On March 8, 2023, DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine and browser developer, announced the launch of a new AI feature called DuckAssist, saying that its developers are exploring the features and potential of generative AI systems in visible and tangible ways. Its biggest competitors, Google and Microsoft, have recently revealed Google Bard and an AI-augmented Bing search.
DuckDuckGo has approached the use of integrated AI differently. “At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been trying to understand the difference between what it could do well in the future and what it can do well right now… We want it to add clear value to our private search and browsing experience,” the firm proclaims.
DuckDuckGo’s products focus on user privacy and are built to protect you from tracking software that would otherwise record your internet usage. It launched in 2008 and has become a significant player in the digital lives of millions of people. According to YouGov, as of April 2021, DuckDuckGo users globally initiate 98.79 million search queries daily and the service commands 2.45% of all U.S. searches.
The first new AI tool set to usher in many more
DuckDuckGo’s announcement comes with a prediction for the future. The company says, “DuckAssist is the first in a series of AI-assisted private search and browser updates,” and it’s free and available to try today. DuckAssist isn’t like other generative AI resources. Instead of asking the AI to produce a response to a question, DuckAssist will summarize information and provide a synopsis of the data. The source material for the tool will primarily come from Wikipedia and Brittanica.
This means that DuckAssist won’t be free from error, but the AI is expected to “hallucinate” far less often than other systems, according to DuckDuckGo. This means you can assume the answer is probably correct, provided the source material is factual and the question isn’t too convoluted. DuckAssist won’t simply make up responses.
DuckDuckGo’s beta phase of the tool’s rollout will include an anonymous feedback feature to improve the accuracy of resulting DuckAssist answers. The company also notes that it won’t share personal data with its “search content partners,” OpenAI and Anthropic, so this new integration will not affect user anonymity. DuckDuckGo also indicates that not all search queries will return a DuckAssist response. Questions with subjective language (i.e., ‘what’s the best muscle car?’) aren’t well suited to the AI’s mission. Simple queries like ‘what is a muscle car?’ will likely return contextualizing content to help streamline users’ search experiences.