April 15, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo browser is now available to Windows users in beta

The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo browser is now available to Windows users in beta

DuckDuckGo Browser is finally available for Windows users. About nine months after launching its browser for the Mac, the privacy-focused search engine company is introducing a very similar product to Windows users. It’s available now, and its layer is always the same: DuckDuckGo is a browser and search engine that doesn’t collect your data or track you across the web.

DuckDuckGo Browser looks and works like Chrome or Edge, with a row of tabs across the top and a large text box for searching and typing URLs. (DuckDuckGo’s search engine is the default when you install the browser, but you can change that if, for some reason, you care deeply about browser privacy but not search privacy.) DuckDuckGo offers some of its own features, such as a YouTube show the company calls Duck Player that leaves out all ad targeting, tracking, and recommendations From the YouTube page.

The team at DuckDuckGo has been working on a Windows app for a few years, the company’s product manager, Peter Dolanjski, told me. It took longer than other platforms partly because Windows development was new to the team but also because the Windows ecosystem is uniquely complex. “There are a lot of differences in hardware and software, touch screens and screen resolutions,” he says. “It all takes a lot of time to work out to make sure it works well.” The app itself is built on WebView2 technology for Windows and uses the same Blink rendering engine as Chrome and most other browsers.

Adding Windows to the mix means that DuckDuckGo now has a powerful cross-platform browser that can really keep up with the Chromes and Edges of the world. The browser works on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac, giving DuckDuckGo a chance to protect your data everywhere you browse. The Windows app is still in beta, and is missing a few features — most notably extension support — but Dolanjski says it will be upgraded quickly.

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DuckDuckGo has always been one of the simplest browsers on the market.
Photo: DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is still mostly known as a search engine, but CEO Gabriel Weinberg says the company’s vision is bigger than that. He likes to refer to DuckDuckGo as his “privacy easy button”. “Research alone doesn’t actually solve the privacy damage that people care about,” he says. “Like ads following you around, alarm targeting, or people grabbing your personal information. Search is part of that, but there are a lot of trackers hiding behind websites.”

The most complete way to help people browse the web more privately is to build a web browser — and the company has found that it’s actually easier to get users to switch off Chrome altogether than to get them to install a Chrome extension.

DuckDuckGo sees the gap disappear between browser and search engine

Moreover, Weinberg says he sees the gap disappearing between the browser and the search engine. Want the best of Bing? Use Edge. Google? Chrom. brave? brave. Browser makers are tying their services closer to their apps which makes switching more difficult all the time. DuckDuckGo hopes that people can download once to access the browser, and then the company can provide all kinds of services.

Weinberg and Dolanjski say there’s a lot DuckDuckGo can do to make a browser that’s not only simpler and more private but also packed with features. Weinberg cites DuckDuckGo’s email protection as one example; Dolanjski says there are plenty of other Duck Player-style tools the company could build. “Ideally, these are the features that protect you,” Weinberg says, “and we can also make them more visible.”

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But the first step was to create a good browser and make it available everywhere. It’s close, says Dolanjski: The Windows version may be a little behind while it’s in beta, but “the goal is to get to parity as quickly as possible.” Once everything is in order, DuckDuckGo can start dreaming bigger.