Richard Socher, former chief scientist at Salesforce, and his co-founders at You.com have been on a mission for the past year to create a different kind of search engine, and today the company is releasing a public beta, while announcing a massive $20 million seed investment.
The new search engine does not use a scrolling vertical result set like you see on all search engines. Socher and his team wanted to reject assumptions and come up with something entirely new.
“The design actually took a lot of iterations and we tried to have a beginner’s mindset and tried to really innovate with research. In some ways it’s crazy, but the main idea of a vertical list is now increasingly interspersed and cluttered with other things [like ads] and hasn’t changed in 20 years,” Socher told me.
They set to work to change that and came up with something completely different. For starters, the search results page is linked to different apps like Medium, Yelp, and Reddit. You can customize the importance of these applications or choose not to use a particular one, as you wish.
Results appear in categories by app with a web results category, and you scroll left to right to see results in a particular app or category. Plus, you can view the results like the video or a code snippet without actually opening a new tab, saving you time and keystrokes while reducing tab clutter.
If you prefer a certain set of results, you can move them up in the results, and You.com will remember that in the future and show you the results you prefer next time.
Socher says the founders chose the name because it’s what you need as a search engine user. “We are true to our name. It’s about you. So you can choose here and say “I want to see more Reddit or I want to see less Reddit,” he explained.
If it doesn’t make sense to show Reddit results, like when you’re looking for a Thai restaurant near you, it will show Yelp results at the top instead. If you don’t like Yelp’s results, it can just show web results, but this customization option gives you a lot of flexibility and control over the results you see.
If you’re worried that this level of customization will make the results too one-dimensional, especially when choosing news sources, the items you don’t want to be displayed prominently don’t disappear, they just move down the list of results. If you don’t care about customization features, you can let the search engine display the results for you.
For starters, they focus on privacy-conscious developers and users. They saw shopping as a primary use case, but in tests they found when linked to retailers’ product catalogs, alpha users thought the results were ads when it was actually pages of a catalog. They decided to move on to other use cases.
Developers can search for things like code snippets. They are able to quickly scroll horizontally through the set of snippets, find something, copy and paste it, and do it much faster than in Google or even a privacy-focused search engine like DuckDuckGo .
For the privacy-conscious, you can access what Socher calls true Incognito mode, where everything about you, including your IP address, is hidden. The search engine is designed to make it easy to get in and out of Incognito Mode, so if you need your location enabled to find a restaurant, you can turn Privacy Mode off and then quickly turn it back on.
In terms of monetization, the company promises never to sell your data to a third party, but for now they are just trying to reduce the design and expand the user base. Socher says the company will focus on monetization later. There will likely be ads at some point, he says, but without connecting the query to a user, and without cluttering the results.
For example, if you are looking for an air purifier, you may get an ad for it, but the company displaying that ad will not have direct access to data about you, as is currently the case with most online ads. The devil will be in the details here, of course, but that’s how Socher describes it.
The company also announced an initial $20 million investment led by former boss Time Ventures, Marc Benioff’s private venture fund, with participation from Breyer Capital, Sound Ventures, Day One Ventures and a long list. of business angels.
Until today, the search engine was in private beta with a few thousand users, but starting today, anyone can try it out. If you use Chrome, you can download the extension.