DuckDuckGo has always been, to me at least, one of the unsung heroes of the open source movement. While Google is lapping up all the search traffic with Bing and Yahoo! desperately trying to keep up, DuckDuckGo is just cruising along being its own thing without worrying about the competition. It’s the spirit that’s leading to DuckDuckHack.
Now I’m sure you can gather what DuckDuckHack means. Gabriel Weinberg, founder of the open source search engine, wants people to create what he calls “instant answer plugins” for DuckDuckGo. The idea is that the search results would benefit from these add-ons in the form of “instant answers.” It’s not the same as Google Instant, it’s actually a bit more ambitious.
Weinberg says that there are some searches that just frustrate people. You just keep searching and searching for that one topic and nothing relevant comes up. So what if somebody created a plug-in for that topic that made sure the most relevant topics were brought to the front? It is the very spirit of open source – if it’s not a feature, make it a feature.
It’s an ambitious project and one that has a lot of potential. I want to say that it’s kind of like Google’s Search Plus Your World in terms of delivering the most relevant results. The only difference is that DuckDuckGo’s approach puts the search results in the hands of the users instead of what Google’s algorithms think you want.
There are four plugins compatible with DuckDuckGo at the moment. Goodies is for finding calculations and cheat sheets, Spice is for finding external API calls, Fathead is for finding keyword databases and Longtail is for finding full-text data. They are all in alpha, but Weinberg said that they are being “rapidly cleaned up.”
Here are some of our favorite plugins that are currently available for DuckDuckGo based on the four plug-ins. The first is the Twitter plugin that pulls up a user’s Twitter handle complete with bio and latest Tweet.
The other great plugin is the xkcd add-on that allows you to search for xkcd plus the number of the comic to bring up that specific comic as the first search result.
If you find yourself compelled to start making awesome plugins for a search engine that really should be used more often, you can get started with the initial documentation. It’s all open source so go nuts. Be daring and experiment. Oh, also get back to me once somebody creates a plugin that finds the perfect recipe each time for whatever dish the user is searching for. I’ve been searching for the perfect potato salad recipe for years and I’ve found it to be one elusive dish.
As you can see, this is all pretty cool. While other search engines have been using instant answers for a while now to return relevant searches for sports and other major events, there has been nothing this targeted yet. Putting the power of search in the hands of the user is a powerful thing indeed.