Sometimes I really do wrong.
In 2008 I heard about a ridiculous new search engine called DuckDuckGo, a look, and predicted that it would die a quick death. After all, even when Google was on the rise and the technology fields drifted into rival destruction. search engines, like stars shot from heaven. How is a newcomer successful? (And is there a name like that?)
Worse, DuckDuckGo’s business model is rowing against the present. Its central feature is a commitment to privacy: You will never be followed by its code. A fun idea, to be sure! But it would be a financial suicide if all the other technology giants-Google and the following Twitter and Facebook-raced in the other direction to provide spy-capitalist tools for scraping as much data as possible. can be about you. “Big Data” is the word used by turtle neck turtles at tech conferences, and tech CEOs promise that celebrating every event you do – and personalizing their service – can deliver an epic win-win. You can get search results (or social media feeds) tweaked exactly for your interest; they can offer laser target advertisers. Those hippies at DuckDuckGo? Great business model, people. Good luck
For more than a decade, DuckDuckGo has been making shipments of dough boats. It turned out well in 2014 and remains that way.
Last year, the company’s traffic more than doubled. It does this with no fear of caution: All it does is use whatever keywords you type in the search bar— “best inkjet printers,” “Boston hotels” —to customize one ad for that search. This is known as “context” targeting, as opposed to secret police “ethical” tracking that promotes advertising on multiple tech platforms and creates a maximum dose of your online activity. DuckDuckGo also does not track your search information. Every time you load the search engine, you are a stranger.
“We questioned the hypothesis: Do you really have to track people to make money on advertising? And our answer is no,” Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo, told me. About the company’s success, he said, that a significant fraction of people want more privacy.A study by the Pew Research Center found that 81 percent of Americans think the disadvantages of tracking data outweigh the benefits.
In fact, the success of DuckDuckGo suggests, especially without confidence, that much of the Silicon Valley business controversy about data harvesting is completely wrong. They say they need to do this to create compelling products: Personalizing their sales will help maintain our “inclusion,” and therefore rake in advertising money. Yet here’s a tech firm that avoids doing spy capitalism; it is practical regular capitalism.
Today, the shortcomings of hyper-personalization are well known, especially Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube feeds-filtering bubbles, polarization, disinfo with an eye-opener. Social media isn’t directly comparable to search, obviously, but when you look at Weinberg’s success, it raises a question: Does it have to be all fun and tracking first?
“A lot of companies can be even more profitable if they choose to go this route,” Weinberg said. “They may be a little less profitable. But you know, it’s like-is over-profit worth all this social impact and problems? That’s not really what we thought. ”Even some ad buyers question whether movement tracking is good; a Digiday survey found that 45 percent of ad execs saw “no significant benefit” from tracking behavior, and 23 percent were found to get reduces.
The techlash of the past few years has shed a light on the harms of technology, and the icky things that have been revealed can sometimes make you think, Man, modern tech is a curse! But with the positive outcome of DuckDuckGo, one can see that our difficulty stems less from tech qua tech-from the mere availability of microprocessors, fiber-optic cables, and code-than from tech business models.
It’s not easy to divert our course from surveillance -driven business models. We can use public policy to make it even more difficult to harvest our own data, like author Shoshana Zuboff, author The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, suggests Or we can break down large technology monopolies into smaller companies that actually have to compete with each other, making them more likely to offer what customers want, as as argued by Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Any fix would require legislators to vigorously act against powerful companies, which is not provided. However, it should be pushed. Terrible business models are now becoming normal in Silicon Valley. If we want to follow many companies on the DuckDuckGo path, they need all the help they can get.
If you buy something using the links in our stories, we can get a commission. It helped support our journalism. Learn more.
More WIRED Stories