Neeva, the would-be Google competitor, shuts down search engine
In a surprising announcement, Neeva, a startup that aimed to challenge the dominance of Google Search, revealed that it is shutting down its search engine. The company plans to pivot towards AI and may potentially be acquired by Snowflake, according to a report by The Information. The decision to shut down suggests that Neeva believes it failed to achieve its ambitious goals.
Neeva co-founders Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan acknowledged the challenges of building search engines in a blog post announcing the shutdown. Ramaswamy, a former head of Google’s ad business, brought valuable expertise to Neeva’s efforts. The co-founders stated that Neeva successfully built a competitive search engine, even surpassing Google in certain aspects such as visual presentation and human-curated information.
However, the real challenge proved to be convincing users to switch to a new search engine. Neeva faced numerous obstacles, including Google’s billion-dollar deals to secure default search engine status on various devices, intrusive pop-ups questioning users’ desire to change search engines or browsers, and the difficulty of finding relevant settings. The uphill battle for any new search engine is formidable.
Neeva differentiated itself by offering a paid product instead of relying on ads and surveillance for monetization. According to the co-founders, persuading users to pay for a better search experience was less challenging than convincing them to adopt a new search engine in the first place. Additionally, the economic climate presented difficulties, ultimately leaving Neeva without a viable business path forward.
The timing of Neeva’s shutdown is noteworthy. It comes at a time when alternative search engines have a prime opportunity to challenge Google’s dominance. Users are increasingly dissatisfied with Google’s ad-heavy experience and subpar results, while AI-powered chatbots like Bing and ChatGPT have disrupted traditional ways of interacting with the internet. Neeva recognized this trend and developed Neeva AI, a language model-based system that offered a compelling alternative. However, it was not sufficient to secure Neeva’s success.
The race to dethrone Google is far from over. Bing continues its efforts to gain market share, and Brave recently highlighted its complete reliance on an independent search stack. Companies like you.com and DuckDuckGo are also reimagining the search experience with the aid of AI. Yet, so far, Google remains its own primary competitor.
Neeva’s search engine will be discontinued on June 2nd. The company will shift its focus to a new area, likely related to LLM (large language model) technology and potentially influenced by the Snowflake acquisition. Neeva plans to refund users for the remaining duration of their subscriptions and will delete all user data. The co-founders expressed gratitude to the Neeva community and apologized for their inability to continue providing the desired search engine experience.