Interview with Brian Stoner – VP of Search at DuckDuckGo

Starting a new series of quick interviews with people in the search engine industry. Really excited to start off with Brian Stoner, VP of search at DuckDuckGo!

1. What is your role and what kinds of things do you do all day?

VP of Search at DuckDuckGo. I spend most of my days trying to improve the search engine for our users. I’ve worn a lot of hats in the past from engineering to design to product, but the company has grown so much recently that most of my time now is spent on strategy and clearing obstacles to help other people execute projects.

2. When and how did you get started working in search?

It was kind of happenstance. I first met Gabriel (the founder of DuckDuckGo) in the Philadelphia startup community about 10 years ago. At the time he was working on DuckDuckGo by himself and running it all from a few servers in his basement. We had kept in touch, and in 2013 I was working on a startup that was running out of money around the same time the Snowden leaks broke and DuckDuckGo’s traffic started really accelerating. I started helping out as a contractor doing frontend engineering work, and found that I really liked the team and the idea of trying to provide a more private, trustworthy search engine. Eventually I joined full-time and have been here ever since!

3. What is it about search that motivates you?

I’m most motivated by providing people with more choice in how they find information online. I think it’s really dangerous for the world to be so dependent on a single company as their source of information, especially when that company operates the world’s largest advertising network.

4. Tell us about something new or innovative in search that you like.

This isn’t necessarily new, but it’s been impressive to watch just how much Google has improved their local search results over the past decade. With the shift to mobile, such a large percentage of searches now have local intent, and Google has really raised the bar for what people expect to see from a search engine on these searches. As a result, we’ve had a team focused on improving DuckDuckGo’s local search for the past few years. We still have a ways to go, but we’ve made some really good progress, and our recent partnership with Apple (https://spreadprivacy.com/duckduckgo-apple-mapkit-js/) should unlock a lot of opportunity for improvement.

5. Lastly, what advice do you have for other people who want to follow a similar career path in search?

I’m probably not the right person to ask this since I took a pretty unconventional route to get where I am, but DuckDuckGo is hiring for a lot of different roles (https://duckduckgo.com/hiring), so I would tell people to start there!

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