The story of DuckDuckGo is incredible for a few reasons. First, when Gabriel Weinberg started it back in 2008, it was a latecomer. In fact, at the time Google had already a market dominance. However, the story shows us that also when you’re the last to get into a market, if you identify the weaknesses of the dominant player, you can still create a company in a niche that a big player is not able to serve. In fact, Gabriel Weinberg identified three things he didn’t like about Google.
First, there was privacy. Indeed, many users – many others still don’t have a clue – today are educated enough to know that Google tracks your searches and pass that information to third party websites. At the time though it was not trivial.
Second, Gabriel Weinberg considered Google’s results – at times – too spammy. In fact, as Google got better and better at serving search results. It also started to use data gathered from its users to show those advertisings. That, according to Weinberg was not good for the user experience. Today many believe that a search engine needs to track searches to serve proper advertising. However, that is not what DuckDuckGo founder felt. In fact, he understood that he could sell advertising also if he didn’t track its users. Thus, advertising could be shown based on keywords and localization (if the user decided to be localized but not tracked). That is how DuckDuckGo works today. It serves ads based on keywords rather than search history and other factors from the user’s data.
A third aspect was based on instant answers. Gabriel Weinberg believed that users wanted to ask questions and get instant answers. Today we give it for granted as Google as well had developed natural language understanding. Thus, if you ask a question to Google you get an answer through the so-called “featured snippet.” At the time though this was not trivial at all. In fact, Gabriel Weinberg used instant answers as a pillar for its search engine.
The story of Gabriel Weinberg and its search engine, in conclusion, is compelling because it shows us:
- you can still enter a market successfully even if you’re a latecomer
- you can build a company over a niche the dominant player isn’t able to serve
- by challenging what has become the status quo you can grow a new business
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