Is DuckDuckGo profitable

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The Dutch search engine Startpage was the test winner of Stiftung Warentest in March 2019 - ahead of Google, Bing, Duckduckgo, Ecosia and five other search engines. In October 2019, Startpage stated in a blog post that the US investor System1 had bought the majority stake in the company through its subsidiary Privacy One Group.

Data protection activists reacted with concern: Will a US investor soon also mean US data protection law? Is there even a risk of trade in user data? Startpage spokesman Jörg Bauer provides the answers.


mobile secure: Mr. Bauer, on the Startpage website it says that the company has been profitable since 2004. Why do you need an investor at all?

Jörg Bauer: Being profitable is no longer enough in 2019. The alternative search engine market is highly competitive - we need to invest and develop.


Where does Startpage's revenue come from?

From non-personalized advertisements that are displayed above the search results. These are only switched depending on the search term and do not track - the respective advertiser only receives user information when searchers click on ads. By the way, at Startpage we save absolutely nothing about the searchers - only the country from which the search query originates. Even this information is deleted after a short time.


Since 2019, the greater part of Surfbord Holding BV, which operates Startpage, has belonged to the Privacy One Group. Aren't you afraid that the US investor will take the decision-making power out of your hands in a dispute over the direction?

No, because all questions about data protection for the search engine must be presented to the founders, who then make the decisions. The contracts were drawn up accordingly with the Privacy One Group. The General Data Protection Regulation is an incredible achievement for the European market, and American companies see this advantage for themselves. The convincing argument for Startpage is data protection. Changing anything about this would be counterproductive for everyone involved.


"Nobody needs a small, alternative search engine that tracks their users."


What is it that makes you so sure?

Startpage processes an average of seven million search queries per day. So we are quite small compared to Google or Bing. Nobody needs alternative search engines to track their users. Our unique selling proposition is and will remain data protection.

Unlike some of our competitors, we operate our own, securely encrypted servers to which no one except our own team has access. Data protection is an affair of the heart for our team members.


Startpage uses the Google index. How exactly does the search engine work?

We switch between Google and the searchers. We transmit the search query to Google and then bring the search results to the user so that Google does not find out anything about the person. It happens within a split second.


Why is Google playing along and not blocking Startpage?

We have a contract with Google and we officially buy the search results. The more search queries we forward to Google, the more this service costs. The ads on Startpage also come from Google.


That means that Startpage is completely dependent on Google?

That's right - we show the most relevant search results. Incidentally, all alternative search engines rely on the indices of major providers. If it's not Google, then it's Microsoft's Bing service or the Russian search engine Yandex. Building a search index yourself that really works would be an enormous expense that would even exceed the budgets of large European corporations.


Where is Startpage most used?

Our strongest market is in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The USA will come right after that. If you search with Startpage in the USA, you still have the protection of the European General Data Protection Regulation because the company is based in the Netherlands - and you can also specify in the settings that searches are only carried out via European servers.


How will Startpage develop?

We are currently planning a lot of new functions in order to become even more interesting as an alternative to Google. Unfortunately, I can't reveal more yet - but I promise: 2020 will be an exciting year.


#Search engines #TrackingProtection
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