There is no doubt that for most Internet users, search is synonymous with Google. However, there is a small but growing audience that wants a privacy-focused search experience with little to no ads. This is where Neeva comes in.
This new search engine from ex-Googlers, Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, guarantees two things: an ad-free experience and advanced features for all his clients.
What is on offer?
The company launched last year with a subscription-only model. This cost $ 4.95 per month.
Now he’s trying to expand his footprint with a free level. It will offer ad-free search with customizations and integration with accounts like Gmail, Microsoft Office, and Dropbox. People who pay for Neeva’s services will get it all, a leading third-party VPN and word management service fromfoods, such as a monthly question-and-answer session
When it comes to search engine functionality, Neeva offers customizations, such as the ability to see particular sites more or less in the results. You can also “ignore” an e-commerce site in the results or get the full recipe for a dish without having to visit a site.
In addition, the new search engine allows you to browse your emails directly from the search bar. And if you install the Neeva extension, it also blocks ad trackers that collect your browsing data.
Last October, Neeva also launched a 1-click Fasttap search for mobile, where users only need to type in a phrase to get precise search results. It’s like Google’s autocomplete on steroids.
The journey so far
People are used to having a default search engine, and it’s hard to change that habit. On a call with TNW, Ramaswamy told us that getting people to try this new search engine has been the hardest part.
But on the bright side, a third of people who tried Neeva’s browser extension kept it. Much to his surprise, early adopters cite the calmness of not having to watch the ads as the best perk.
Technologically, while Neeva aggregates some Bing search results, the company is building its own crawler and viewing billions of pages every day. But as Raghunathan pointed out in his interview with FastCompany earlier this month, crawling the web to build a new index while maintaining privacy standards is difficult.
The road ahead
Currently, Neeeva is only available to consumers based in the United States, but Ramaswamy said plans for global expansion are on the cards:
We are a small team of 60 people. It was therefore not easy to launch into other geographical areas with precise and personalized local results. But we certainly want to launch into India and Western Europe soon.
When it comes to premium usage, Neeva wants to partner with the major providers of privacy tools and in the future wants to let people choose their preferred services as part of the package. Ramaswamy said the company aims to convert more than 5% of its free users to paid users.
However, this cannot be the only source of income for an ad-free search engine. Neeva is therefore also exploring partnerships to create custom, company-specific search engines for internal company use.
What does success look like?
It is difficult for a new search engine like Neeva to compete directly with Google and Bing. According to Barry Adams, founder of SEO consulting firm Polemic Digital, he needs to tap into a tech-savvy audience to be successful:
I believe the key to adopting disruptive technologies like Neeva lies with geeks. If you get nerds and tech fanatics to embrace a platform, they’ll spread the word to their friends and family and encourage wider adoption.
We’ve seen this since the early days of the internet with Netscape, Google, Chrome, Android and more recently with DuckDuckGo, Brave, and cryptocoins. If Neeva is to be successful, she will have to appeal to the early adopters audience and eliminate whatever their particular itchiness.
Ramaswamy agrees and sees privacy-focused search engines like DuckDuckGo and Brave as competitors. He also wants Neeva to become an essential resource for reliable information and alerts. The company has previously partnered with rating agency NewsGuard to determine the accuracy of information on a particular topic.
With Apple’s tracking blocker on iPhones and Google soon moving to a cookie-free world, privacy awareness is rising. For such an audience, Neeva could be an attractive offer. Adams said that with this approach, the newcomer might not be the “new Google” – but he doesn’t even want to be one.
Neeva’s goal is clear: to become the primary search engine for a few million privacy-conscious users over the next two years.