When Gabriel Weinberg launched a search engine in 2008, plenty of people thought he was insane. How could DuckDuckGo, a tiny, Philadelphia-based startup, go up against Google? One way, he wagered, was by respecting user privacy. Six years later, we're living in the post-Snowden era, and the idea doesn't seem so crazy.
In fact, DuckDuckGo is exploding. Looking at a chart of DuckDuckGo's daily search queries, the milestones are obvious. A $3 million investment from Union Square Ventures in 2011. Just prior to that, a San Francisco billboard campaign. Inclusion in Time's 50 Best Websites of 2011. Each of these things moved the traffic needle for DuckDuckGo, but none of them came close to sparking anything like the massive spike in queries the company saw last July. That's when Edward Snowden first revealed the NSA's extensive digital surveillance program to the world. The little blue line on the chart hasn't stopped climbing north since.