the private search engine arrives in Europe to compete with Google

» If it’s free, you’re the product “. A formula that has imposed itself in the current language of the Internet, with its gateway as its field of application: the search engine. Today, 90% of searches on the web in the world are the prerogative of a single player, Google. A solitary cartel asserting its dominance through a model largely built around revenue generated by advertising. Internet search algorithms whose results are weighted by the portfolios of advertisers: it is the biased model that is therefore offered to the overwhelming majority of Internet users.

While court cases centered around Google’s impartiality and monopoly are beginning to hit the headlines, the Mountain View firm must now face a competitor who takes its opposite course in every way: Neeva.

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Neeva, search engine without advertising or advertisers

Launched in 2021 in the United States, the company is co-founded by no less than the former vice president of the advertising department of Google, Sridhar Ramaswamy, alongside Vivek Raghunathan (ex-vice president of the monetization department of YouTube) . Sridhar also cites his former company’s model and monopoly as a cornerstone in building Neeva.

» Given the importance of Google, it was important that the central actor has an alternative point of view. We all benefit from exposure to multiple viewpoints. Even with good intentions, which was the case with my team at Google, he was very difficult to stay user-centric when there is pressure to make more and more revenue. So, in a way, Neeva is hitting the reset button on how research should be thought about: putting the internet user at the center “, He introduces.

Neeva, unlike the search engines used by everyone, works on a freemium subscription system. A model that has already boarded more than 600,000 users in twelve months across the Atlantic. A figure that should swell in the coming months as Neeva launches in Europe, France, Germany and the United Kingdom to be more precise.

» Neeva is a user-centric platform focused on private and transparent research, and not a search engine serving advertisers. The internet should be a private space for users rather than a pile of ads, SEO spam, and irrelevant information. With Neeva, we are reinventing research by giving users back control of sources; we provide accurate and transparent results as well as private and personalized experiences without the influence of corporate biases, and without relentless tracking on the web, Sridhar said.

Portrait of Sridhar Ramaswamy, co-founder of Neeva. Photography: Neeva.

Combining the quality of search results with data protection

Neeva proposes to attack the web search market by decentralizing it: each user takes the reins of his internet, adjusting his search results in an environment free of advertising and advertisers. The personalization of the web, coupled with a promise of data protection, the Internet user is in control. A positioning that fits into a freemium model: Neeva will first launch its basic private and ad-free service in Europe, then introduce its premium subscription with additional features such as a VPN and a password manager (via a partnership with Proton mail).

In a world of free web browsing for Internet users, how does Neeva intend to make her voice heard? » People are busy. This is one of the most important tasks of our company: educate people about technology, in a caring way. And how to make technology work for them. The 3 tips I give people when surfing the web: install an ad blocker, use a password manager, and use a service like Neeva. That’s how it’s about them, not advertisers “, supports the co-founder of Neeva.

Customizing search results on Neeva

Customizing search results on Neeva

Neeva wants to convince in Europe, an important legal bastion for the protection of Internet users

If Neeva wants to be the standard bearer of the most objective and customizable web possible, the company must still position itself on everything related to disinformation, and content that could be organically propelled with bad intentions. A position ardently defended by the former vice-president of Google. » We are different from social networks. They use amplification algorithms: they decide what you see. What we do: We write review guidelines that tell reviewers how to assess search results. Our view is also that you should be responsible for how the ranking should behave. If you like a result more, you can move it up in the search results. Then, all other things being equal, we will prioritize your ranking. We believe in giving control back to users. »

An example of a search result on the Neeva search engine

An example of a search result on the Neeva search engine

European users who see their private interests defended by the competent authorities of the European Union against the tech giants. Sentenced in 2020 for anti-competitive practices, Apple recently obtained payment of only a fraction of the initial fine of 1.1 billion euros imposed by French regulators. Meta, under the spotlight of the European Data Protection Commission, has been ordered to stop transferring its users’ data across the Atlantic. And then Google, which earlier this year was fined by the CNIL for breaking the rules on cookies.

Faced with increased surveillance from tech players, how does Neeva envisage its European integration and development? » We are a start-up. We come here with humility, putting the Internet user at the heart of our issues. I know that philosophically, Europe thinks about things like the collective good, regulation, freedom of expression. They think about it differently from us in the United States. The most important thing is to arrive as a humble actor. Our business model is not about hoarding data and showing people ads. Hopefully as we grow we can open an office in the EU and become part of an ecosystem that brings value back to its business “.