For better or worse, Google Search and Bing are going all-in on AI chatbots. And DuckDuckGo, the most popular privacy-focused search engine, doesn’t want to miss the hype train. DuckDuckGo is now beta testing a “DuckAssist” AI that provides instant, summarized answers for your search queries.
But DuckAssist isn’t an AI chatbot; it simply pulls and summarizes information from Wikipedia. If you search for something that may be answered in a Wikipedia article, DuckAssist will show up at the top of your search results and give you a quick answer, potentially saving you the trouble of opening links.
This feature is similar to Google Search’s “featured snippets,” which were introduced in 2014. The only truly notable thing about DuckAssist (aside from the fact that it may be useful) is that it uses AI to produce unique summaries.
Clearly, DuckDuckGo is taking a much more level-headed approach than Bing or Google Search. We’ve spent hours playing with AI chatbots, and we can confidently say that they aren’t a trustworthy source of information. Because DuckAssist is a summarizer (and it only looks at Wikipedia articles), it shouldn’t spit out too many inaccuracies.
But we assume that DuckAssist will make the occasional mistake. Artificial intelligence doesn’t comprehend anything it reads or writes, so certain questions (or Wikipedia articles) may confuse DuckAssist. Of course, misinformation published on Wikipedia (either intentionally or unintentionally) may also be a problem, as DuckDuckGo plans to regularly scan Wikipedia for current information.
Even with the inevitable hiccups, DuckAssist should be a useful tool. It rolls out today for DuckDuckGo’s browsers and extensions. Those who only use DuckDuckGo’s search engine (without apps or extensions) will see DuckAssist in the coming weeks. Non-Wikipedia sources are already being tested on the AI tool and may appear in search results during the beta period.
I should note that Brave Search is working on a DuckAssist-like tool called Summarizer. Evidently, AI-assisted features will become a common part of all search engines.