Hidden features of the DuckDuckGo search engine

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    If the DuckDuckGo search engine is known to someone, it is primarily due to increased privacy. Unlike Google or Yandex, it does not collect user data, but its results are not as good. However, it is worth digging deeper, and it turns out that this is a powerful tool that can significantly facilitate and speed up the extraction of information from the Web.

    To begin with, in fact, DDG is not exactly a search engine. Or rather, it’s not at all a search engine, but a sort of aggregator of answers from different search engines. In his work, he uses the search results of Yahoo, Bing, Yummly, Yandex, Wikipedia and hundreds of other “reliable” sources.

    This feature makes DDG very accurate if the sources contain information for this particular request. It easily provides comprehensive answers to queries like “linux df”, “long happy life”, “Java InterruptedException” or even “is it raining”. But as soon as you introduce something more complex, something that is not found in DDG sources, the results will look sad, especially when compared to Google.

    Nevertheless, it is the sources of information, or rather the more complex mechanism called Instant Answers, built on their basis, that is one of the main features of DDG with which to start the story about this unusual service.

    Instant answers

    What DuckDuckGo calls Instant Answers is actually very similar to Google’s tooltip mechanism: if a user has entered a specific query and the search engine knows the exact answer, it will display it without forcing the user to click again.

    The only difference is that Instant Answers obeys simple known rules and can be expanded by users. The catalog of instant answers DuckDuckGo counts about 1200 recipes that allow the search engine to provide information in response to the most diverse and for the most part technical requests.

    DuckDuckGo can show a brief help on Linux commands in response to a linux cheat sheet request, find the necessary Debian packages (for example, debian version vim), display information about your location (where am i), show instructions on how to remove yourself from various services (delete my facebook account), tell who is currently in orbit (peaple in space), decrypt emoticons ((o_O)) and even show jokes about Chuck Norris (chuck norris jokes).

    From a technical point of view, this is a rather primitive system, which often does not work if you slightly modify the search query. But in the right hands, DDG is capable of much and turns into a full-fledged command line.


    Real command line

    Among DuckDuckGo's instant answers, you can find many that have little to do with the search. One example is the very cheats like linux cheat sheet, javascript cheat sheet, vim cheat sheet and many others. In fact, they are hardcoded into a search engine, so he doesn't even have to go anywhere to show them.
    But there are much more interesting examples.
    IP Addresses, URLs, DNS Records, and Mail Validation
    Probably the simplest DDG query would look like this:

    It displays your IP, location and even zip code. Simple information for which you do not need to go to third-party sites.

    More complex query:



    Bang requests

    All these functions are implemented within the framework of the same Instant Answers mechanism. You enter a request and immediately get a response directly on the search page. But what if you need not one specific answer, but several options at once; not the fact, for example, that the “best” answer with Stack Overflow is right for you. For such cases, DDG has a bang request mechanism.

    Bang queries are one of the most famous and commonly used features of DuckDuckGo. Its meaning is extremely simple: if you want to find information on a particular site, it is not necessary to go to it and look for a search box. You can do this:

    ! So Java InterruptedException

    And DuckDuckGo will send you to the Stack Overflow answer page. In the same way, you can search on Twitter (! Twitter), eBay (! Ebay), YouTube (! Yt),

    Facebook (! Facebook) and on 9 thousand other websites.

    By the way, approximately the same feature is in Chrome: you drive in the site name, press the spacebar and enter a search query. But Chrome requires you to visit this site at least once before the function works. And bang requests will work even if you use a browser that does not store data about your actions (for example, Tor Browser or Brave), or, say, download Tails from a USB flash drive.

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    Like Google, DuckDuckGo supports operators that allow you to refine your query. With their help, for example, you can search for a string only on the specified site:

    gentoo kernel panic site: linux.org.ru

    Or find only certain file types:

    android security report f: .pdf

    Or search the page titles without considering their contents:

    intitle: "iphone 8"

    From a query, you can immediately exclude words that do not interest you:

    intitle: "iphone 8" -android

    And of course, there are operators “and” and “and / or”:

    (apple) AND ((macos) OR ("os x"))

    This query will find all pages containing apple macos or apple os x.


    DuckDuckGo has another important advantage - an advanced settings system, which allows you to change many different parameters, from the appearance of the search window (six topics and the ability to do it yourself) and the choice of the default map service to the HTTPS settings (enabled by default) and display advertising (yes, advertising can be disabled by standard means).

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