The search engine will launch in public beta on Tuesday at You.com and is notable for the Silicon Valley money behind it. It’s backed by Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and has raised $20 million in funding.
Like many smaller search services, You relies heavily on other engines such as Yelp’s Business Catalog, LinkedIn’s People Who’ve Had Jobs Catalog, and Wikipedia’s Facts Catalog. Although it indexes some of its own content, You also partners with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, for some results. In the future, sites may customize their results boxes, the company says.
On you, the completely private “incognito” mode is opt-in and means that it does not collect data. If you search in normal mode, it collects data to personalize your results but does not have targeted ads.
In fact, the company has no plans to make any money at this time, co-founder and chief executive Richard Socher said in an interview, freeing it to have no publicity at all. For now, the product is a web page, You.comand a browser extension, and it only searches in English.
Socher thinks the whole economy is moving online, and there’s always one gatekeeper: Google. “They invade privacy to extract more and more performance,” he said.
The problem for you – and any new search company – is how tight Google’s stranglehold on the market is. Launching a search engine as an unknown start-up is like a small car trying to take on a Ferrari.
Google has dominated the market for so long that its name is interchangeable with the word “search” and it’s the default search option on most browsers and phones. According to data from StatCounter.
Below these two, smaller rivals are grabbing Google’s weak spot – growing concerns about privacy.
The best known is DuckDuckGo, which is unique in that it does not collect people’s data, such as search histories. The site has been around for 13 years but has gained more exposure as people have become aware of the trade-off they are making for ‘free’ internet services, including Google and Facebook. Other privacy options include Bravewhich pioneered a privacy-focused approach search engine to run on its browser earlier this year, and Ecosiawho invests his profits in planting trees and claims he is “respectful of privacy”.
“We know that consumers are becoming more aware and sensitive about privacy,” said Collin Colburn, senior analyst at Forrester. “But at the end of the day, I think the math consumers are making is that Google’s usefulness to me outweighs the privacy risks.”
It’s a difficult change to make because of the number of default computer, smartphone and browser settings on Google, and we’ve gotten used to the way Google presents information, Colburn said.
To take on Google, a competitor would either have to be truly innovating beyond simply imitating what Google has already done, or be a company that has enormous control over what consumers are already doing, like Apple. Until then, the reciprocating engines are doing their best – trying to make a dent.
“Anything that appears as a blip is significant at this point,” Colburn said.