DuckDuckGo launches generative AI search assistant

DuckDuckGo launches generative AI search assistant

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DuckDuckGo Inc. today launched DuckAssist, a new feature in its search engine that generates natural language responses to user questions.

DuckAssist is powered by generative artificial intelligence models from OpenAI LLC and Anthropic, a San Francisco-based machine learning startup. The feature joins the growing list of generative AI tools introduced by search engine providers in recent months.

Pennsylvania-based DuckDuckGo operates a popular privacy-centric search engine of the same name. According to the startup’s internal estimates, it had 80 million users in November 2020. The following June, DuckDuckGo stated that its monthly search traffic had increased 55% during the preceding 12 months.

The company’s new DuckAssist feature generates brief answers to user questions based on information in Wikipedia articles. In some cases, the feature also draws on other sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica. DuckAssist answers appear in a panel above standard DuckDuckGo search results along with a link to the article from which the information was retrieved.

DuckAssist is implemented as part of the company’s existing Instant Answers tool. The tool enables users to access maps, weather forecasts and other information directly in the DuckDuckGo interface without having to click on search results. DuckAssist is intended to provide more relevant answers to user queries than existing Instant Answers responses. 

“For this initial trial, DuckAssist is most likely to appear in our search results when users search for questions that have straightforward answers in Wikipedia,” DuckDuckGo founder and Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Weinberg wrote in a blog post. “Think questions like ‘what is a search engine index?’ rather than more subjective questions like ‘what is the best search engine?’. We are using the most recent full Wikipedia download available, which is at most a few weeks old.”

DuckDuckGo’s search engine is available in multiple editions. There is a web-based version, as well as a mobile edition and browser extensions that switch the user’s default search engine to DuckDuckGo. On launch, the new DuckAssist feature is accessible through the company’s mobile apps and browser extensions.

Weinberg detailed that DuckDuckGo will roll out DuckAssist to all users “soon” if the initial trial meets expectations. In the longer term, the company is planning to release a number of additional generative AI features for its search engine. DuckDuckGo expects to roll out the features in the coming months.

The launch of DuckAssist comes a few weeks after Google LLC and Microsoft Corp. both introduced AI-powered chatbots for their respective search engines. You.com Inc., a venture-backed search startup, has also rolled out an AI chatbot to help users find answers to their questions faster.

OpenAI and Anthropic, the two startups with which DuckDuckGo partnered to develop its DuckAssistant feature, have both secured significant funding rounds recently. Microsoft made an investment believed to be worth $10 billion in OpenAI this past January. Anthropic, in turn, reportedly raised about $300 million from Google LLC late last year. 

Image: DuckDuckGo

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