Even if you’re not springing for an enormous iPhone 6 Plus, your device is about to get a refresh in the form of iOS 8. While new features like widgets and third-party keyboard support have gotten most of the attention, iOS 8 has a big perk waiting for privacy-conscious users as well.
The mobile version of Safari will now let you change the default search engine to DuckDuckGo, the privacy-obsessed Google alternative that has seen a sharp uptick in activity since Edward Snowden became a household name. By default, DuckDuckGo does not track its users’ search activity or even log their IP addresses.
“It’s great to see Apple championing privacy by adding our anonymous search option to protect Safari’s users,” says DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg.
The integration is pretty simple. Once iOS 8 is installed, Safari’s settings will include DuckDuckGo alongside Google, Bing, and Yahoo as an option for the browser’s default search engine. Select DuckDuckGo and from that point forward, any search conducted from within Safari will show results from DuckDuckGo rather than one of its giant competitors.
Of course, DuckDuckGo already has its own iOS app, which is free to download and use. But what’s notable about this integration is the sudden exposure it offers the tiny suburban Philadelphia-based startup and its underdog, stick-it-to-Google service. Simply having its name inside the settings of a platform used by hundreds of millions of people will ensure a rise in search queries. For a startup this small, the payoff could potentially be huge.
That isn’t to say that DuckDuckGo hasn’t already been growing. Its search traffic (which the company measures in queries per day) was already steadily on the rise before last June when the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs were first unveiled by Edward Snowden and The Guardian. As details came to light about the NSA’s spying–in which American tech companies were pressured to be complicit, DuckDuckGo’s traffic began to skyrocket. Aside from a few minor fluctuations, the site’s activity hasn’t stopped climbing since.
DuckDuckGo’s overall market share remains minuscule compared to that of Google or even Yahoo. Still, its rapid rise in popularity is a noteworthy, quantifiable symbol of growing concerns over online privacy, which have yet to be assuaged even 15 months after the NSA spying story broke.
“Our primary goal remains unchanged: To deliver a search engine with smarter answers and real privacy to as many people as possible,” says Weinberg. “Being part of Safari is a huge step in achieving this goal.”