30 Oct

An Update on !bangs Syntax

Hello, everyone!

One of our most beloved features, !bangs , is getting a small update. !bangs are shortcuts that begin with an exclamation point '!', and they allow you to directly search on other websites. For example, typing "!amazon shoes" will take you to Amazon.com's search results for "shoes".

Currently, this works with an exclamation point at the end of a !bang such as amazon! , wikipedia! , and yt! . But as our list of !bangs grows, it causes issues with searches that inadvertently contain an exclamation point, e.g., "OMG! Ubuntu!" or "Die, Monster, Die!"

Recently, our feedback channels have indicated that these situations are far more accidental than intended, which wasn't the case in past attempts to make the same change .

And so, we will soon be disabling the ability to use an exclamation point at the end of a !bang. If you have any feedback or questions, leave us a comment below!


Hi, everyone! A few weeks ago, we updated !bangs so that they could only be triggered with the exclamation at the beginning: !amazon vs. amazon!. This was done so that people don't accidentally trigger the bangs with queries like, 'Japanese from Zero!' or 'So Random!'.

However, this turned out to be a bit too strict so we've relaxed it to allow the exclamation at the end of abbreviated !bangs. For example, these will work:

- ubuntu t!
- star wars kid yt!
- a! kindle fire

But these will not:

- ubuntu twitter!
- star wars kid youtube!
- amazon! kindle fire

In short, if there are more than 3 characters before the exclamation point AND the characters match a word in our internal dictionary, then it will act as a normal search instead of a !bang. Note that the !bangs with the exclamation point at the beginning are unchanged and will always work.

Thank you for all your feedback!

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The response to this change is a great case study into the effects of allowing unintended behavior in application to become the mainstay. I have never used it as a! or amazon!, but have always used it as !a or !amazon, so this has never affected me. I didn't even know this happened. That being said, if so many are using this as the typical way in which they work, to completely abandon them and leave them without a toggle to keep the "legacy" behavior seems a bit short sighted.

I hope those who learned this backwards practice can still continue their daily workflow uninterrupted, god knows every time i switch to chrome and forget it's stuck on google it drives me nuts...

posted by <hidden> • 3 years and 9 months ago Link

This reminds me of an xkcd ...

posted by RandomAcronym • 4 years and 3 months ago Link

^^this guy gets it :)

posted by zac Staff • 4 years and 3 months ago Link

What this “guy” fails to get is that you don't alienate your core audience in an attempt to maybe cater to another demographic. Once they dump you, you've lost your safety net to innovate and diversify... you circle the bowl.

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 3 months ago Link

As of today the bang functionality is broken again (a! g! ect). I'm sure it probably has something to do with dev'ing of the backend, I'm just putting it out there.


posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

I agree, this was a necessary change. If DDG ever hopes to expand it's reach to encompass the vast majority of users, they need to simplify things such as this.

!Bang is DDG; Bang! is English.

For me, I don't ever query with an Exclamation mark as it only narrows the results, typically. Grandma, however, would not think like this. I think this is the point that so many people have overlooked (It's not a change for us geeks.. We can simply adapt, if we even used the improper syntax to begin with that is. This is a change for Joe Average internet user that accidentally triggers false-positive !Bangs that he wasn't even aware existed).

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

Like some people here, I don't like the change at all. I've been trying to use !bang instead of bang! for several days and it's a nightmare.

It's more natural to write the ! at the end and takes much less time (at least in my case) to add a ! at the end than writing the ! and then add the bang word.

I tried, but I cannot addapt well to it. And I can change behaviours quite fast, but I cannot with this. Might be something else more psychological.

It would be great to have a setting to allow this as some suggested.


posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link


If compatability isn't reverted, it should at the very least be an availble option

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

I really hate this change.

It’s only been in effect for a couple days, and I can’t count the number of times it has forced me to re-enter my searches.

It’s a matter of muscle memory. I use bangs so often, it’s second-nature to look up something in wiki: w! or check out something in WolframAlpha: wa! or search on Amazon: a! or do a quick image search: i!

… and now all my instincts are wrong. I hit enter, am taken to a generic results page, and waste time retyping my query with the bang in front, which is very unnatural.

I’ve also written scripts for DDG that are affected by this change in syntax that I’ve now had to revise.

I know I can’t be the only long-time user having problems with this.

In fact the response has been overwhelmingly negative on the Reddit thread announcing the change here:

It’s very frustrating. Please provide the URL parameter to return to the old way of bangs! Thank you.

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

I agree with drNinjaBatman. A setting would be nice to personalize your bang command. If you want amazon! or !amazon you can change between them.

posted by Kloshers • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

I like yt! g! translate! and yi! bang, and bang! is not a problem for me and never use !bang. Maybe you could add parameter to the URL that will allow the use of a bang! eg. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=example+bang!&kbang=-1. In my opinion, It should give you a choice to users to be able to use a bang!

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

Aaah, this is a much harder habbit to change. A setting would be really awesome!

posted by drNinjaBatman • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

Hi there!

We're sorry for the hassle! To be clear, we decided to do this because we:

- Wanted to stick with the "official" way of doing it which is the syntax described in https://duckduckgo.com/bang.html. (The bang! syntax was never an official thing.)
- People don't get inadvertently redirected to another website.

Adding the URL parameter is a good idea, but then we run into the same learning problem for the users: It still won't work by default.

So it's either users will learn the official syntax, or learn that there is a setting for it.

Hope that helped!

posted by Jag Staff • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

What happened to the previous response :

> TL:Dr: No plans of ever updating this again.

The bang at the end felt much more natural and I switched to it when I found out that it was possible.

As far as I know, no other search engine uses punctuation in providing search results, so I doubt the inadvertant redirection is a common problem (especially since DDG attracts advanced users). Then again, I don't have access to any kind of real-world usage, but using other search engines has conditioned me to not expect punctuation to work.

> So it's either users will learn the official syntax, or learn that there is a setting for it.

Does this setting currently exist? I would definitely use this feature if it did.

posted by <hidden> • 4 years and 4 months ago Link

Sorry about that! I replied to my comment there for future viewing. Unfortunately, the prediction I made back then was largely off and the amount of people inadvertently getting sent to websites has gone up, perhaps because of the !bang autocomplete introduction during the redesign earlier this year.

As for the impact, we hope(d) it will be minimal as a small fraction of a percent of queries actually use bang!

posted by zac Staff • 4 years and 4 months ago Link