In an unexpected turn of events, Neeva, the ad-free and privacy-focused search engine, has announced plans to shutter its consumer search operations.
The company, co-founded by former Google executives Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, announced on its website today.
Launched in 2019, Neeva aimed to disrupt the search engine market by offering an alternative that prioritized user privacy and provided an ad-free experience.
The company was born out of Ramaswamy’s belief that an over-reliance on ads was compromising the quality of search results. As CEO of his own search company, Ramaswamy sought to create a better search experience without the need for ads.
Neeva’s mission was to take search back to its users, focusing on providing an experience that put their interests first rather than advertisers’.
The company built a search stack from the ground up, using a team of 50 people to compete against larger, more entrenched organizations.
By early 2022, Neeva had integrated Large Language Models (LLMs) into its search stack, becoming the first search engine to provide cited, real-time AI answers to most queries.
A Rapid Growth & A Sudden End
Neeva quickly attracted a substantial user base, growing to half a million monthly active users in four months after the launch. Despite this impressive growth, the company faced significant challenges convincing regular users to switch from their 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. Subscribers to Neeva Premium will receive a refund for the unused portion of their subscriptions.
Despite the closure of its consumer search product, Neeva’s journey isn’t over. The company hints at a shift in focus driven by the pressing need to use LLMs inexpensively, safely, and responsibly.
Many of the techniques that Neeva has pioneered, such as model size reduction, latency reduction, and inexpensive deployment, are elements that enterprises require. The team plans to explore how they can apply their search and LLM expertise in these settings.
Implications For The Search Engine Market
The closure of Neeva highlights new entrants’ difficulties in the search engine market, even with unique features and extensive experience.
Further, it raises questions about the viability of subscription-based models in search and leaves a void for users seeking privacy-centric, ad-free experiences.
Finally, Neeva’s use of LLMs could influence how other companies approach using AI in search.
As the Neeva team embarks on its next venture, the search market and tech industry will undoubtedly watch closely to see how they navigate these uncharted waters.
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