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DuckDuckGo Switches To Apple Maps

Apple’s new MapKit JS library will power maps in search results, with the same emphasis on privacy that is characteristic of both DuckDuckGo and Apple.

Last year at WWDC, Apple introduced a new mapping tool with little fanfare. MapKit JS is a JavaScript library that anyone can use to incorporate Apple Maps into a web application. It is currently in beta but registered Apple developers can use it (with a daily limit on how many map views can be called).

Today, the privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo announced that it will begin using the new MapKit JS tool for all location-based search results. Previously, the site’s results relied on OpenStreetMap, with a drop-down menu directing you to Bing, Google, or Here maps if you requested directions.

It’s all about privacy

DuckDuckGo is one of the first global companies to use the new MapKit JS library, as Apple Maps are rarely seen on the web. Apple enigmatically lacks its mapping portal (maps.apple.com), while the vast majority of other websites and services use Google or Bing’s maps.

Due to Apple’s stance on privacy, DuckDuckGo chose to collaborate with the company. DuckDuckGo’s raison d’être is that it collects and stores only the bare minimum information required to fulfill your search query. It is unaware of your identity or location and does not maintain a search history.

Apple can offer a robust mapping feature without transferring personally identifiable information. DuckDuckGo highlighted its heightened privacy in its announcement:

We do not send Apple or other third parties any personally identifiable information, such as IP address. For local searches in which your browser sends us information about your approximate location, we immediately discard this information after use. When you perform map and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo, you remain anonymous.

It still requires some improvement

Apple’s Maps are significantly more attractive and useful than OpenStreetMap, but DuckDuckGo’s implementation is still a bit rough around the edges.

Initially, the interface could be enhanced. The mouse wheel does not zoom in or out, and panning is not as fluid as it ought to be.

Apple’s mapping data is still largely inaccurate in the majority of the world. Apple announced a massive overhaul of its map data as part of iOS 12, and the new data has made a significant difference in northern California. However, these new maps are still being slowly distributed throughout the rest of the country. Users of DuckDuckGo searching outside of northern California will encounter Apple’s outdated data for the time being, which is not ideal.

Possibly most significantly, the DuckDuckGo maps continue to rely on other third-party services for essential functions. Yelp provides information about business locations, similar to Apple Maps on iOS. This makes it difficult for individuals who do not have or want a Yelp account or the Yelp app to fully participate in providing reviews, business hours, and photos. On mobile, Yelp provides only the bare minimum of information unless the app is downloaded.

If you request directions on DuckDuckGo from Windows, Linux, or ChromeOS, you will be redirected to Bing, Google, Here, or OpenStreetMap (there is a drop-down menu), where you will be required to enter your precise starting location because DuckDuckGo neither collects nor shares this information. On iOS and macOS, it launches the Apple Maps app. MapKit JS is capable of providing walking and driving directions, so DuckDuckGo may soon provide directions directly within the search engine.

As Apple expands its service offerings and assumes greater control over its mapping data, similar announcements can likely be anticipated. Apple will attract more web services seeking alternatives to Google and Bing maps as it continues to develop a more robust web mapping toolkit and vastly improves its map data.

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The article above was written by the BestTopReviewsOnline team, which includes many of the US’s most knowledgeable technical experts. Our team includes well-known writers with extensive experience in mobile phones, computing, technology, photography, and other fields.

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