DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused browser is now available for Windows users in beta

DuckDuckGo’s browser is finally available for Windows users. About nine months after launching its browser for Mac, the privacy-focused search engine company is bringing a very similar product to Windows users. It’s available now, and its pitch is the same as ever: DuckDuckGo is a browser and a search engine that doesn’t collect your data and doesn’t track you across the web.

The DuckDuckGo browser looks and works like Chrome or Edge, with a row of tabs across the top and a large text box for searching and typing URLs. (DuckDuckGo’s search engine is the default when you install the browser, but you can change that if, for some reason, you care deeply about browser privacy but not search privacy.) DuckDuckGo does offer a couple of its own features, like a YouTube view the company calls Duck Player that strips out all ad targeting, tracking, and recommendations from a YouTube page. 

The team at DuckDuckGo has been working on the Windows app for a few years, the company’s product director, Peter Dolanjski, tells me. It took longer than other platforms in part because Windows development was new to the team but also because the Windows ecosystem is a uniquely complicated one. “There’s a lot of hardware and software variations, touchscreens and screen resolutions,” he says. “All of that just takes a long time to work through to make sure it’s working well.” The app itself is built on Windows’ WebView2 technology and uses the same Blink rendering engine used by Chrome and most other browsers.

Adding Windows to the mix means DuckDuckGo now has a solid cross-platform browser that really can keep up with the Chromes and Edges of the world. The browser works on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, which gives DuckDuckGo a chance to protect your data everywhere you browse. The Windows app is still in beta, and it’s missing some features — most notably extension support — but Dolanjski says it’ll get upgraded fast.

DuckDuckGo has long been one of the simplest browsers on the market.Image: DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is still mostly known as a search engine, but CEO Gabriel Weinberg says the company’s vision is bigger than that. He likes to refer to DuckDuckGo as “the easy button for privacy.” “Search alone doesn’t actually solve the privacy harms people are concerned with,” he says. “Like ads following you around, unsettling targeting, or people grabbing up your personal information. Search is part of that, but there’s lots of trackers hiding behind websites.” 

The most complete way to help people browse the web more privately is to make a web browser — and the company has found that it’s actually easier to get users to switch from Chrome entirely than to get them to install a Chrome extension.

DuckDuckGo sees the gap disappearing between browser and search engine

Beyond that, Weinberg says he sees the gap disappearing between browser and search engine. You want the best of Bing? Use Edge. Google? Chrome. Brave? Brave. The browser makers are tying their services ever closer to their apps and making it harder all the time to switch. DuckDuckGo’s hope is that it can get people to do the one download to get into the browser, and then the company can provide all kinds of services. 

Weinberg and Dolanjski both say there’s plenty more DuckDuckGo can do to build a browser that is not only simpler and more private but also more feature-filled. Weinberg cites DuckDuckGo’s email protection as one example; Dolanjski says there are lots of other Duck Player-style tools the company can build. “Ideally,” Weinberg says, “these are features that protect you, that we can also make more visible.”

But the first step was to build a good browser and make it available everywhere. Dolanjski says it’s close: the Windows version might be slightly behind while it’s in beta, but “the goal is to get to parity as quickly as possible.” Once everything’s up to speed, DuckDuckGo can start to dream bigger.