DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Browser Finally Lands on Desktop

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For now, the rollout of the browser is limited. DuckDuckGo’s Mac app is being released as a beta that people can access by signing up to a private waiting list, through the company’s mobile app. The beta launch means DuckDuckGo can make changes and iron out bugs before its full release. At the moment, it does feel like some common browser features are missing. There isn’t a bookmarks bar for easy access to saved sites or folders—the company says it is working on improving this. And there’s also no way to access a detailed history list of all the sites you’ve visited. There are different ways to access your browsing history, including a privacy feed of previous websites visited and autocompletes when you start typing a previously visited site, but these don’t feel comprehensive.

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DuckDuckGo’s desktop apps have been in the works for some time. Burger-Lenehan says the company has been building the Mac app for more than a year and first started private tests with members of the public in October 2021. The company’s browser for Windows is being developed simultaneously, but its production is behind the Mac version, Burger-Lenehan says, adding that it will be available “soon.”

DuckDuckGo for Mac joins a growing list of Chrome rivals. In recent years, browsers have piled privacy features into their offerings—most prominently blocking trackers, browser fingerprinting

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, and ads that follow you around the internet—to differentiate themselves from Google’s browser. Apple’s Safari, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Brave, and DuckDuckGo’s mobile apps all block trackers to various degrees. (Although Tor is widely considered the most private browser.)

What perhaps makes DuckDuckGo’s app stand out is how the browser is built. The vast majority of alternative web browsers—including Microsoft’s Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, and Opera—all use, to some extent, altered versions of Google’s browser code base, Chromium, and its underlying browser engine, Blink. Mozilla’s Firefox is one of the only other browsers that doesn’t use this Google-created setup.

DuckDuckGo shunned Chromium and instead uses Apple’s WebKit rendering system, which converts code into the web pages you see. “We wanted complete control over the code and the experience,” Burger-Lenehan says. That decision was taken in part because adapting Chromium would have meant the browser would inherit “cruft and clutter” from Google’s design process, Burger-Lenehan says. Instead, “every bit of code is owned by DuckDuckGo and written by DuckDuckGo.”

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