Recently, I had to set up a new laptop for work and needed to look something up online. Armed with the muscle memory from thousands of searches on my old machine, I started typing !g...then it hit me: I was typing DuckDuckGo's !bang for a Google search into the vanilla search bar of a browser that uses Google search by default.
DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, has a unique feature called !bangs that allows users to quickly search specific websites directly from the DuckDuckGo search bar. With a !bang, users can bypass the need to visit the website and search directly on the site.
A !bang is comprised of a "!" followed by a bang command such as !g for Google, !yt for YouTube, and !a for Amazon. For example, "!w dogs" will search Wikipedia for the term "dogs". Some of the !bangs I use quite frequently are
- !sr [name of a subreddit on reddit]: opens the respective subreddit
- !gmaps [any location on earth]: goes to the place on Google Maps
- !yt [search term]: searches directly on YouTube
- !hn [search term]: searches Hacker News submissions and comments
- with lots more to discover
However, the !bang I use THE most often is !g for a simple Google search. And yes, I know this somehow defeats the purpose of a privacy-focused search engine if I mainly use it to look up things on a search engine that represents the polar opposite. But after having tried my fair share of non !g-searches, I have to admit that the Google results are way more useful and get me faster to the information I need. Of course, this may also be because my search terms and the way I look up certain things is highly adapted to the way Google ranks and filters pages and what I am used to getting as results.
Still, the !bangs feature is a major convenience in those times, where I know exactly where to look. I wouldn't want to miss the saved time and increased efficiency when searching for something specific that DuckDuckGo adds to my search flow. It's just that I've adapted to using it more as a Google interface with additional functionality instead of as my main search engine.