In an unexpected turn of events, Neeva, the ad-free, privacy-focused search engine, has announced plans to shut down its consumer searches.
The company, which was co-founded by former Google CEOs Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, made the announcement on its website today.
Launched in 2019, Neeva aims to disrupt the search engine market by offering an alternative that prioritizes user privacy and offers an ad-free experience.
The company was born out of Ramaswamy’s belief that over-reliance on advertising is detrimental to the quality of search results. As the CEO of his own search company, Ramaswamy sought to create a better search experience without the need for ads.
Neeva’s mission has been to bring search back to its users, with a focus on providing an experience that puts their interests first rather than those of advertisers.
The company has built a search stack from the ground up, using a team of 50 people to compete against larger, more established organizations.
By early 2022, Neeva has integrated Language Large Models (LLMs) into its search suite, becoming the first search engine to provide real-time AI answers to most queries.
Rapid growth and sudden end
Neeva quickly attracted a large user base, growing to half a million monthly active users within four months after launch. Despite this impressive growth, the company faced significant challenges convincing regular users to shift away from their long-established search habits.
The company cited this user acquisition challenge and an unspecified shift in the economic environment as reasons for the decision to cease operations.
As part of the shutdown process, Neeva will delete all user data. Neeva Premium subscribers will receive a refund for the unused portion of their subscription.
Despite the closure of its consumer research product, Neeva’s journey isn’t over. The company hints at a shift in focus driven by the urgent need to use LLM inexpensively, safely, and responsibly.
Many of the technologies Neeva has pioneered, such as reducing form size, reducing latency, and inexpensive deployment, are items companies require. The team plans to explore how they can apply their research and masters expertise in these settings.
Implications for the search engine market
Neeva’s closing highlights the difficulties new entrants in the search engine market face, even with unique features and vast experience.
Moreover, it raises questions about the viability of subscription-based models in search and leaves a void for users looking for ad-free, privacy-centric experiences.
Finally, Neeva’s use of the LLM could impact how other companies approach the use of AI in search.
As the Neeva team embarks on its next project, the search market and tech industry will no doubt be watching closely to see how they navigate these uncharted waters.
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