By Patrick Lucas Austin
March 14, 2019

As it and other technology giants face questions and fines over their practices when it comes to competition and user privacy, Google is adding a new official option to its popular Chrome browser that allows users to search the web using the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine rather than its own platform.

The update to Chromium — which powers Google Chrome — axes search engines like AOL and Yahoo!, replacing them with DuckDuckGo (in France, privacy-focused search engine Qwant was also added to the list). More search-savvy users may have already known about the company’s DuckDuckGo Chrome extension, which makes DuckDuckGo the default option in the Google browser and protects users from ad-tracking software found on almost every site you visit regularly. The Chrome update means you will no longer need an extension to use DuckDuckGo from your URL bar.

If you’re unfamiliar, DuckDuckGo is a search engine designed to protect any data generated by your search results and history. DuckDuckGo does not store any search history data, encrypts your search queries, and blocks advertising trackers while you browse the web (though you’ll need to install either its browser extension or the DuckDuckGo app on your smartphone).

Google’s show of support for DuckDuckGo comes as the privacy-focused search engine is getting more popular at a time when many tech users are looking for ways to protect their data and privacy.

Google Chrome already provided users with a list of optional search engines to choose from, which includes major options like Google and Bing along with competitors Ask, Yahoo!, and AOL. Users are also able to add their own custom search engines, should they want to take advantage of a different option or perform regular searches using a website’s own search functionality. And Chrome users can always navigate to the website of their search engine of choice to use a different option.

Google and DuckDuckGo haven’t exactly seen eye to eye when it comes to search. In fact, Google has apparently caused more than a few headaches for the privacy-centric search engine in the past.

In a series of tweets in 2018, DuckDuckGo accused Google of abusing its power to hinder the search engine’s proliferation on the Chrome and Android platforms — namely by making it impossible to change the default search provider in Android’s search widget, which uses Google searches.

And after acquiring the Duck.com domain through the 2010 purchase of video technology company On2 (formerly The Duck Corporation), Google redirected the URL to its own search page. “Google owns lots of domains that don’t point anywhere, or not to their main search page,” said DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg in a 2010 post on the company’s Duck.co support forum. “That means there was an affirmative decision somewhere along the line to redirect that particular domain to their search product.”

Last December, DuckDuckGo acquired the Duck.com domain from Google, which now redirects to the search engine. “We’re pleased Google has chosen to transfer ownership of Duck.com to DuckDuckGo,” said Weinberg at the time. “Having Duck.com will make it easier for people to use DuckDuckGo.”

Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at patrick.austin@time.com.

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