Why Purism needs to replace Duck Duck Go with StartPage

A breakdown of the two search engines:

StartPage - Based in NL / strong privacy laws

Servers - owned and operated by them

StartPage is owned by Surfboard Holding B.V., a privately held, independent Dutch company, run by Robert Beens, whose only activities are operating StartPage, Ixquick and StartMail. No 3rd party investors or venture capital behind it as far as I could find. StartPage (and Ixquick) generates income solely from advertising (Google Ads).

Startpage has no partnership just a “Hello and Goodbye relationship” with Google - From Startpage ‘StartPage purchases search results from Google because they are known to be the best in the world. We also run Google ads. We have negotiated a very strict contract with Google to ensure user privacy is protected. We NEVER create any persistent user identifiers to send to Google, and we never transmit even a portion of a user’s IP, to safeguard our users’ privacy.’

Startpage has been audited by https://www.european-privacy-seal.eu/EPS-en/website-privacy-certification-overview

Startpage does not give out a HTTP header field that identifies the address of the webpage.

​Duckduckgo - Based in US / very weak privacy laws

Servers - hosted using Amazon (AWS)

Bangs aren’t safe. For example typing “!g kittens in basket” and hitting return, drops you off on the Google website to display your results (thus logging your IP, search term and browser info immediately).

DuckDuckGo is owned by Gabriel Weinberg who is is the founder, current CEO and controlling shareholder. Investors/shareholders include Union Square Ventures and several others. DuckDuckGo generates it’s income from advertising (Bing Ads) and collects affiliate revenue (Amazon, eBay).

Duckduckgo and Yahoo partnership
duck .co/blog/blog/post/311/yahoo-partnership

Duckduckgo has no audit

Duckduckgo gives out a HTTP header field that identifies the address of the webpage.

Both companies were asked “if you were ordered to compromise your service/customer privacy in any way would you”

DuckDuckGo – Gabriel Weinberg said: “No one is preventing me from doing that.”

StartPage – “If we receive a request from any foreign government, including the United States, we will refuse to comply. Under the strong current laws that protect the right to privacy in Europe, European governments cannot legally force service providers to implement a blanket spying program on their users. Were that ever to change, we would move or close shop.”

Thank you.


Seems like a paid advertisement for startpage.

Frankly most of it seems taken out of context for duckduckgo.

The other doubt I have is, when startpage hits the same number of search queries that ddg has are they going to be able to afford the datacenters necessary to keep up or will they too use the aws services? If not I’d like to see their business plan.


Can you provide some more info ?
…found something from 2017

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Using a third party search engine is essentially trusting that third party treating your data safe. Neither trusting ddg nor startpage could let you control your own data on both options. I uses ddg because support of bang. It is convenient to search on different platform using one interface. For privacy, searching Google on Tor makes more sense if you cares about anonymity.

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Quite a bad idea, as Mike Kuketz (security analyst) just showed in a remarkable post:

It is really time to think about it - Startpage is the same choice like Yahoo. Read yourself and find out.


Or in English:

Kuketz now hosts his own searx instance.

Would be cool if Purism could, too.


Hmm I’m using MetaGer - what do you think about it? https://metager.org/about It seams more trustfully to me.

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I prefer qwant.com - a european project. The results are much better than with google or even startpage.


qwant, never used that. Visited their main page, and already disappointed. It ignores my accept-language settings, and displays something in language derived from the location of my IP address. That’s a red flag - it suggests they are in the data collection camp or mindless trend followers. Don’t know which is worse.


I generally use Firefox’s default search engine, which is currently Google in most of the world, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China. I want to help generate revenue for the Mozilla Foundation, which does very important work in my opinion, and needs support.

However, I am now more concerned about supporting companies that provide ethical web services, but I can’t figure out which search company I should support. All of them say that they won’t keep profiles on me or track me or share my personal data, but they are all based on pay-per-click advertising revenue.

Qwant based in Paris, France and StartPage based in the Netherlands have better European laws to protect users than DuckDuckGo based in Pennsylvania, USA, but I’m more concerned with how each company operates.

Qwant says:

Qwant supports the free software philosophy, and wants to put its source code in the hands of the developers community, when its publication does not put the safety of users personal data or Qwant’s infrastructure at risk, and when it does not facilitate malicious exploitations of exposed algorithms.

What that seems to mean in practice (when I look at the code in https://github.com/qwant) is that the client programs to access the Qwant search engines are free software, but not Qwant’s web crawler, indexer and ranking algorithm. On the other hand, Qwant Maps (based on OpenStreetMap) is free software, as is Qwant Masq, which allows Qwant to offer personalized search results from data securely stored on the user’s device.

Qwant’s servers are hosted by Microsoft’s Azure, and it has its own web crawler and indexer and uses 70 outside sources for its data, but it also uses the Bing and Yahoo! search engines and ad network. Yahoo! switched from the Google search engine to the Bing search engine in October 2019.

DuckDuckGo also uses the Bing and Yahoo! search engines and the Bing Ad network to get revenue from clicks on ads, but it also independently crawls and indexes and has 1200+ sources for its Instant Answers and has more independent ad sharing agreements with entities like eBay and Amazon than Qwant. It also seems to do more independent crawling and indexing, since its results are often quite different from Qwant and StartPage, but people also complain that DuckDuckGo’s search results aren’t as good.

DuckDuckGo has more free software in its github repo (https://github.com/duckduckgo) than Qwant’s github repo. DuckDuckGo has open sourced both its web crawler called DuckDuckBot and its Instant Answer platform called DuckDuckHack, but its indexer and ranking algorithm are still proprietary. DuckDuckGo is better than Qwant in terms of open sourcing more of its infrastructure, but DuckDuckGo uses Apple’s maps, whereas Qwant uses OpenStreetMap. DuckDuckGo’s servers are hosted on AWS, and in my opinion Amazon is a worse company for society than Microsoft, whose Azure servers are running Qwant.

I haven’t bothered to investigate StartPage, since it uses the Google search engine, and I don’t want to contribute even more to Google’s search and digital advertising monopoly.

The question is which search engine should I use?


MetaGer in my opinion. Here are some information:

  • MetaGer is no company, it’s a registered association.
  • You can read MetaGer privacy here. It’s written to understand everything easily.
  • The meta search engine use non personalized advertice to get some money and mark it as it is.
  • MetaGer is Open Source.
  • Server of MetaGer are all in germany and using high german privacy standards. They also use green Energy (water power).
  • Search results are not prefiltered like Google does.
  • The registered association is co-initiator of Open-Web-Index!

There’s just a little con: (only) sometimes you don’t find what you’re looking for. That’s why I’m using Ixquick as 2nd search engine. But I use it not very often.


If I remember correctly there was a reason the TOR project moved away from StartPage and went to Duckduckgo. I presume it was privacy related, does anyone know for sure?

startpage was just bought by a data company.


That is just simply comical. :joy::joy::joy::joy:

I was wondering myself which search engine to use:
Especially reading:

and getting to know that Qwant is partially owned by Springer (german bad people).

YaCy (yacy.net) is nice but this implies to have a server to run it :confused:

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I don’t get how maintaining a database of trackers automatically means they’re tracking people (which is what I assume the allegation is?).

It is absolute nonsense.

There are certain realities that can be circumvented and bypassed but some just cannot be in the world we live in. Duckduckgo is a viable privacy oriented search option and continues to be one today.

The people complaining it is not will NEVER have a search engine they can use, because their expectations are simply unrealistic and not founded in the way things actually work. (IE: they think Unicorns are real.)

More importantly though, is where is the proof that DDG is bad? Show me the proof, and I’ll try not to laugh.


Looks interesting. Any idea of the disk space and bandwidth requirements?

The bottom line for any server run by any company or organisation, even if running open source software on the server, is that there is an element of trust. You yourself can’t verify that they are running what they say they are running.

So the only sure option is to run your own private search engine - but you need a ton of disk space and network bandwidth.

If you participate in a decentralised server network then it raises some of the same issues as a mainstream search engine. You can’t be sure that some of the nodes are not compromised, you can’t be sure that some of the nodes are not intentionally running altered versions of the open source software, you can’t be sure even that a majority of the nodes are safe.

The next best option is that a server is independently audited and runs open source software. That is going to work a lot better with a mainstream search engine than with a decentralised system.

This topic is a bit weird. It started off by saying: move from DDG to StartPage

but then said along the way that StartPage has been sold and is no good any more.

Other options mentioned: MetaGer, qwant

Either way though it is not really relevant what Purism uses. Everyone should just use whichever search engine he or she is comfortable with.


That post is written by Dr. Roy Schestowitz, who I have learned to always take with a heap of salt. Sometimes he makes a valid point, but his criticisms often aren’t based in the real world. As I said in my previous post, DuckDuckGo uses more free/open source software than the others, and I don’t see any evidence that DDG sells user data or tracks you, so I don’t understand Schestowitz’s criticism.

I have decided to use Ecosia as my search engine, because solar panels and planting trees is important to me, and Ecosia has a decent privacy policy.


startpage now offers startmail which is a paid only privacy email service with an optional free trail. So they do have some revenue coming in to support for additional servers if they need it.
Also startpage/ixquick has been around 1998 according to wikipedia.