DuckDuckGo’s privacy-centric browser arrives on Mac

DuckDuckGo’s privacy-focused browsing app is available in beta on Mac, but you must join a private waiting list to access it. Like the mobile browsing app, DuckDuckGo on Mac uses the DuckDuckGo search engine by default, automatically blocks web trackers, and comes with the famous “Fire” button that burns your browsing history and tabs in one click.

The browse app also comes with a new feature that should help block those annoying cookie consent popups that appear when you first open a website. DuckDuckGo says it will erase them on 50 percent of sites, while automatically selecting the option that blocks or minimizes the cookies you track. Allison Goodman, the senior communications manager at DuckDuckGo, told Custom Hour that the company plans to increase this coverage “significantly” as the beta progresses.

You also get access to a privacy feed that appears on the DuckDuckGo homepage. It’s a bit like the privacy report on Safari’s home page, but instead of just showing you how many trackers it was blocking, it breaks down the tracking by site and lets you clear the data from each track. In addition, DuckDuckGo doesn’t load the content on sites — such as Facebook — that place trackers in embedded content. It instead shows a notification warning you about the tracking and asking if you want to continue.

Some other perks include a built-in password manager (which DuckDuckGo says works to the mobile app), the ability to import passwords, history, and bookmarks from other browsers, as well as the Smarter encryption tool that redirects you to sites that use encrypted HTTPS connections more often. DuckDuckGo also says that it stores your bookmarks, history, and passwords locally and that the company has no access to this information.

As we noted in our first post on DuckDuckGo’s new browser, DuckDuckGo for Mac doesn’t use an existing browser like Chrome. It is based on the rendering engine used by Safari, also known as WebKit† Because of this, DuckDuckGo claims its browser is faster than Chrome “on some graphics performance” measured using the MotionMark 1.2 benchmark, and it says it uses 60 percent less data than Chrome (which we all know is a RAM hog. ).

“In addition to rendering, all of the code is ours — written by DuckDuckGo engineers with privacy, security and simplicity first,” said Beah Burger-Lenehan, DuckDuckGo’s Senior Director of Product, in the post. “This means we don’t have the clutter and clutter that has accumulated in browsers over the years, both in code and design, giving you a modern look and feel and faster speed.”

Download (or update) the DuckDuckGo app on mobile to join the browser waitlist. Then go to Settings and select the DuckDuckGo for desktop option in the Privacy section. You have to wait for a notification from the app, which contains an invite code and a link that you can use to download the browser on your Mac. DuckDuckGo says it’s currently letting people in beta in waves.

As for Windows, DuckDuckGo says an app – built with the operating system standard Chrome-based Edge View – coming soon.” DuckDuckGo also hopes to bring its browser to Linux in the future, but says it’s mostly focused on Windows and Mac for now.

The one thing I’m really looking forward to with DuckDuckGo’s new browser is the cookie consent blocker (which hopefully can be brought to mobile at some point). I’m curious how many notifications it can actually block and if it has any impact on performance. There’s also the question of how DuckDuckGo’s browser compares to Brave, a Chromium fork already available on Mac, Windows, and Linux that offers the same ad blocking and tracker capabilities.

Update Apr 12 12:40 PM ET: Updated to add that DuckDuckGo plans to extend its cookie consent block to over 50 percent.

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