Better Default Search in Browsers

A typical search result on

A typical search result

Several weeks ago, certain channels announced that Linux Mint changed their default search engine in Firefox to DuckDuckGo. I do not care much for Linux Mint but decided give DuckDuckGo a try.

What is the matter, you might ask? I used to use ubiquitous Google for everything related to web searches (if nothing else). Whenever I would search for something, I would type some keywords in Firefox’ address bar, hit enter and pick promising Google results. For instance, instead of visiting Wikipedia by hand I would Google wiki Murphy's Law and hit the first link. Combined with bookmark completion, this worked so well that I almost never typed in a proper URL anymore.

The big issue is privacy. It is well-known that Google saves search results and tracks users for their own purposes and to set up their filter bubble1.

DuckDuckGo, on the other hand, claims to do nothing of that: No tracking, no result saving, no filter bubble. Of course I have no way to check this but their site looks reasonably clear and transparent. Also, they offer Javascript-free and SSL encrypted versions.

I have used DuckDuckGo for some time now. Its results are generally helpful2; you have to search slightly differently than you are used to from Google, probably because there is no filter bubble. But what really changed my experience is their so-called Bang! syntax. The flashy name describes a feature as simple as search forwarding. For instance, !wiki Murphy's Law takes you directly to the desired Wikipedia article. There are lots of useful Bangs, for instance !maps, !yt, !scholar, !img, !java, !amazon and many more3.

If you like what you read and want to surf wherever you want using only your Firefox address bar, go to about:config and set keyword.URL to Similar instructions can be found for other major (free) browsers.

  1. While the bubble has its advantages I dislike the potential for censorship it offers.
  2. Especially their zero-click boxes, see for instance here.
  3. Many are even available in localised versions such as !gde, !wde or !amde.
  4. Note how this will always use the encrypted and Javascript-free version. For the default, use


  1. Interesting fact for computer scientists: Adding !wa to a search string redirects you to Wolfram-Alpha.

    A great thing is the zero-click-box for stackoverflow questions.