Super Incognito? | DuckDuckGo Will Build a Browser More Private Than Safari

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There’s no doubt that Apple goes to great lengths to focus on privacy by design in its Safari browser, as each new iteration of macOS shows. However, it appears that DuckDuckGo thinks it can do even better, and it’s working on an alternative desktop browser to prove it.

Apple has offered intelligent tracking prevention in Safari for a few years now, and last year’s release of macOS Big Sur added a new Privacy Report feature to let you know exactly how much you’re being tracked by the websites you visit.

Still, DuckDuckGo — the plucky little startup that’s best known for its privacy-first search engine — is building a new desktop browser that will be built entirely around offering a private browsing experience.

The privacy-focused company already offers a browser app for the iPhone and iPad that automatically encrypts everything it can, blocks all tracking, and effectively runs in “Private Browsing Mode” all the time. Now, DuckDuckGo wants to bring that same experience to Mac and Windows.

In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Safari has already taken some inspiration from DuckDuckGo. For instance, the company’s iPhone browser offered an easy-to-understand “Privacy Grade” long before Apple came up with its “Privacy Report” last year in Safari 14.

DuckDuckGo is already the search engine that privacy-conscious Apple users should be using, and it’s likely only the insane amount of money that Google throws at Apple each year that precludes DuckDuckGo from getting default placement.

For example, when using DuckDuckGo to search the web, there is zero information collected about you. It doesn’t log or share any personally identifiable information such as IP addresses, and anything you search for is discarded immediately after you’re done with that particular search.

Further, even though DuckDuckGo does show ads — it has to make money somehow, after all — those ads aren’t based on any profile the company has created on you, since it doesn’t have that information. Instead, the ads are based solely on your current search. Search for “cars” and you’ll see ads for cars, but if your next search is about “flowers,” then you’ll only see ads for flowers, since DuckDuckGo won’t even remember the very last thing you searched for.

‘Robust Privacy Protection’

In a recent blog post, DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg explains how its new desktop browser will bring “robust privacy protection” right out of the box, without the need for folks to fiddle with any security settings.

Like the mobile app, the new desktop browser will include the popular “Fire Button” that allows users to wipe everything away with a single tap, including all browsing history, tabs, and stored data like cookies.

This will offer an important tradeoff between the Private Browsing, or “Incognito” modes found in other browsers, allowing users to maintain some persistent session information that can be easily discarded at any time with a single click.

A new “Fireproofing” feature will also let you designate certain sites to be exempt from these “burns” so that you can stay logged in.

Weinberg also emphasizes that while privacy is at the very forefront, his team is also focusing on simplicity and speed. Unlike many other new browsers, DuckDuckGo isn’t forking Chrome or another browser platform. Instead, it will be using the rendering engines that already exist on the underlying operating systems, just like the mobile apps do.

DuckDuckGo for desktop will redefine user expectations of everyday online privacy. No complicated settings, no misleading warnings, no “levels” of privacy protection – just robust privacy protection that works by default, across search, browsing, email, and more. It’s not a “privacy browser”; it’s an everyday browsing app that respects your privacy because there’s never a bad time to stop companies from spying on your search and browsing history.

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo

This will allow the team to “strip away a lot of the unnecessary cruft and clutter” that other major browsers are known for, resulting in a clean and simple interface, while also focusing on speed. Weinberg says that early tests have already shown it to be “significantly faster” than Chrome, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s not wasting time dealing with tracking or even trying to handle things like extensions.

In fact, it’s unclear if DuckDuckGo’s browser will offer any kind of extension support at all, but from the tone of its announcement, we suspect not. There’s no word yet on exactly when we’ll see the new DuckDuckGo desktop browser arrive, but it’s currently in a closed beta test on macOS, and Weinberg has hinted that a Windows version is in the works as well.

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