I know there are many search engines which offer alternatives to Google. I also know that Google has become a verb and that most people gravitate to it without too much concern about why Google is showing you this particular information (and ads) and how much of what you do is shared with it’s vast network. With Google search embedded into corporate websites for search too — it seems that even if you go direct to a site, chances are your search, location and history is shared for future commercial interests.
Why am I showing you Duck Duck Go then? Well first up, it’s a Google friendly search layer, which says it doesn’t share your information with Google. I use a VPN a lot of the time, and Google hates it. One reason to use Duck Duck Go seems to be less whining from Google about “we can’t tell who you are”. Next up, it integrates into Chrome with ease. Lastly, it’s fast and has some user-friendly options to help filter your experience. I’ve started to notice, ironically via Google Analytics that Duck Duck Go appears more and more often as an organic search origin. Admittedly my traffic is very small, but never the less people do seem to be using it. A recent article in the Guardian broadens out their business model if you’re interested.
For parents and educators, the choice about where to go to find information as well as the tools used to do is not limited to Apple, Google or Microsoft. While I recognised the marketing mission to see these things installed in schools as firmly as bells and stackable chairs — Duck Duck Go as a default browser will disrupt commercial agendas — and the results of the search are far less media-laden.
Notice what it calls BANGS. These are things you can toggle on an off as sources for the search itself. There are hundreds to choose from, including those we know people use most often. One thing which is really useful is “Show Meanings”.
We know from research that first-page results has a huge influence on people’s perceptions of information-importance. It’s also the central mechanism Google use to eek out money from advertisers. To get on the first page (CPC) search requires money. You’d be amazed how much, even for obscure terms. The lucky highest bidder will be surrounded by secondary advertising too, so ultimately even if you rank first, you’re never alone. For students, it’s very distracting at best.
Simply displaying information differently — like this — will cause students to wonder why it’s not the same as Google, and that is an opportunity. One way to expand this important realisation is to talk about “The bubble” which Google puts people inside. A great way to do that is to look at the “Don’t Bubble Us” site, which has some great (simple) example graphics to talk about.
I wish I’d had more of this kind of technology several years ago. Tools such as Duck Duck Go would have been in my SOE because ethically there are HUGH issues with the commercialisation of children though technology (and information). The idea that information — what you can and can’t see should be based on your current circumstances, location and available history is as dark as any dystopian novel has eluded to. I am not saying avoid commercial tools — but do come up with an argument as to why not positively considering alternatives to Google Search is “good practice” and not just “yes, I told them”.