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DuckDuckGo vs. Google: is the fight getting dirty?

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Recently on Google Chrome, in version 86.0.4240.111 as well some versions before, the DuckDuckGo Essentials privacy extension for Google Chrome causes issues with reCAPTCHA.

We’re looking into this issue to try to uncover the potential causes, and a surprising yet (at this moment entirely speculative) observation may be that the rivalry between DuckDuckGo and Google has possibly gotten a little dirtier.

Let’s take a quick look.

What is DuckDuckGo, and what is it’s relation to Google’s search engine?

DuckDuckGo (hereafter DDG) is an alternative search engine that has been gaining in popularity as it places the privacy of its users first (DDG does not track its users and does not retain any search history or even IP address data on its servers).

DDG’s Privacy Essentials extension is a privacy addon to the Chrome browser that blocks hidden trackers and automatically forwards users to encrypted versions of websites in order to enhance privacy and security, but which also changes the default search engine used by Chrome to DuckDuckGo.

Why would the Privacy Essentials extension cause issues with reCAPTCHA in Google’s Chrome browser?

Very quickly: we don’t really know.

But, as it turns out, at of the moment of this writing, DDG is embroiled in an industry dispute with Google, which is held by Alphabet Inc., in an antitrust case levelled against Google for anti-competitive practices to keep its stronghold in the online search industry (and possibly, more broadly, the technology sector as a whole).

If a coincidence can be suspicious, this is what it might look like.

The issue with DDG’s privacy essentials extension and Google Chrome is not new, and although we can’t be absolutely sure that this is not just a hiccup – and it is absolutely speculation since the bug can be caused by an honest mistake in either DDG or Chrome’s codebase – it’s still unfortunate that the technology climate we reside in is as chaotic as it is that such problems are often created for end-users.

Connecting the history of the technology sector and Google’s past with the present.

For some time now, technology-savvy end-users should have been aware since the time of the Edward Snowden revelations that the extent of digital tracking and surveillance have reached unbelievable new heights.

We also know that the technology sphere can be terribly competitive – in a negative and sometimes rather unethical manner.

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We’re not saying either search engine is better than the other, but we definitely are saying the competition between them is at least a little bit hilarious.

Unfortunately, these events create a bad perception in the minds of technology consumers, and as always, can decrease consumer confidence for both retail and business-to-business users. In fact, these actions have the potential to harm the entire technology sector as a whole.

What’s this got to do with my business?

It’s important to understand though that for authentic businesses who are seeking to establish themselves and meaningfully serve their communities, this can also present itself as an opportunity to set themselves apart as honest brokers of whatever product or service they provide.

It’s also critical to be aware of these nuances and changes in the digital landscape, especially if you’re a business who’s trying to market their products and services to consumers.

How much market share among each device class (e.g. desktop, tablet, or mobile) has with each search engine or browsing application impacts how you should tailor your digital presence to maximize your reach – and your clients or customers may have different preferences and browsing habits.

The more sensitive you are to these nuances, the better you can become customer-focused and create lasting connections, improving the value of your brand and creating more trust with your market.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned before, the notion that the issue with reCAPTCHA in recent versions of Chrome using the DDG Privacy Essentials extension is somehow connected to a conflict between DuckDuckGo and Google is pure speculation.

At this point in time there is no concrete and irrefutable evidence that this is the case, and most likely it’s just a simple compatibility issue between the two pieces of software.

However, at first glance, it might not be out of the question to completely discount the possibility that some sort of more obscure or contentious reason is driving the bug.

Nevertheless it’s an interesting matter to contemplate and consider how even such a possibility can impact your overall approach to digital marketing, and what this can mean for your website and overall online presence.

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