DuckDuckGo Follows Search Giants Into Generative AI

DuckDuckGo -- a search engine known for preserving its users’ privacy -- has become the newest leader in search to invest in generative AI with DuckAssist, a feature that uses natural-language tech from ChatGPT-maker OpenAI and startup Anthropic to answer search queries. 

Following Google and Microsoft down the AI-search rabbit hole, DuckAssist -- now in beta testing, available via DuckDuckGo’s apps and browser extensions -- is actively indexing reference sites like Wikipedia and the Britannica encyclopedia to source AI-generated answers. 

DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg told TechCrunch that DuckAssist is currently pulling 99% of source material from Wikipedia, but that the company is experimenting with additional sources dependent on the context of a user’s query, like trusted news media.

According to Weinberg, limiting source materials may help DuckAssist avoid making up random information (what he calls “hallucinating”) and deliver a higher percentage of correct answers.

Still, Weinberg acknowledges that there will be mistakes. DuckDuckGo will therefore label answers that are not independently checked for accuracy and provide a link to the most relevant Wiki article for more information. 

For now, the company is using OpenAI’s Davinci model and a new Turbo model, as well as Claude from Anthropic, a startup founded by ex-OpenAI employees. 

DuckDuckGo already has an Instant Answer feature, but generative AI models will help DuckAssist answer “significantly more questions” and generate new text rather than simply delivering found quotes, says Weinberg. “In this way, DuckAssist can be more directly responsive to the query, quickly surface information buried in articles, and synthesize information from multiple Wikipedia snippets.”

In terms of user safety, the privacy-focused search engine says DuckAssist will remain anonymous and that no data is shared with any third parties working on the feature. 

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