Will Apple Acquire DuckDuckGo?

image credit: DuckDuckGo

By Chand Bellur

June 9, 2020 at 3:24 p.m. PT

  • DuckDuckGo is a popular search engine offering privacy and security for end-users.
  • Some Apple analysts believe that the company should acquire DuckDuckGo and integrate it into their products.
  • Google currently pays Apple $7 billion a year to be the default search engine in their products.

Consumers Weary of Surveillance Capitalism

Privacy is important to consumers these days. The World Wide Web, as the largest repository of information on the planet, is often subjected to embarrassing queries. People search for delicate medical information and entertainment that isn’t suitable for broadcast television. 

There’s a legitimate concern that confidential or humiliating searches will come back to haunt the end-user. There’s also the fear that, in some not-so-far-off dystopic society, people will face judgment over their digital lives.

Employers already comb through social media profiles of prospective employees, looking for anything unsuitable for the workplace. It’s also well-known that our government warehouses meta-data from every cellular phone call.

Many Americans assume they’re under surveillance. According to the Pew Research Foundation, they also feel that corporations and government agencies aren’t honest about how they use our data.

Most people have noticed that when they search for something on Google or use Gmail, those words take on a life of their own. If you email a friend about vacationing in Tahoe, you’ll suddenly see relevant ads on virtually every website.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s not necessarily harmful either. One could find a great deal on accommodations, thanks to Google’s intelligent spying. After all, no person at Google is looking at this data. It’s all interpreted by algorithms.

For many people, however, convenience is less important than privacy. They prefer not to let Google know their intimate secrets or everyday habits. DuckDuckGo is popular amongst consumers with privacy concerns. Although Google is by far the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo, in fourth place, has found its niche.

DuckDuckGo Offers Private Web Searching

Founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, DuckDuckGo offers consumers something that Google cannot — privacy. Unlike Google or Bing, Weinberg isn’t looking to become a billionaire. The irony is that he may end up achieving that goal.

The founder’s modest aspirations allow the company to survive, where most startups trying to take on Google or Microsoft would have folded. Supported by ad revenues, the search platform yields minuscule earnings compared to Google and even Bing. With a skeleton crew, low burn rate, and investors, it may be ripe for acquisition from Apple.

DuckDuckGo is just a search engine, whereas Google is a universe of interconnected technology. DuckDuckGo doesn’t have a video platform like YouTube or mapping technology like Google Maps. They don’t have a suite of productivity software like Google Docs or Microsoft Office. DuckDuckGo only does search, and they do it well. This simple business model, free of synergies, doesn’t give the company an incentive to horde user data.

Will Apple Acquire DuckDuckGo?

There’s a rational case for Apple to acquire a search engine specializing in privacy. The Cupertino company offers products that place a similar value on privacy. Google is their competitor. By integrating DuckDuckGo in their searches, Apple would take billions of dollars away from the Mountain View search hegemon.

Apple also stands to lose revenues if they sever their relationship with Google. The company pays Apple $7 billion a year to be the default search engine on iPhones, Macs, and other devices. Acquiring DuckDuckGo would only cost Apple $1 billion; however, they would lose $7 billion a year from Google. This situation, however, would be much worse for Google. With $25 billion in ad revenues from Apple devices, the search giant would be devastated if Apple acquired DuckDuckGo.

So far, only Apple analysts have mentioned this strategy. No leaks or rumors indicate that Apple is moving to acquire the privacy-minded search engine. The move doesn’t make sense. Both Apple and Google would lose out. Perhaps Steve Jobs would have taken this vindictive swipe at Google. Tim Cook doesn’t seem to share this grudge. Under his leadership, Apple has partnered with Google on some projects. It would appear that Steve Jobs’s vow to go “thermonuclear” on the search giant will likely never materialize. Similarly, Apple probably won’t acquire DuckDuckGo.

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