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 as a field of application its gateway: the search engine. Today, 90% of searches on the web around the world are the prerogative of a single player, Google. A solitary cartel that asserts its dominance through a model largely built around revenue generated by advertising. Internet search algorithms whose results are weighted by advertiser portfolios: 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 make headlines, the Mountain View firm must now deal with 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 the model and monopoly of his former company as the cornerstone for 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 presents.

Neeva, unlike the search engines used by everyone, works on a freemium subscription system. A model that has already onboarded more than 600,000 users in twelve months on the other side of 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 searches, and not a search engine serving advertisers. The internet should be a private space for users instead of 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, says Sridhar.

Portrait of Sridhar Ramaswamy

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

Combining search result quality 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 position 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 partnership with Proton mail).

In a world of free web browsing for Internet users, how does Neeva plan 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 all about them, not advertisers », Supports the co-founder of Neeva.

Personalization of search results on Neeva

Personalization of 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 a web that is as objective and customizable as possible, the company must still find a position on everything related to misinformation, and content that could be organically propelled with bad intention. 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 evaluate research results. Our view is also that you should be in charge of 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 prefer 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 being 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 original fine of 1.1 billion euros imposed by French regulators. Meta, under the spotlight of the European Data Protection Commission, has been told to stop transferring its users’ data across the Atlantic. And then Google, which earlier this year was fined by the CNIL for violating the rules on cookies.

Faced with increased surveillance of 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 than we do in the United States. The most important thing is to arrive as a humble actor. Our business model is not about accumulating data and showing people ads. I hope that as we grow, we can open an office in the EU and that we will be part of an ecosystem that restores value to its company « .

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