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DuckDuckGo For Mac Is Now Available To Everyone

Image Source: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock

DuckDuckGo for Mac is now accessible to all users after being previously released in April this year on an invite-only basis for a closed beta test period.

Although the browser is still in the beta phase, there is no longer a need to wait for an invitation to try it out.

DuckDuckGo for Mac

Initially, when I first discussed the app earlier this year, I was not very impressed. However, there have been significant changes since that time. The company’s claim is that DuckDuckGo for Mac uses approximately 60% less data compared to Chrome and is based on Apple Safari’s WebKit engine, specifically WKWebView.

Settings

In the browser, you have the option to restore open windows from the previous session. You can switch between light and dark themes or configure it to follow the system theme. By default, the address bar does not show the full URL. However, you can change this setting on the Preferences > Appearance page.

DuckDuckGo for Mac offers various unique privacy features. Similar to its mobile version, the desktop browser includes a Fire button, enabling you to delete your browsing history data and cookies with just one click. You can designate specific websites as Fireproof Sites to retain your logins.

The browser can automatically handle annoying cookie consent pop-ups and minimize cookies to enhance privacy. It also closes cookie prompts by itself, eliminating bothersome banners.

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Additionally, if you’re looking for a similar feature on Firefox and Chrome, consider using the “I still don’t care about cookies” add-on, which is a modified version of the extension that was acquired and changed by Avast.

Regarding DuckDuckGo’s browser, it features a Global Privacy Control (GPC) that instructs websites not to track you. By clicking on the shield icon next to the address bar, you can access and manage the tracking protection for the current website. The macOS app also supports Email protection, which has recently been released from beta. You can acquire a free email address @duck.com, offering a convenient way to conceal your actual email address. The new tab page in DuckDuckGo’s browser also showcases privacy statistics such as the number of trackers blocked, detected trackers on a website, and the number of blocks performed.

Autofill, Import Bookmarks, and Passwords

Users looking to transition from Firefox, Chrome, etc., can import their bookmarks and passwords using the Import Wizard located under the Settings. The browser includes a built-in Password Manager supporting autofill for usernames, passwords, addresses, and payment information. Autofill can be configured to lock after a few minutes of inactivity. Autofill functionality will soon be available on the mobile browser.

Improved Ad Blocker

The ad blocker in DuckDuckGo’s browser, which prevents ads from loading, has seen enhancements since my previous review. It no longer leaves blank spaces on web pages where ads were blocked and effectively blocks most ads on websites. However, it appears that the ad blocker does not inhibit product ads on search engines. Further details on this are covered at the end of this article.

Users cannot control how ads are blocked; the option is limited to enabling or disabling tracking protection. The browser lacks features such as an element picker or custom filter lists like uBlock Origin.

While the ad blocker in DuckDuckGo’s browser does not directly block ads on YouTube, it does prevent them when utilizing a specific feature. Although somewhat intricate, this aspect will be discussed in a subsequent section.

Duck Player

DuckDuckGo for Mac now includes a new feature in version 0.30 called Duck Player. Essentially, this is a privacy-enhanced version of YouTube’s video player, offering similar controls for playback, volume adjustment, closed captions, resolution selection, and viewing modes. Duck Player removes targeted ads and cookies from videos, ensuring better privacy.

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DuckDuckGo asserts that any ads visible in Duck Player are non-personalized. The video player successfully blocks all ads, as confirmed through testing various videos with ads on YouTube. Duck Player is not an incognito mode; thus, YouTube can still track video views, though personalized recommendations are inhibited.

Duck Player opens YouTube videos in a new tab, playing them via YouTube-Nocookie.com, which enables Privacy-Enhanced Mode for embedding videos on web pages. The downside is that viewers cannot access video descriptions, comments, playlists, etc., from Duck Player; for this, YouTube must be used. Duck Player is not enabled by default, giving users the option to open videos in Duck Player or the standard YouTube interface by configuring preferences in the Duck Player settings.

Limitations in DuckDuckGo for Mac

There are certain limitations to consider when using DuckDuckGo for Mac. The browser does not support extensions, a notable drawback for users accustomed to Firefox or Chrome.

The built-in ad blocker does not suppress product ads on various search engines including DuckDuckGo, Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ecosia, and Start Page. Searches for products like Macbook, iPhone, Microsoft Surface, Windows 11, etc., will still display ads.

It is somewhat inconsistent as certain queries may not show ads. Testing under default Shield protections revealed that ads persisted even with the Shield enabled, contrary to expectations of a reliable ad blocker.

Users are unable to modify the default search engine in the browser, as DuckDuckGo remains the sole option. While the desktop browser and mobile app source codes are not publicly available currently, DuckDuckGo plans to open-source the code before transitioning out of the beta phase.

Upcoming Features

DuckDuckGo has disclosed ongoing efforts to introduce a sync option for bookmark and password synchronization across devices. Additionally, further built-in features will be added to serve as native alternatives to popular extensions. The browser is expected to offer direct integration with Bitwarden’s password manager for users, facilitating a two-way integration in upcoming updates.

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To obtain DuckDuckGo for Mac, visit the official website.

Despite not encompassing all the features of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, DuckDuckGo for Mac is certainly worth exploring. The browser offers a minimalist user interface with beneficial default privacy features, though the ad blocker requires further refinement. A Windows version is slated for release in the forthcoming months, with a private beta waitlist. However, there is currently no information about a Linux version being in development.

Image Source: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock

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