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Is DuckDuckGo a VPN? What’s the Difference?

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The straight answer is no, DuckDuckGo is not a VPN.

In fact, they are two completely different things, though they both share the same goal of enhancing their users’ privacy.

Therefore, you may find similarities in their privacy policies, which substantially strengthens the confusion between the two.

However, even if DuckDuckGo and VPNs share the same privacy aspirations, they differ in their way of reaching them.

After using and testing DuckDuckGo and all sorts of VPNs for years now, I finally learned to use both to their fullest potential for a smoother and more private online experience.

Here’s what I’ve learned through my experience with DuckDuckGo and VPNs.

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What Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo is an open-source, privacy-oriented search engine created in 2008.

DDG is among the safest and most private search engines on the market because it does not keep logs or trackers, let alone share or sell them.

Also, it does not tie your searching activities to your IP address to keep your identity as hidden as possible.

Consequently, the search results are the same for everyone, and the ads you may encounter are only related to your search terms, not to you.

DDG sets you free from all those annoying personalized ads you may have battled against when using Google.

What Is a VPN?

To do so, it passes all your data traffic through an encrypted tunnel before it reaches your ISP’s server.

As your personal information will come out of that tunnel covered with a layer of encryption, no third party can spy on your activities online, let alone retain or sell them.

A VPN will also mask your IP address by granting you a new one from its servers to enhance your privacy a little more.

Therefore, nothing you do online can be tied to you unless you willingly give out information about yourself.

Not only will you not be using your IP address to navigate the web, but all the trackers (cookies, digital watchdogs…) will be tailing the VPN’s IP address.

A VPN is also the best way to bypass geo-restrictions or avoid censorship.

What Makes DuckDuckGo and VPNs So Similar?

As they both enhance privacy online and share many similarities, DuckDuckGo and VPNs are easily confused.

Here are some of the reasons why:

They Both Have No-Log Promises

In its privacy policy, DuckDuckGo promises to never collect or save the data from your computer on their servers.

While the other mainstream search engines leak information that can identify and reveal important details about you and your device, DDG assures that they never retain nor share your IP address, user agent, or identifying cookies.

These other more popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and more, also profit from your privacy by assigning you a unique ID.

This ID is linked to every search you make and products you buy online.

Unlike its competitors, DDG doesn’t work that way and is willing to go to any length to place your privacy above their potential financial gains, as it is their main selling point.

Nonetheless, DDG still needs to generate income and maintain its functionality.

To do so, they must keep some logs, though never the ones that compromise your anonymity or privacy.

To certify their authenticity and honesty, DuckDuckGo communicated in detail what kind of data they keep:

  • Some of the search requests but never particular ones or ones that could identify you.
  • Products that you buy through affiliate codes.

Although, they specify that the only information collected is about the purchased product itself.

So how is DuckDuckGo generating income?

DDG makes profits from eCommerce websites.

However, DuckDuckGo doesn’t involve any third party to make the insertion codes.

They’re all established by DDG themselves.

Also, they don’t work with any website that discloses its clients’ data through these affiliate programs.

  • Your feedback.

It’s stored on DDG’s email only.

But to preserve your privacy, DDG users can give anonymous feedback.

But keeping logs is one thing; sharing them is another.

So most importantly, does the DuckDuckGo search engine share or sell any of this data?

DDG specifies that they will comply with law forces if they come knocking at the door with a legal request.

But their cooperation with the authorities has little to no value because they don’t keep relevant logs.

So DDG has no sensitive information to provide.

Similarly, a VPN is also a privacy-oriented tool, and preserving the privacy of their customers is also the pillar of their business.

The most dependable VPNs on the market also have strict no-log policies.

They’re also willing to take the extra step to prove the authenticity of their promises to their users.

To do so, the most reliable VPNs submit their files to independent audits.

They also only keep logs for troubleshooting and feedback.

And just like DuckDuckGo, they only take the information that can never reveal or be tied to your identity.

nordvpn feedback prompt

Furthermore, the best VPNs work with RAM-only servers that wipe any logs kept during your session once they’re turned off.

In addition to that, most dependable VPN companies base their headquarters in countries with privacy-friendly jurisdictions.

For example, the market leader, NordVPN, is based in Panama, where there are no mandatory data retention laws.

They Both Protect Your Online Identity

DuckDuckGo and VPNs both protect your identity, though they each have a different way of doing it.

DDG protects its users from search leakage.

This means no information (your IP address, user agent…) that can be tied to you will be communicated to the website you want to visit when using DDG.

Meanwhile, a VPN hides your IP address by masking your real one and assigning another one from its servers.

Consequently, the VPN’s IP appears to websites when you navigate the Net, never your real one.

By hiding your real IP, your VPN enhances your identity protection online.

As both effectively protect essential information used for marketing profiling, such as your location, they’re both very useful when it comes to dodging things like targeted ads.

They Both Make Your Navigation More Private

A VPN makes your navigation private by passing your data packets through a tunnel of encryption.

This blocks any snoopers from spying on your online activities.

DDG also takes care of your privacy on the Net by preventing search leakage.

This means your search terms, among other data, aren’t revealed to the websites you visit.

They Both Rely on Encryption to Beef up Your Privacy

DuckDuckGo redirects your request to primarily send it to HTTPS encrypted websites so that your data remains private.

Likewise, a VPN resorts to encryption to hide your personal information

To do so, a VPN makes all your data pass through an impenetrable tunnel so that snoopers will not be able to view what’s traveling inside the tunnel.

When exiting the tunnel, your data will be covered by a layer of undecipherable encryption, making it unreadable to third parties.

They Both Come in the Form of an App

nordvpn and duckduckgo app logos

Aside from releasing a browser extension, DDG also developed an app for mobiles.

This increases the confusion between DDG and VPNs substantially, as the VPN software is only available via apps for their users to download.

The Differences Between DuckDuckGo and VPNs

The main difference lies in their very nature: one is a search engine, and the other is a network.

But beyond that, they also differ in their functionalities.

First, DuckDuckGo’s protection meets its limit when you close the search engine.

It does not cover your other activities outside of DDG.

Therefore, your sensitive data can be meddled with or stolen.

On the contrary, a VPN will shield your entire connection by covering it with a robust layer of encryption, thus preventing your ISP and other snoopers from eavesdropping on you.

Also, as we specified earlier: they both use encryption.

But they resort to two different kinds of encryption, and their usage is totally different.

On the one hand, DDG prioritizes websites secured by HTTPS encryption.

On the other hand, the best VPNs use AES-256, military-grade encryption covering the user’s data packets, making it indecipherable for third parties to spy on it.

And lastly, while it’s DDG’s primary specialty to block all types of trackers when surfing the web, a VPN might fall short in this area.

When it comes to browser fingerprinting, avoiding certain types of cookies, etc., a VPN isn’t as efficient as DDG.

What Are the Advantages of Using DuckDuckGo?

Still hesitating to swap Google for DuckDuckGo?

Let’s see if the change is really worth it!

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Taking Control of Your Privacy

When switching to DDG as your search engine, you considerably beef up your privacy on the Net.

Using the mainstream search engines leaves you with little to no privacy, as they expose every detail they can grasp and sell it to companies that will hassle you with never-ending ads.

google ad personalization

However, DuckDuckGo doesn’t work that way.

No Profiling on DuckDuckGo

DDG’s primary concern is its users’ privacy, making them stand out from the crowd.

So, to provide you maximum privacy, they ensure no identifying data of any kind is retained or leaked.

That also includes the search terms of your search requests.

It doesn’t create user profiles under any condition.

As this substantially enhances your freedom from intrusion, you will never find targeted ads customized just for you.

Actually, DDG has nothing to feed these marketing companies in the first place.

But DuckDuckGo’s quest for more privacy doesn’t stop here.

Better Protection Using Encryption

When searching through DDG, you have greater chances to be protected by HTTPS encryption with the Smarter Encryption technology.

Enabling this feature will make HTTPS encrypted websites appear on top of your page results.

Even Pinterest started to use Smarter Encryption to protect its users from potential threats.

What makes Smarter Encryption even is that it’s open-source and free of charge.

DuckDuckGo Restores Your Privacy to Your Emails

Additionally, to take an extra step towards even further privacy, DuckDuckGo has launched its new beta Email Protection service.

You might be surprised to know that these indiscreet snoopers don’t stop at your browsing activities but also lurk on your emails.

They can track when, where, and which device you used to read your emails.

DDG released an email protection service to fight these creepy trackers that will shield your emails from prying eyes without forcing you to change your email address or apps.

As switching from one email address to another comes with its load of inconvenience, DuckDuckGo decided to provide its users a disposable Duck email address that you will give out instead of your main one.

Then, DDG will remove all the trackers from your incoming emails before forwarding them to your usual inbox.

Finally, you can enjoy reading your daily emails without worrying about being spied on.

It goes without saying that DDG will not save any of the information they will receive.

The only downside of this fantastic feature is that it’s only accessible through a waitlist.

DuckDuckGo Puts a Stop to Tracking

DuckDuckGo offers its users the most private experiences on the Net.

Apple recently offered its customers the App Tracking Transparency, which asks for their consent before letting any third party track them on their Apple devices.

However, Android users are left open to data tracking since they don’t have similar protection.

So for Android users, DDG engineered a great solution to block snoopers from tracking you through your apps.

These app trackers can monitor and record everything you do on your apps.

Marketing companies can buy your personal profiling information, such as your location, the people you hang out with, your plans, and how many hours you sleep.

This is where DuckDuckGo‘s feature comes in handy, as it detects and blocks all intrusive trackers.

Just like the Email Protection service, it is free of charge, but they also share the identical downside: you have to sit on a waitlist before getting access to it.

Enjoy Valuable Features on DuckDuckGo

DDG offers users various original features.

The most popular feature is called !bangs.

!bangs are shortcuts that go directly to any website you want to visit.

For example, if you want to get to Amazon faster, you can type !a. Or !w for Wikipedia, !twitter to access Twitter more quickly, and many more.

You can also invent your own !bangs if they aren’t already available.

In addition to that, DDG is a fantastic tool for developers, as there are particular !bangs for coding.

You can access language-specific documentation such as !py for Python.

You can also generate lorem ipsum text, encode URLs, convert binary to decimal, and other exciting functionalities.

A User-Friendly Platform

opening duckduckgo home page

DuckDuckGo has an easy-to-use basic interface that looks a lot like Google.

Even its features are accessible to anyone, not just techies.

More Privacy for Free

One of the best advantages of DDG is that it takes your privacy protection to another level, coupling with a decent set of features without spending any money.

DDG found inventive ways to support its business without having to make a profit from your personal life.

Spam-Free Navigation

Have you ever landed on a website that’s still “under construction”, void of any valuable content, and filled with ads?

DDG fights these unnecessary full-of-spam portals by partnering with the Parked Domain Project.

DDG’s aim with this partnership is only to display relevant spam-free websites to its users.

As bots are not efficient enough in detecting these websites, DDG decides to run the extra mile to provide their users the best ad-free experience by conferring this job to their employees to do a better job removing these “fake websites”.

Fewer Clicks, More Results

To provide the smoothest search sessions, DDG implemented click-free results.

To do so, DDG lays out the info you need so you won’t be forced to click on the link to get what you need.

What Are the Disadvantages of DuckDuckGo?

Although DDG appears to be an excellent privacy-oriented alternative to mainstream search engines, it also has a few flaws.

First, the most obvious defect that you instantly notice when switching from Google to DDG is the absence of autosuggestions.

When using DDG for your searches, you will not find the “People also ask” regrouping all the related questions.

The reason for that is DDG doesn’t know what people ask because they do not monitor or retain any of their users’ queries.

Your privacy comes with the price of simplified features regarding searching trends.

But we have to admit that it’s a small price to pay considering what DDG brings to the table regarding privacy.

Also, DDG’s map and reviews services rely on Apple’s Maps and Yelp reviews in the results.

These two apps are actually among the best in their respected field, but they are not as furnished in terms of information as their leader, Google Maps.

Even with minor inconveniences, DDG remains a great privacy-oriented search engine that’s easy to set up and use instead of less-privacy-concerned options.

Where Is DuckDuckGo Available?

DuckDuckGo’s search engine and extension are available on all browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

You can also download the mobile app from both Appstore and Playstore.

You can search privately on DuckDuckGo from everywhere in the world except China and India, where you will need the help of a VPN to bypass the block on DDG.

How to Install DuckDuckGo on Chrome?

  1. On Google Chrome, go to DuckDuckGo.com.
searching duckduckgo on google chrome
  1. Click ‘Add DuckDuckGo to Chrome’.
adding duckduckgo on chrome
  1. Choose ‘Add extension’.
adding duckduckgo extension on google chrome

You can now use DuckDuckGo on Chrome.

duckduckgo banner on google chrome

How to Install DuckDuckGo on Safari?

  1. On Safari, go to DuckDuckGo.com
searching duckduckgo on safari
  1. Click Add DuckDuckGo to Safari.
selecting and adding duckduckgo on safari
  1. Follow the instructions by opening a new tab and clicking the magnifying glass.
clicking safari search box
  1. Choose DuckDuckGo from the list of search engines.
duckduckgo option on safari search box toggle list

You’re ready to use DuckDuckGo on Safari.

How to Install DuckDuckGo on Firefox?

  1. Open your Firefox Browser.
  1. Click on the hamburger icon at the lower right corner of your page.
  1. Choose Settings.
  1. Go to Search in General.
  1. Click Add Search Engine.
  1. Fill out the empty sections with the information in the picture down below:
selecting duckduckgo search engine on firefox settings
  1. In Default Search Engine, click Google.
  1. Choose DuckDuckGo.

You’re ready to search with DuckDuckGo on Firefox.

duckduckgo search box on firefox

Can I Trust DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Claims?

DDG is very concerned and engaged in restoring privacy online.

It has shown its devotion to the matter by the several donations it has made to help sensitize and affirm more respect for individuals’ personal lives.

But if you find it uncomfortable trusting DDG’s no logs blindly promise, then coupling it with a reliable VPN will reassure you.

Why Should I Use a VPN With DuckDuckGo?

Coupling a private search engine like DuckDuckGo with a VPN substantially beefs up your online privacy.

The best VPNs will add a robust layer of encryption on top of HTTPS to ensure 100% private searches.

It will also hide your IP address and assign you one from their server to grant you complete online anonymity.

Moreover, using a VPN with DuckDuckGo will allow you to access geo-locked websites and content.

Also, as the VPN encrypts your personal information, it will prevent your internet service provider, government, or other snoopers from spying on your search history.

What Is the Best VPN for DuckDuckGo?

After thoroughly examining many privacy policies and running IP and DNS leak tests, I concluded that the best VPN to combine with DuckDuckGo is NordVPN.

First, NordVPN imposes a stringent no-log policy that has been evaluated twice by one of the most reliable independent audit companies.

Then, to provide its customers with the very best protection, NordVPN uses military-grade AES-256 encryption, which has been tested and proven to be impenetrable.

NordVPN also comes with top-notch security features, such as:

  • Cybersec. It is a feature that blocks dodgy websites, therefore protecting you from malware and viruses, phishing scams, and malevolent ads.
  • A Kill-Switch feature that automatically exits and disconnects your browser as well as apps or software of your choice whenever your VPN connection drops. All your valuable data then remains totally intact!
  • Dark web monitor.
    There are chances that your credentials are circulating on the Dark web without you even knowing it.This amazing feature scans that murky side of the internet known for identity theft to check if your email address is at hackers’ mercy.
  • If that’s the case, it will warn you immediately so you can change your password.
  • Obfuscation technology that will make your VPN-protected traffic look like regular traffic.
  • RAM-disk servers, meaning NordVPN can’t store or share your data, even if its servers get attacked, seized, or compromised.
nordvpn general settings

In addition to all this, NordVPN based its headquarters in Panama, where there are no data retention laws.

This keeps the VPN provider from potentially incriminating their customers.

Finally, NordVPN has proven to be one of the most reliable, fastest, and smoothest VPNs on the market when it comes to circumventing geo-restrictions and censorship, with more than 5200+ global servers in 60+ countries.

What Are the Best Alternatives to DuckDuckGo?

If it is DDG that you still have doubts about, there are plenty of other search engines that offer more privacy to their users.

I’ve picked the best alternatives to DuckDuckGo so you can choose one that will suit your needs better.

Private search engines are split into two types: independent and Metasearch.

Independent means they manage their own crawler and index.

They do not rely on mainstream search engines like Google and Yahoo.Metasearch use proxies and encryption to get the results of big mainstream search engines.


searx browser home page

Searx is an open-source metasearch engine that gathers search results from more than 70 websites.

It specifies that no information whatsoever is stored or shared in its privacy policy.

The results are unbiased and not established on your profile.

On top of being compatible with all browsers, it also can be used over Tor for even more anonymity.




qwant browser home page

Qwant is a metasearch engine based in France.

It is privacy-concerned, as it claims to keep no logs on its users’ data, nor does it store your browsing history.

Qwant affirms that it will not track or gather data to profile you under any circumstances.

It is available on all browsers and has iOS and Android apps.




startpage browser home page

Startpage is a metasearch engine that delivers Google’s results without privacy compromises.

Similar to DDG, it relies on encryption to enhance your privacy.

It also doesn’t have trackers and cookies.

And there’s a click-to-activate option if you still want to keep some cookies without having to accept them all by default.

It doesn’t establish any profile based on your searches, as it doesn’t store any of your data and makes your browsing history anonymous.

Startpage effectively blocks snoopers from spying on you and bombarding you with ads and actively fights browser fingerprinting.

It also guides and raises the awareness of its users by grading websites and letting them judge whether or not to visit them based on their scores.



Disconnect Search

disconnect search browser home page

Disconnect Search is a metasearch engine that will collect your data for 30 days and then delete it afterward.

They also admit that they will comply with law enforcement if requested to deliver your personal information.

Three options of Disconnect Search are available: a free, a freemium, and a paid one.

The third one adds a VPN to the services they already offer.

There’s a disconnect service for both personal and professional use.




swisscows browser home page

Swisscows promises to keep you anonymous online as it doesn’t track or profile you.

It also claims not to keep any data storage.

As specified on its front page, Swisscows is also family-friendly because it automatically blocks 18+ content on their search results.

It also comes with some additional original services such as Teleguad, a substitute for Whatsapp, a VPN, and a program called Getdigest that summarizes web content.



Gibiru Virtual Mirage

gibiru virtual mirage browser home page

Gibiru is a metasearch engine that promises to keep no logs on your data and never to sell any kind of information, whether it is identifying or not.

Therefore, your private searches on Gibiru are not linked to your IP address or anything that could compromise your anonymity online.

Gibiru combines its search engine with its own VPN or proxy to grant total privacy while using.

Also, the Gibiru VPN and proxy are available to install as an add-on.




Incognito mode is less private than DuckDuckGo.

All Incognito mode does to “protect your privacy” is not store your browsing history locally and clears your cache from cookies.

 It doesn’t block trackers, so any third party can lurk on your online whereabouts.

Also, it doesn’t hide your IP address; thus, your identity is within everyone’s reach.

In fact, incognito mode is not so incognito.

A DuckDuckGo browser is available through the DuckDuckGo app, but it’s only available for Windows 7/8/10, iOS, and Android.

The DuckDuckGo browser adds privacy features such as Tap fire and Burn data to the usual features you can find on any browser like tabs, bookmarks, favorites.

DuckDuckGo is more privacy-concerned than security-concerned, so if you want to avoid malware and viruses, you should invest in a reliable VPN, like NordVPN, and a decent antivirus.

Like any other search engine, be careful about which websites you choose to visit and what you download from the web.

DuckDuckGo is 100% legal in all countries except China and India, where it is banned.

The only way to enjoy secure and private search sessions and benefit from DDG’s advantages in these two countries is to use a VPN.

To Wrap Up

As said above, DuckDuckGo and VPNs are not the same, even though they were both created for privacy-oriented purposes.

However, a VPN is a complete tool to protect yourself online as it encrypts your entire connection, whereas DuckDuckGo is only useful when navigating on it.

To ensure maximum privacy, you need to combine their forces.

If you are still hesitating about which VPN to subscribe to, make your choice by reading our review of the best VPNs for privacy.

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