As Google faces antitrust lawsuits, the company is also facing a challenge from a few start-ups focused on delivering new search engine experiences. The challengers are Neeva, launched by two former Google executives, and You.com, founded by Salesforce.com’s former chief scientist Richard Socher.
Even a few years ago, while making a search on Google the first few results were not as advertisement-driven as in 2021. Further, the relevant information is found usually towards the end of the first page or even the second.
Incidentally, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a 1998 research paper when they were doctoral students at Stanford University, wrote that “advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results”.
The path that’s being followed by Neeva and You.com are different but at the same time they have a common goal — give netizens an option… an alternative… to the behemoth. You.com is funded by Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s founder and chief executive, and Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist and early Facebook backer. According to the Financial Times, it pitches itself as a “trusted search engine that summarises the web for you”. The emphasis is on advanced AI applications.
Neeva is different in the sense that it charges a subscription while offering greater privacy. Behind the start-up are Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, IIT alumni and former Google executives. Ramaswamy was once in charge of Google’s $115 billion advertising arm but after becoming disillusioned with the business, left in 2018. “I came to realise that an ad-supported model had limitations,” he has told The New York Times. Neeva, according to the report, looks for information on the web as well as personal files like emails and other documents. It will not show any advertisements and it will not collect or profit from user data.
Besides Neeva and You.com is UK-based start-up Mojeek, which has, according to reports, has gathered and sorted an index of 3.6bn pages and hopes to reach 6bn by the end of 2021.
Google’s share in the global search market is more than 92 per cent, according to Statcounter, which tracks web activity and is followed by Bing at 2.9 per cent while Yahoo has 1.5 per cent. The figures look small but competition is growing. According to Statcounter, DuckDuckGo’s market share has grown from 0.3 per cent to 1.9 per cent in North America in the past five years.
This is not the first time Google is facing competition. Cuil was a promising start-up from two former Google engineers. After raising money and building up a substantial index of pages, it had to shut down in 2010.