Apple considered DuckDuckGo as an alternative to Google for private mode on Safari

Search in Safari on an iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

Don’t want the web to save your history, cookies or search results? Safari’s Private Browsing mode to the rescue. Interestingly, while it currently uses Google for search purposes, (much like the non-private mode) there was a chance it could have been a very different search engine.

Apple considered using DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, as the default option in Private mode. That would mean no tracking from the search engine itself, for an even more ‘private’ Private mode.

Private mode and search

The news has come to light within the US government antitrust trial against Google. Testifying to the court, the CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weingberg revealed that the firm had been in meetings with Apple in 2018 and 2019 so that the search engine would become the default in Safari’s Private Browsing mode.

Bloomberg reports further, with Weinberg testifying that the two firms had “about 20 meetings and phone calls with Apple executives, including the head of Safari, in 2018 and 2019 about becoming the default search engine for private browsing mode” 

“We were talking about it, I thought they would launch it” Weinberg continues. Apple, however, had other ideas, it would appear. Also testifying in a closed session, Apple executive John Giannandrea said that “to his knowledge” Apple had not considered the switch. He continued “The motivating factor for setting DuckDuckGo as the default for private browsing was an assumption that it would be more private.”

Instead, Apple has stuck with Google, apparently due to DuckDuckGo’s use of Bing search, with concerns that customer information would then be sent on to Microsoft. 

More and more information about the search engine wars is coming from this antitrust suit against Google, and somehow Apple has found itself a little closer to the center than it might appreciate. Either way, the world might have looked a great deal different with a DuckDuckGo search default in Safari.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.