Gabriel Weinberg

CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo & Co-author of Traction

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 30, 2015

Discussion

Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
Hi! I’m Gabriel Weinberg, CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine, and co-author of Traction Book, the book that helps any project or business get traction. I’ve been doing startups my whole career (I’m 36 now), and have experienced many failures and successes in a variety of contexts (solo founder, angel investor, board member, acquisition, author, etc.). The second edition of Traction comes out in a few days on Oct 6! You might have seen Traction Course & Traction Stack recently on PH in the run up to the re-launch. Ask me anything!
Tomas Ruta@tomasruta · 2x funded founder, 3x CMO VC-funded co's
@yegg Hi, what's in DuckDuckGo's analytics stack?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@tomasruta since DuckDuckGo doesn't track you, we are quite limited in what we can do with regards to analytics. We currently do not use any third-party analytics tools, relying instead on just home grown stuff that we can ensure works within our strict no-tracking privacy policy. This analytics stack really just involves counting things on an anonymous basis like how many search pages resulted in a given Instant Answer shown or clicked.
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
How can I advertise FreezeCrowd.com on DuckDuckGo instead of Google, Bing or Yahoo? I've advertised on the others, but I'd like to help out the startup search engine sometimes if there's any opportunity to advertise my social networking site. I feel the same challenges going up against bigger competitors, but believe it's possible to win in many ways with a different idea.
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow thanks for the support! We syndicate the Yahoo/Bing search alliance ads, and don't have our own direct ad platform, so consequently you need to go through there to advertise on DuckDuckGo, and on which you can't presently just advertise on DuckDuckGo.
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
You're welcome, and got it! So, the fact I'm advertising on Bing it automatically goes to DuckDuckGo? When is DuckDuckGo going to have its own advertising platform, and why not have your own advertising, too?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow you also have to check the box to say you want your ads on syndicated platforms like DuckDuckGo. We have no plans right now to do our own advertising platform because quite simply it is a lot of work! It's a complicated technology stack, a whole new set of customers, a sales and support staff, etc.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
No doubt many people doubted you (and anyone else really) could create a better search engine than Google. It's a hard challenge. Why are you working on DuckDuckGo, @yegg?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@rrhoover thanks for making Product Hunt! This article from yesterday gives a bit more about the history of starting DuckDuckGo: http://www.fastcompany.com/30516... The shorter version is I wanted to do something that I could see myself doing for a decade or more, after not being too into from a user-perspective the product of my previous company. However, it was hard to tell in the abstract what would really resonate with me for that long, so I just started a bunch of side projects to find out. Three of those ended up being search related and I ultimately combined them into what became DuckDuckGo after realizing that I'm really drawn to data, algorithms, and helping people solve logic and information problems. That was starting it eight years ago! Now we're an awesome position where we feel we can both help define one of the biggest markets and day-to-day tasks on the planet (search) as well as move the needle on one of the biggest issues (privacy). I think it would be very challenging to get back to a point where I could make such a dent in the universe, and so that really motivates me. A bit more granular though, I wrote that I'm motivated by being on the cusp of something big (https://medium.com/life-learning...), and I really feel we're at the cusp of some big things.
Jared Dees@jareddees · Content Marketing Manager
You're doing a great job with the re-launch of Traction. What channels are in your "inner circle" for this launch? Are you doubling down on what worked the first time or experimenting with new channels?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@jareddees thanks! We are indeed doubling down on what worked last time, and took another huge run at podcasts, which are mainly coming out in the next week. We also kept email marketing, and http://tractioncourse.com came directly out of that. Given though that I could only arrange so many podcasts and we finished the course, we did try some other things! Continuing in email marketing, we recruited an awesome launch team who is helping us reach out to local email lists. To anyone out there who wants to join this team in the final hectic week, please reach out to me :) Beyond those, the third channel in the inner circle has been content marketing. I've put out a series of posts at https://medium.com/@yegg and have more planned, with some trying to syndicate on other platforms like on Product Hunt!
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
I have an Android device, and Google is always the default. Is there a way to easily vacillate between Google and DuckDuckGo easily other than using the DuckDuckGo Android app? Actually, if I use DuckDuckGo I can use the bang for Google I suppose, so it makes sense.
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow if you install a launcher, you will have more flexibility.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
You're working on a lot of things right now! How do you keep focus? What drives to work so hard, and juggle so many things at once? What advice can you give to others who also wear multiple hats to keep moving everything forward?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ems_hodge I really try do try to focus :). This is not a simple answer without sounding vague! I really try to define goals and not work on things that don't move the needle for those goals. Those goals I try to further align with life objectives. I say no a lot as a result, and try to delegate everything I can. I try to focus on things that will create leverage. I stay motivated by feeling like I'm the cusp of something big (https://medium.com/life-learning...).
Veronica@veronicatheblog · Head of Happiness at Lovepop
Do you have any great examples of gaining Instagram traction?
Dim Papas@dp25501
@yegg how old do you you have to be a ddg community leader
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@dp25501 hi Dim! I assume you mean a DuckDuckGo Community Leader (if anyone is interested, you can find out more here: https://duck.co/help/community/c...). We have no age requirement :)
David Iwanow@davidiwanow · Global SEO Manager @ Schibsted
@yegg What was your thoughts on Blekko being shutdown and the team joining IBM Watson?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@davidiwanow I have a ton of respect for Rich and team, and really for anyone who attempts to make a dent in the search engine universe -- it's really tough! They developed a lot of really cool technology, and I hope they're continuing to build on it at IBM Watson.
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
I am a believer in audio books, and love the app Audiobooks.com. Can you make an audio of your book?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow I just spent eight nights over the past several weeks recording the audio version of Traction! So in a couple of weeks (maybe next week when the 2nd edition of the book launches), you can hear me drone on for many hours :). We did have an audio version of the 1st edition, but it was pulled for the launch of the 2nd edition.
Dim Papas@dp25501
why dont you take search results from google?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@dp25501 We do use the YouTube API for video results. More generally, we only use APIs that will work within our privacy policy.
@yegg Hi! Long time DDG user, and have used your XMPP server for my most important chats since 2013. The server has been a bit unreliable lately - went down for multiple days last week. Two things: 1. When your xmpp is offline, people who use their xmpp creds to sign into the community platform are unable to do so. 2. It takes a loong time for you guys to even confirm that you know about the problem. Can you do something about this? Can we get a status page for the server and slightly quicker response from the maintenance guys? It would also be cool to be able to log into the forums during an outage... Thanks! EDIT: Here's a link to the thread - https://duck.co/forum/thread/152....
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@prajjwalsin thank you being so involved in our community! The XMPP server has been a big challenge to maintain recently because we've been getting DDOS attacks on it, and as you point out this is doubly challenging because it also serves as the authentication mechanism for duck.co (our community platform for anyone else reading this). We're exploring now what we can do with it, but ultimately we don't want to be too distracted with it because it takes away from our ability to spend time focusing on search.
@yegg Understandable, but doesn't your community play a HUGE role in making DDG a success? A prompt message on the forums, or a status page that lets us know that you're being DDoSed would go a long way towards making your users happy. Many of us use OTR over dukgo as our main chat server. Multiple days of downtime really suck. Thanks for a great search engine, though!
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@prajjwalsin yes you are absolutely right and will have a conversation about this right after this session!
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
Are you only looking to compete with Google, Bing, etc. in search or are you looking to compete in other ways such as maps, shopping, etc?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow we don't want to make completely separate products but we are competing on those things to the extent they should come up on general search results (maps and images as Instant Answers, for example).
Michael Hyde@michael_hyde · Founder of crawloft.com
@yegg If you don't track, how possible each person has interested in their personality search? Like I'm searching for 'food' then actually I like to find 'food in my area', but others like to find 'tutorial of cooking'. Can you give me an example what kind you try to attract user to come and get better result of search?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@niqmk10 we've found that most of the time when people say they want personalized search, they really want localized search (local weather, restaurants, etc.). We haven't seen too much hard evidence that true personalized search is better, and there are significant negatives like being trapped in the filter bubble: http://dontbubble.us That said, while we don't track you by default, our view on privacy is a bit more nuanced in that we believe in transparent, quid pro quo privacy policies where what you get is clearly defined against what you give up: https://medium.com/life-learning... In that context, I could see a future where you could opt-in to telling us your are a developer, for example, and we would prefer Instant Answers more related to that topic. This could be done in a completely open, anonymous fashion like how our Cloud Save settings work now: https://duckduckgo.com/settings -- that said, we see no compelling reason to move in this direction right now. Finally, it is often the case that if you give a bit more context in your search queries, you get better results, so one of the things we're focused on is helping people develop better queries (through auto-suggest for example).
Chris Kay@chrisjkay · Co-Founder, Multiplicity
What's the most surprising thing you learned when researching and writing Traction? What's the best thing you implemented in growing DuckDuckGo?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@chrisjkay that all 19 channels (https://medium.com/swlh/the-19-c...) have been used by all types of companies in all phases of growth, and often the most under-utilized channels for a given industry are the best candidates. As a result, creative brainstorming across all these channels is an essential step in getting Traction (including in the Bullseye framework we propose: https://medium.com/marketing-102...). At DuckDuckGo, we've run this framework and switched channels a number of times including at different times focusing on SEO, content marketing, social ads, publicity, and business development. Probably the best thing (at the time) was doing our micro-sites like http://donttrack.us -- probably runner up was being one of the first advertisers on reddit's ad platform, which when it started had like 7% CTR! That's what I mean by under-utilized channels and channel strategies.
Eric Leebow@ericleebow · Founder and CEO
Are there things you see that DuckDuckGo can do or will do that will significantly out innovate Google or any other search engine, and they will not be able to replicate other than the branding of a "duck" on the homepage? I think the bang search concept idea is pretty impressive, but maybe you see something that others don't in the long term vision.
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@ericleebow yes that is why we are focused on DuckDuckHack (http://duckduckhack.com), an open approach to Instant Answers (as opposed to all the other closed approaches).
CommLawEsq@commlawesq
I had read that DDG was running an exit node for Tor. How do you view your business relationship with other privacy-committed services like Tor and Ixquick? Do you envision a future of establishing partnerships to strengthen user privacy, rather than being strictly competitors?
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@commlawesq we run a couple of Tor hidden services and relays, though not an explicit exit node. We do our best to join privacy initiatives and raise awareness of privacy issues in general. You will see us support, sign and lead a lot of things that also involve other privacy companies, most recently https://www.eff.org/press/releas...
Jim Abercrombie @jim_abercrombie
Gabriel, thanks for doing the live chat today! I have been using DDG since listening to your podcast with James Altucher this past summer. I have a couple of suggestions for DDG and one question.... A. Maps. I feel this is a weakness in your search engine. I frequently have to open google maps after searching in DuckDuckGo. The map that comes up is not interactive and simple things like directions to/from locations don't seem to be available. B. News. The news tab does not seem to come up on certain topics but does on others. Is there a way to make this available for every search? C. Real time info...weather for my location comes right up when I search for it, but things like sports scores, stock quotes, etc. More info at the top of DDG as opposed to another site might be valuable for users. I don't want to sound like a critic, I really like using DuckDuckGo and want to see it be as great a product as possible! My question: What advertising do you do to promote DDG? I have been brainstorming some funny video ideas and a user challenge idea. If you guys are interested where is the best place to share them? I have no problem making them public. Jim
Gabriel Weinberg@yegg · Founder & CEO, DuckDuckGo
@jim_abercrombie thank you for the feedback, we need it! We're working on all three of those things, and more generally on anything that causes people to need to leave DuckDuckGo. In answer specifically: A) We're actively working on improvements here, but so you know you can expand the map that comes up now, and move around within it (drag, zoom, etc.) -- that may not be entirely obvious. It may not also be obvious but if an address comes up you can click on it and your native directions application will open. B) We just got a major news update -- check it out! It should come up more and have better content (including images where available). Adding news to the query should trigger it more, but that shouldn't be strictly necessary for newsworthy topics. Note in ambiguous searches a News tab may come up but not be at the forefront, and then you need to click on it -- again putting news in the query should force it though. Particular examples are always helpul. C) We should have stock quotes -- any not working? On sports, we have MLB right now and are working on others -- NFL and NHL next. Please keep the feedback coming! On advertising, this is tough because since we don't make too much and it is hard to get people to switch, paid advertising in general doesn't turn out to be a great ROI. So like you're saying we're focused on more creative traction efforts, and we have many times brainstormed funny video and user challenge ideas! Feel free to email me directly if you like yegg at duckduckgo -- if you don't want to share publicly :)