I've been a user of the Duck Duck Go search engine for around a year now. The switch from Google was motivated partly by the quasy feeling I got when considering all the information Google would have on me through my searches, but also by Duck Duck Go's convenient ! bang shortcut feature. I'd say the ratio was about 7:3. Sometimes I have to fall back to Google using the !g option (especially since Duck Duck Go doesn't seem to support non-English queries for the time being), but overall I'm happy using it as my default search engine.
There have always been people who have taken the contrarian position to Google services, and had "opted out" of using any of them. I've given this some passing consideration, but haven't taken the leap (I certainly can't imagine ditching GMail at this moment). Of course there are some who have.
Originally, I think much of this opt-out motivation stemmed from their aversion to Google having control over all actions and information passing through their services. The earliest traces of this reaction can be traced to ads being served on GMail pages (meaning that Google was parsing our email to serve contextual ads).
This group was joined later by a camp of ex-users who were incensed at their favorite Google services being given the axe, Google Reader being the latest and most prominent example. If they couldn't count on Google continuing to support the varying products through good times then bad, these folks preferred to look for another option.
The latest wave of defectors has been catalyzed by the leak of the PRISM surveillance program run by the NSA. It's one thing for our friendly neighbors at Google to have access to all of our prized kitten photos, but having the NSA dog lovers hunt you down for your feline loving way of life would put things in a whole different level. Sites like PRISM Break have made it easy for us to take the first few steps in reducing the amount of surveillance hoisted upon our digital lives. Now of course, if various governments around the world are tapping into the backbone infrastructure of the Internet and are recording everything, this may all just be a drop in the bucket in extricating ourselves from this predicament. Maybe we all need to go take a few courses on cryptography.
I'm not sure where I stand in all of this. I happen to use many of the services recommended in PRISM Break (Ububtu OS, Thunderbird, Firefox, etc.), but that's because I am a fan and supporter of Open Source Software, not because I have a heightened sense of alarm against the NSA's activities. Google shutting down some of its products has been an annoyance from time to time (I'm definitely not satisfied with Feedly's UX compared to that of Google Reader), but I completely understand their decisions from a business perspective. Living a stone's throw away from their HQ tends to make you sympathetic to their cause (not unlike the Bay Area's rather absurd affection for Barry Bonds, of which I am certainly guilty).
My guess is that I'll start slowly moving away from Google and other 3rd party services as the years go on. Paying $20 a month for a Linode VPS has lowered my resistance towards paying for software services, so I can definitely see myself paying for any number of Google service replacements in the future (and besides, I like supporting smaller software dev shops, including indie game studios). I don't feel any rush at this moment though, and the only change I've made is in my choice of search engine.
It's good to have alternatives, if only for the reason that a non trivial secondary of tertiary player will keep the market leader a bit more honest than otherwise. At least in terms of Geek mindshare, Duck Duck Go seems to have captured our imagination much more than Bing ever did, by positioning itself as the search engine that won't track you no matter what. It currently handles about 3 million queries per day, which is nothing to scoff at. Its growth has been phenomenal.
Google has established its place within our lexicon and is now synonymous with online search. That grip it has on our minds through those 6 letters is a powerful force. It rolls off the tongue and pronouncing it is almost as easy as "search" itself. This sort of linguistic accessibility and cultural congealment shouldn't be seen lightly. It's a potent barrier for any competitors to gain a foothold in the battle for our minds in the search space.
"Duck Duck Go" isn't the tongue-friendliest phrase out there (though its childhood playground image probably helps give it an approachable and friendly air), but with just 3 syllables, it's manageable in speech. But the same cannot be said for keyboard friendliness. So I think I'll just abbreviate it to "DDG" when I write online. Who knows, maybe it'll catch on.
Crossposted from here