Neeva, which for a while seemed like one of the startups with a real chance to challenge the supremacy of Google Search, announced Saturday that it is shutting down its search engine. The company says it’s turning to AI, and Snowflake could acquire it. Information reported – but mostly seems to believe that it failed.
“Building search engines is hard,” Neeva co-founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan wrote in a blog post announcing the closure. (Ramaswamy in particular is part of the reason Neeva seemed promising: As the longtime head of Google’s advertising business, few people are better equipped to know how to build and monetize search than he is.) But Neeva did, he said. He built a good and competitive search engine. In fact, he was way ahead of Google in some ways, like trading 10 blue links for a more visual page and emphasizing human-created information.
But building the search engine was actually the easy part. “Throughout this journey, we have discovered that it is one thing to build a search engine and quite another to convince regular users of the need to switch to a better option,” Ramaswamy and Raghunathan continued.
Building the search engine was actually the easy part.
I’ve spoken to Neeva’s co-founders several times over the past few years, and their list of complaints here is long and well-founded. They’ve had to deal with multi-billion dollar deals Google signs to become the default search engine on devices around the world; the huge “are you sure you want to change?” pop-ups that appear every time you try to set a new browser or default search engine; the difficulty of finding those settings in the first place; the mess that is the Chrome Web Store; Over and over again. Anyone trying to build a new search engine is fighting a huge uphill battle.
Neeva was also a paid product, as the company was trying to test a business model for search other than ads and surveillance. “Contrary to popular belief,” the co-founders wrote in the blog post, “convincing users to pay for a better experience was actually a less difficult problem compared to getting them to try a new search engine in the first place.” . Combine that with a tough economy, and Neeva just couldn’t see a business path forward.
The timing here is really interesting. Neeva is closing in what could be the best time in two decades for new search engines. users are more and more fed up With inferior ad loading and results they get from Google, and AI chatbots like Bing and ChatGPT have changed everyone’s mind about how to interact with the internet. Neeva chimed in on this too, developing a great system based on a language model called Neeva AI that is, in many ways, more useful than what you’ll get from Bing or Bard. But that wasn’t enough either.
Of course, the race to take down Google is still on: Bing continues to push for market share, and Brave recently promoted which now runs entirely on its own lookup stack. companies like you.com and DuckDuckGo are also trying to rethink the way search works and using AI to do it. But so far, it seems like Google’s only real competitor is, well, Google.
The Neeva search engine will be shut down on June 2. Going forward, Neeva will “switch to a new area of focus,” which appears to be based on LLM and related to the Snowflake acquisition. The company will refund users for the unused portion of their Neeva subscriptions and delete all user data. “We are truly grateful to our community,” the co-founders wrote, “and are very sorry that we cannot continue to provide the search engine you want and deserve.”