AI-powered search engine You.com takes on Google with $20 million

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You.com, which bills itself as the world’s first open search engine, today announced the launch of its public beta along with $20 million in funding led by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff with participation from Breyer Capital, Sound Ventures, Day One Ventures and others. The company says the funds will go towards user growth, products and technology as You.com adapts its platform to new users on the public web.

As the economy moves online, it’s You.com’s assertion that the internet is becoming increasingly centralized and controlled by a few powerful, ill-intentioned tech companies. In contrast, You.com co-founder and CEO Richard Socher says the company uses technology to help people “live better, more productive lives.”

“I had the original idea [for You.com] eight and a half years ago,” Socher told VentureBeat via email. “Today there is too much information and no one has time to read it, process it or know what to trust. [A] a single controller controls the vast majority of the search market, dictating what you see: too many ads and a flood of search engine optimized pages… On top of that, 65% of search queries end without a click on another site, which means the traffic stays within the Google ecosystem. »

Above: Searching for a product on You.com.

Image credit: You.com

Founded in 2020 by Socher and Bryan McCann, You.com leverages natural language processing (NLP) – a form of AI – to understand search queries, rank results, and semantically analyze queries in different languages, including Programming languages. The platform summarizes results across the web and is extensible with built-in search applications so users can perform tasks without leaving the results page.

“Google’s first page can only be changed by paying for ads, which is both inconvenient for users and costly for businesses. Our new platform will allow businesses to bring their most valuable real content to that front page, and if users like it, they can take action right away,” Socher continued. “Most companies and partners will prefer this new interface to people’s digital lives over Google’s old status quo.”

Application of AI to research

Socher previously founded MetaMind, an AI startup that raised over $8 million in venture capital before being acquired by Salesforce in 2016. He was part of the team that won first place in the 2007 Semantic Robotic Vision Challenge and contributed to the creation ImageNeta publicly available annotated image database used to test, train, and validate object recognition AI models.

You.com

Socher — who until recently was chief scientist at Salesforce, where he helped build the company’s sprawling Einstein AI platform — has long been drawn to the field of NLP. His doctorate. A thesis at Stanford demonstrated that deep learning, which is loosely modeled on human brain neurons, could solve multiple NLP tasks simultaneously, eliminating the need to develop multiple models.

As for McCann, he led natural language processing teams at Salesforce as an AI research scientist.

“Without state-of-the-art deep learning, we could never have skipped many years of work in [the area of NLP]“, Socher said. “I believe that research is the most important application of AI and especially NLP today. [And with You.com,] the user can control the AI ​​through customization and customization.

Personalization and privacy

On You.com, sources such as Reddit, Quora, Stack Overflow, and Medium can be searched with a single query. For example, programmers can search for code snippets and get an AI-generated summary from You.com.

“Choose your favorite sources for news, social media, shopping, and more. You’ll see results from sources you trust first,” says the You.com website. compose a tweet [all] in a place.”

Socher also argues that You.com “raises the bar” on privacy, offering the choice of a “zero trace” incognito mode. The currently ad-free platform does not sell personal information or track users across the internet. And while it hasn’t ruled out the introduction of ads, You.com has publicly pledged to never offer “targeted privacy-invasive” ads.

You.com

Above: A search for artists using You.com.

Image credit: You.com

“Google is a huge database of everything you’ve searched for (even if you’ve deleted it), who you’ve communicated with, the apps and extensions you’ve used. You’re probably telling your search engine very personal things that you might not tell your closest friends or family.And it’s not just your search queries – Google tracks you around the internet and even tracks you on partner sites with pixels All of this data is recorded and then monetized through ad targeting,” Socher continued. have a chance to be on the front page of [a] search when their content is relevant.

Compete with incumbents

You.com, 30 employees, is part of a new breed of startups aiming to challenge Google’s dominance in web search. Another is Neeva, started by two former Google executives, and Mojeek, a UK-based company developing web indexing technologies. The subscription-based Neeva licenses its web index to Microsoft’s Bing, but promises fewer ads and greater privacy, combining results from a user’s emails and other personal information. Mojeek is building its own index, aiming to reach 6 billion pages by the end of 2021. (Google claims to have indexed hundreds of billions to date.)

Google’s share of the global search market has remained stable at over 90% for most of the past decade. Bing trails with 2.9%, followed by Yahoo at 1.5%, according to Statcounter.

While longtime rivals like DuckDuckGo have made slow but steady gains, others, including Berlin-based Ecosia, have struggled to gain a foothold in the ultra-competitive field. Cuil, which was also founded by former Google engineers, raised $33 million in capital and indexed more than 120 billion web pages before closing in 2010 after just over two years in business.

You.com

Above: You.com can show the price of commodities like Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.

Image credit: You.com

Google is facing two state antitrust lawsuits and one federal case in the United States for what critics say is monopolistic behavior. But so far, attempts by regulators to open up the search market have been mixed. For example, a “screen of choice” search engine on Android devices sold in the European Union, imposed by the European Commission in 2019, tends to to favor companies that are more aggressive in monetizing their users, according to a Stanford study.

“The pandemic has reinforced the importance of rethinking search and launching You.com. What began 20 years ago as a way to organize and make information universally accessible has transformed into prioritizing to the relevance of ads versus the relevance of content… There has long been a blind belief that engagement is more important than helping people do something and saving them time,” added Socher “You.com is a trusted platform that creates value for users and builders to innovate and co-create the search economy. We want to democratize access and choice of information and allow users to truly personalize their information experience… I think it’s vital that we bring back agency and control and treat users as people rather than products.

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