Neeva | Challenge the Google method in search

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New search engine offers “a private, ad-free experience with only real results”, but for a price

23 years ago, Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page introduced Google’s idea in their research paper, “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,†optimistically concluding that “there is a bright future for research â€. They couldn’t have been more prophetic. Google has, over the years, built its huge empire, thanks to the continued success of its search engine.

Its success is such that its brand name is synonymous with the word “researchâ€, which is worrying for the company. Its rivals are few and far between. And don’t forget about business success – last year Google made over $ 100 billion in revenue just from its search operations. It is in this world dominated by Google that newcomer Neeva sees an opportunity. Just a few days ago, Neeva made its search engine available to users in the United States, promising them “a private, ad-free search experience with only real results.” Users who sign up get three months free access, after which they must pay $ 4.95 per month.

There was also a buzz around Neeva as it was the story of two ex-Googlers, Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, challenging Google in its core business. Mr. Ramaswamy, former senior vice president of ads at Google, was part of the team that created Google Search in the early days. Mr. Raghunathan is a former VP of Monetization at YouTube. They are both graduates of IIT.

So what opportunity did they see in a market where Google is almost ubiquitous? Mr Ramaswamy made this clear in his very first blog for Neeva about a year ago. He wrote: “As Google’s leader in advertising products until 2018, I really believed in the benefits of an ad-supported search experience … However, I came to believe that ads hurt to a good research experience and also had many unintended side effects which have great social consequences. The post was titled “A New Way to Research That Works Just For You”.

Neeva’s goal of correcting the search experience is therefore closely linked to its ability to create a non-advertising business model. This explains its subscription model, a rarity that is the business of search engines.

Not the free model

Back when Google first entered the scene, the question of how to best navigate this gigantic and ever-growing resource called the Internet had yet to be resolved. It was still the early years of the internet and, unsurprisingly, a number of gamers opted for a course that best mimicked offline offerings, which they were familiar with. Those like Yahoo thus chose to constitute themselves in portals, where information was organized in such a way as to help users to surf the Web. And there were others, like Inktomi and Alta Vista, that focused on helping users search the web.

Google “has entered with a new approach to search – namely, by ranking web pages based on the number of links to those pages and, eventually, supporting itself through advertising,” says author Shane Greenstein in the delivered, How the Internet became commercial. Like many other Internet services, searching has almost always been free for users. In 2008, it was by explaining this business strategy that Chris Anderson wrote the book Free: the future of a radical price.

Neeva does not go in this direction. It was born at a time when subscription models are much more fashionable in the big digital world. In an interview with the business magazine Fast business, says Ramaswamy: “I tell people that Neeva is as much a social experiment as it is a technological one. He adds, “If there was a high quality product that clearly benefits you in a number of ways, would you pay for it rather than see it free, backed by ads?” ”

Last year, in one of his blog posts, he weighed in on the issue of price. He wrote: “We will start at a reasonable price, say the cost of two black coffees per month. We hope that over time we will be able to reduce the price as we become more efficient. Everything we take for granted (our computers and phones, even ice cream) started at a higher price before scale and innovation made them available to everyone. “

New challengers

Neeva is not the only one who sees an opportunity in research. Just days before Neeva’s announcement, Brave Browser announced the beta of its search tool – “giving users the first independent search / privacy browser alternative to mainstream technology.” In recent years, DuckDuckGo has been an alternative that has emphasized privacy over other things.

Last month he said, “Encouraged by the increase in the use of the DuckDuckGo app, over the past 12 months our monthly search traffic has increased by 55% and we have become the search engine no. ° 2 on mobile in many countries, including the United States. Canada, Australia and the Netherlands â€. He added, “We don’t track our users, so we can’t say for sure how many we have, but based on market share estimates, download numbers and national surveys, we believe there are. There are between 70 and 100 million DuckDuckGo users. . Tech Crunch reported that DuckDuckGo made an additional investment of $ 100 million, saying, “Privacy technology continues to cook on gas.”

In March of this year, Neeva raised an additional $ 40 million from Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners and Inovia Capital. They had raised a similar amount in a previous round.

It’s a very different world from the early years of Google, when it was important not only to improve search results but also to create new features. These years have seen the arrival of new features such as news, shopping, videos, and maps. Privacy has become an important competitive element in many categories of digital products.

The world has changed in another way. As David Doty wrote in a Forbes article, “People don’t just type in a search term on their preferred primary search engine – they search and consume in context, on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon or Pinterest and more and more on one of the one million specialized apps. The fact is, the research market is more fragmented than ever.

And yet, as a study carried out last year by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority pointed out, “There is a long history of search providers other than Google and Bing choosing to outsource all or part of their search engine activities. The benchmark is that they maintain web indexes. He said, “The primary way they acquire information for their index is through their automated web crawlers. These robots follow the links between web pages and return the data on those pages to the search engine’s servers.

the Fast business the story says that Neeva “has indexed several billion web pages on its own, but also puts Apple, Bing, and Yelp at the bottom of search results; other news providers include Intrinio, Weather.com, and Xignite. Even Google is an ingredient, with Google Maps built into the search results â€.

The important question now is: will users pay for research?


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