08:20 PM, Mike Perry wrote:
> I've had a number of people tell me that they vouch for DuckDuckGo.
> What does this even mean? Nobody seems to be capable of rationally
> explaining it.
> Have you inspected their datacenter/server security? Have you
> audited their logging mechanisms?

The data center thing is a non-sequitur -- no third-party service has
this type of the transparency. My understanding is that you don't need
to trust these service providers to use them anonymously as they are
friendly to Tor and no scripts/cookies/etc -- hence the difficulties
you mention later on with Bing & Google. So it doesn't split either
way between StartPage or DDG. They are equivalent in not allowing
personal audits of their servers.

> Does DuckDuckGo even have an https channel to Bing on the back
> end?

Not sure the fixation on Bing, but they pull results from a lot of
folks, including Yahoo!, Yandex, and others:

> Note that I don't vouch for StartPage. I merely think that
> StartPage provides superior search results to DDG.

Since this is the only criterion you base your choice of search engine
on, then perhaps StartPage is the way to go for you. If I were to
argue for DDG, I would point to its much more friendly user
interface/experience (including the html version) and the great !bang
syntax. Maybe it also provides better results for "mainstream" things
as you alluded, I don't know. But there's certainly nothing wrong with
appealing to mainstream folks, this is TBB after all.

I think these are the reasons why it is gaining a lot of users ( ). Either way, users will be able
to choose the other search engine in the omnibox as you mention.

> In fact, I wish both companies the best of luck business-wise, and
> I'm happy to have both of them at the two top positions in TBB's
> omnibox.
> This is because right now, there are only two ways to get https
> web search results over Tor. Microsoft allows Tor, but has
> officially refused to support https directly for Bing. Google
> regularly bans Tor nodes entirely, often without the possibility of
> even entering a Captcha or using a valid Gmail account (both of
> which are non-starters for a default engine of course, but would be
> better than status quo).
> Every time Tor tries to start a conversation with either Google or 
> Microsoft on these two topics, they both give us a litany of
> excuses as to why fixing the situation is a "hard problem", even
> after we present potential cost-effective engineering solutions to
> both problems.
> For this reason, the loss of either DDG or Startpage would scare
> the shit out of me, but right now, neither one has done enough for
> Tor to warrant the default search position**, and since StartPage
> tends to index more of the deep web faster, it is my opinion we
> should stick with them as the top position, and have DDG in
> second.
> ** Sure, DuckDuckGo runs a hidden service, and also one of the
> slowest Tor relays on the network (rate limited to 50KB/sec or
> less), but it is quite debatable as to if either of these things
> are actually helpful to Tor. In fact, such a slow Tor relay
> probably harms Tor performance more than helps (in the rare event
> that you actually happen to select it).

The hidden service is a plus, no? They seem to be trying at least,
does Ixquick have either? Maybe it'd be good to reach out to DDG about
their relay.

Just trying to rationally explain it.


- -- 
Michael Carbone
Manager of Tech Policy & Programs
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