DuckDuckGo launches DuckAssist: a new feature that generates natural language answers to search queries using Wikipedia
Update April 12, 2023: We're very proud of DuckAssist and the great feedback it received from users. Unfortunately, DuckAssist is no longer available on DuckDuckGo Private Search.
DuckAssist is the first in a series of AI-assisted private search and browser updates. It's free (with no sign-up required!) and available to try today in DuckDuckGo browsers and extensions.
Generative artificial intelligence is hitting the world of search and browsing in a big way. At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been trying to understand the difference between what it could do well in the future and what it can do well right now. But no matter how we decide to use this new technology, we want it to add clear value to our private search and browsing experience.
Today, we’re giving all users of DuckDuckGo’s browsing apps and browser extensions the first public look at DuckAssist, a new beta Instant Answer in our search results. If you enter a question that can be answered by Wikipedia into our search box, DuckAssist may appear and use AI natural language technology to anonymously generate a brief, sourced summary of what it finds in Wikipedia — right above our regular private search results. It’s completely free and private itself, with no sign-up required, and it’s available right now.
This is the first in a series of generative AI-assisted features we hope to roll out in the coming months. We wanted DuckAssist to be the first because we think it can immediately help users find answers to what they are looking for faster. And, if this DuckAssist trial goes well, we will roll it out to all DuckDuckGo search users in the coming weeks.
DuckAssist is available to try right now through our browsing apps and browser extensions
What is it?
DuckAssist is a new type of Instant Answer in our search results, just like News, Maps, Weather, and many others we already have. We designed DuckAssist to be fully integrated into DuckDuckGo Private Search, mirroring the look and feel of our traditional search results, so while the AI-generated content is new, we hope using DuckAssist feels second nature.
DuckAssist answers questions by scanning a specific set of sources — for now that’s usually Wikipedia, and occasionally related sites like Britannica — using DuckDuckGo’s active indexing. Because we’re using natural language technology from OpenAI and Anthropic to summarize what we find in Wikipedia, these answers should be more directly responsive to your actual question than traditional search results or other Instant Answers.
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. 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. This means DuckAssist will not appear for questions more recent than that, at least for the time being. For those questions, our existing search results page does a better job of surfacing helpful information.
As a result, you shouldn’t expect to see DuckAssist on many of your searches yet. But the combination of generative AI and Wikipedia in DuckAssist means we can vastly increase the number of Instant Answers we can provide, and when it does pop up, it will likely help you find the information you want faster than ever.
DuckAssist joins many other Instant Answers on DuckDuckGo’s private search results
How does it work?
Generative AI technology is designed to generate text in response to any prompt, regardless of whether it “knows” the answer or not. However, by asking DuckAssist to only summarize information from Wikipedia and related sources, the probability that it will “hallucinate” — that is, just make something up — is greatly diminished. In all cases though, a source link, usually a Wikipedia article, will be linked below the summary, often pointing you to a specific section within that article so you can learn more.
Nonetheless, DuckAssist won’t generate accurate answers all of the time. We fully expect it to make mistakes. Because there’s a limit to the amount of information the feature can summarize, we use the specific sentences in Wikipedia we think are the most relevant; inaccuracies can happen if our relevancy function is off, unintentionally omitting key sentences, or if there’s an underlying error in the source material given. DuckAssist may also make mistakes when answering especially complex questions, simply because it would be difficult for any tool to summarize answers in those instances. That’s why it’s so important for our users to share feedback during this beta phase: there’s an anonymous feedback link next to all DuckAssist answers where you can let us know about any problems, so we can identify where things aren’t working well and take quick steps to make improvements.
DuckAssist is anonymous, with no logging in required. It’s a fully integrated part of DuckDuckGo Private Search, which is also free and anonymous. We don’t save or share your search or browsing history when you search on DuckDuckGo or use our browsing apps or browser extensions, and searches with DuckAssist are no exception. We also keep your search and browsing history anonymous to our search content partners — in this case, OpenAI and Anthropic, used for summarizing the Wikipedia sentences we identify. As with all other third parties we work with, we do not share any personally identifiable information like your IP address. Additionally, our anonymous queries will not be used to train their AI models. And anything you share via the anonymous feedback link goes to us and us alone.
If DuckAssist has already answered a question on the same topic, its response will appear automatically
We’ve used Wikipedia for many years as the primary source for our “knowledge graph” Instant Answers, and, while we know it isn’t perfect, Wikipedia is relatively reliable across a wide variety of subjects. Because it’s a public resource with a transparent editorial process that cites all the sources used in an article, you can easily trace exactly where its information is coming from. Finally, since Wikipedia is always being updated, DuckAssist answers can reflect recent understanding of a given topic: right now our DuckAssist Wikipedia index is at most a few weeks old, and we have plans to make it even more recent. We also have plans to add more sources soon; you may already see some signs of that in your results!
More Details about DuckAssist
• Phrasing your search query as a question makes DuckAssist more likely to appear in search results.
• If you’re fairly confident that Wikipedia has the answer to your query, adding the word “wiki” to your search also makes DuckAssist more likely to appear in search results.
• For now, the DuckAssist beta is only available in English in our browsing apps (iOS, Android, and Mac) and browser extensions (Firefox, Chrome, and Safari). If the trial goes well, we plan to roll it out to all DuckDuckGo search users soon.
• If you don’t want DuckAssist to appear in search results, you can disable “Instant Answers” in search settings. (Note: this will disable all Instant Answers, not just DuckAssist.)
• If DuckAssist has generated an answer for a given topic before, the answer will appear automatically. Otherwise, you can click the ‘Ask’ button to have an answer generated for you in real time.