This summer was when I first started really getting into all things social, beyond Facebook that is. I joined Twitter just this past June (sent my 1,000th Tweet today, btw), and signed up for LinkedIn, a host of Twitter clients, Quora (within the first few weeks of it’s beta release I believe), and many other sites that were, or still are, startups trying to get into the game even more recently than that. However, the best online discovery I made was no social tool, it was a search engine…called DuckDuckGo.
Now before you laugh at the somewhat childish nickname, go check it out. Give it one full day of trying it out and I guarantee you never go back to your previous search engine. This little engine that could emphasizes user privacy (“Google tracks you. We don’t” it claims on it’s About page), this privacy mission is explained in detail here (pictures included!), at the aptly named donttrack.us website. While promoting user privacy, it also makes searching almost too easy. How so you ask? Read on:
First, it has this little feature called Zero-click Info that gives you a snippet of information about what you’re searching for without you having to click through to a result. For example, this is what comes up when you search for James Cameron’s Avatar:
Keep playing with it and it also allows you to search things like the distance from Atlanta, GA to Columbus, OH (any cities, states, or countries will do…that’d just the route I travel most often). Why go to some website when you get this:
Next, the “Goodies” (c’mon, how can you argue against a search engine that advertises it’s ‘goodies’ on their homepage and not mean something explicit?) the site offers are incredible, and got me to switch over from Google. The !bang syntax, something I’ve never seen done on any website before, is it’s most useful feature. It allows you to search hundreds of websites directly, without wasting time going to the actual website and typing into the search bar. So, for example, imagine you want to search for…Youtube’s #1 total views leader, Lady Gaga. All you have to do is type in “!youtube lady gaga” in the search bar and you will immediately be brought to this page. Simple right?
**Helpful tip** If you’re using Google Chrome, set your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and now whenever you want to search popular sites like Youtube or Facebook, all you need to do is use the !bang syntax in your URL bar at the top of the browser and Bang! (yes, yes I did) you’re at the results in less than a second. If you ever thought that it doesn’t take much time to go to a site, find the search bar, then search the site….welcome to the world of DuckDuckGo.
The last great feature of the site is that it allows you to type in something like “Simpsons characters” and will return something actually helpful, unlike what Google will give you:
The one true con of the site (impressive, compared to the many pros) is that it is not 100% independent yet. The image search still uses Google Images as it’s resource, and links you to the Google Images results page whenever you search for a picture. Once this site becomes fully independent and provides this service on its own (if this does ever happen, I don’t see a need right now to change anything), this site will be complete.
Give DuckDuckGo a try, I bet you’ll end up sticking with it. Let me know what you think in the comments.
I was recently on the Scoutmob website where they were advertising a deal for their new T-shirt. In order to get a shirt they write: “Unfortunately, you can’t order your Scoutmob shirt via the iPhone or Android app. This will only work the old-fashioned internet way. I understood that they are saying this in a joking manner, but the reality is that this description of the internet as “old-fashioned” is actually very true in many ways:
1) When was the last time you ever heard someone say “internet” with any excitement? Even a decade ago people were in awe about what the internet allowed them to do. Nowadays everyone and their mom (and dad, and grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc) is on the internet now. At one point in time it was “new” and “revolutionary” to sit for minutes at a time (minutes!!) while your dial-up logged in on AOL. But now I see my grandmother getting impatient after 5 seconds of waiting for a page to load. Back when I was younger it was a big deal to be able to simply find out information (without Googling it…wtf were we doing back then?); I am only 22…that’s how fast things are moving.
2) While phones and tablets and game consoles are now jumping on the internet bandwagon full force now, it’s what is now capable on phones with things like QR codes and Stickybits, mobile shopping, social networking, etc. that are captivating the entire population. The internet is now just a means to an end, rather than the innovative service that once was.
3) The internet has simply become so mainstream that simple use of the internet is no longer an action. With words like “Google” “Youtube” and “Tweeting” becoming verbs, simply logging on isn’t a big deal. The realization of something like the internet being taken for granted is pretty profound if you think about the hundreds of millions, or billions, of people who use it daily. “E-mail” and “screen names” are not obsolete, yet, but they aren’t the go-to choices for communication for many people.
What does this spell for the future of communication? Something as revolutionary as the internet is now an expected luxury, more of a right instead of a privilege. This isn’t meant to preach any morals or points of views specifically, it is just an observation of how fast our world has progressed even in the new millennium. It’s astounding how quickly societies can evolve, and its a great testament to human willpower and ingenuity don’t you think?
Ask yourself this and I bet you can’t remember: When was the last time you went even one week without being on the internet? Post your answer in the comments.