A new group of search engine start-ups that position themselves as potential adversaries of Google hopes that growing regulatory pressure will eventually stop two decades of search engine dominance.
The latest challengers include Neeva, launched by two former Google executives, and You.com, founded by Salesforce.com’s former chief scientist, as well as Mojeek, a UK company with growing ambitions to build its own billion-dollar index. . web pages.
Although their chances of success are long, everyone sees a different chance for a new approach to Google’s well-known list of links and results, which have only developed increasingly over the past few years.
They also hope that a number of recent US antitrust lawsuits against Google at state and federal level could lead to an open field.
“In many ways, it’s surprising, given the size of the search in the industry, that it has not been fundamentally reconsidered,” said Richard Socher, CEO of You.com, who joined Salesforce’s artificial intelligence research team in July. leaves it.
Google’s share of the global search market has increased by more than 90 percent over the past decade. According to Statcounter, which follows web activity, followed by Bing at 2.9 percent and Yahoo at 1.5 percent, it remains close to its overall highs of more than 92 percent today.
Nevertheless, longtime competitors of Google like DuckDuckGo are making slow but steady profits. According to Statcounter, DuckDuckGo’s market share has grown from 0.3 percent to 1.9 percent in North America over the past five years.
In December, Apple added the Berlin Ecosia, a non-profit company that invests most of its revenue in planting trees, as one of the built-in search options available to users of its Safari browser – the first new addition to its list of Google alternatives since DuckDuckGo in 2014.
“This is the fruit of many years of work,” said Christian Kroll, who founded Ecosia in 2009. “We basically took a lot of time to develop the root system and now the plant is growing.”
This meticulous process shows the long road ahead for You.com and Neeva, despite their prominent founders.
You.com is funded by Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, and Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist and early Facebook supporter. It presents itself as a “reliable search engine that summarizes the web for you”. Socher bets that advances in AI could be applied to search in more new ways than Google has yet tried.
“I want to see more trust, more facts and to some extent more friendliness on the internet,” he said. “These three values are the cornerstones for us to create a new search engine that is in some ways more private, more trusted and more comfortable.”
You.com stays in private tests for the time being and mr. Socher did not disclose how he intends to make money, although he does not rule out showing ads.
The competitive new Neeva’s most radical departure from the Google Playbook is that it charges a subscription, which promises fewer ads and greater privacy.
Bill Coughran, a former Google CEO and now a Neeva investor at venture capital firm Sequoia, considers his former employer’s reliance on advertising to be the greatest vulnerability. “The biggest problem is that you’re starting to see more and more ads, and it’s getting more complicated for the user to understand what’s advertising and what’s not,” he said.
Neeva, which raised $ 37.5 million in the funds, also combines the results of the user’s email and other personal online information with what she hopes will be higher quality web results in specific niches, such as product search.
“We’ve looking at a search engine very differently,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s former advertising chief and co-founder of Neeva.
The two new ventures arose this year when Google faced a deluge of complaints of regulations, including two state-led antitrust lawsuits and a federal lawsuit in the U.S., over what, according to critics like Yelp, is monopolistic behavior.
Its prospective competitors hope it can create new opportunities, if only by distracting Google from legal issues or limiting its ability to launch new products.
“For us, antitrust will be useful in my opinion,” he said. Socher said. “It depends on how it’s performed.” But he added: “I do not think antitrust is going to create happy users and customers. You have to create a wonderful experience in the end.”
Several prospective Google competitors have tried and failed over the past ten years. Founded by two former Google engineers, Cuil raised $ 33 million and built his own index of more than 120 billion pages. But it was discontinued in 2010 after just over two years in use, after users complained about the quality of the results.
“Now that regulators are watching more closely, I hope the unfair practices will disappear, and that will help competition,” Kroll said. “If you’re a small search engine, it’s really hard to access technology, to gain visibility, and to get into the very rare slots in the browsers.”
Winning the standard search slots often has a price, such as sharing advertising revenue, though Kroll declined to comment on his new deal with Apple, which came after a year of discussions.
It looks like Apple is building its own alternative to Google, expanding its web crawling activity and handling more queries from the iPhone’s home screen via its own search systems.
Most of Google’s competitors, including Neeva, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia, license their web index from Microsoft’s Bing. But Mojeek wants to build his own index, to become truly independent.
“We’re the only real search engine you can not find,” said Colin Hayhurst, Mojeek’s CEO.
With a £ 2.3 million funding, mostly from a single investor, Mojeek’s team of seven staff members collected and sorted an index of 3.6 billion pages. It hopes to reach 6 billion by 2021, but that is far from Google’s hundreds of billions.
Mr. Hayhurst suggested that other search engines that claim to offer more privacy are still returning some data to Bing. ‘Most search engines are not really engines; these are chassis, ‘he said. “You could say they were pawns in the war between Google and Microsoft.”
So far, regulators’ efforts to price the search market have struggled. According to Michael Ostrovsky, a professor at Stanford University, the European Commission instituted a $ 5 billion fine in 2019 for imposing illegal restrictions on smartphone makers, imposed by the European Commission in 2019.
His recent article on the Google-managed process, which offers new Android users a choice of search alternatives, found flaws in the way the auction was designed. It tends to favor obscure companies that are aggressive in their money making, he found, rather than names like DuckDuckGo or Ecosia that recognize users and are therefore more likely to choose instead of Google.
“It is clear that the auction as currently designed does not achieve its goals,” he said. “What’s important is not so much specific regulation, but knowing that regulators are there and paying attention.”