(KTLA) – Google has long been the search leader, and while it’s free, you still have to deal with things like ads and tracking. Now, a new search engine named Neeva is betting that people will pay for a more private, ad-free experience.
“When the product is free … we are in fact the product,” explained Neeva co-founder and former Googler Sridhar Ramaswamy. We spoke via Skype about his new search engine and his former years at Google, where he was a top advertising executive.
“I think of Neeva as less competing with Google and more as offering an alternative to people,” said Ramaswamy.
Neeva has no ads and more privacy. It still tracks what you search, but only to improve the results. If you want, you can turn off tracking completely in the settings.
“None of your information is sold to advertisers,” said Ramaswamy.
Neeva is charging users $4.95 a month to use the search engine, which is something most folks are definitely not used to. However, paying for things like Spotify, Netflix and in-app purchases have slowly become the norm.
“Competition is good… choice is good, so even if you’re not all that skeptical of Google… I think it’s a good thing that Neeva is doing this,” said Harry McCracken, technology editor at Fast Company.
He profiled Neeva for their launch.
In the end, it will likely come down to the search results. In my week of testing, I’ve found that Neeva’s results are actually pretty good. They’re more straightforward than Google’s, and there are no ads anywhere, making results somewhat easier to filter through.
Although I switched my default search engine to Neeva for the time being, I do find myself conducting the same searches on Google just to make sure I didn’t miss something important. Also, I do miss some of Google’s built-in features like Maps, and all the information it has on me that makes my results feel more personalized.
Neeva says they are constantly improving their results, and especially local results, which seem sort of non-existent at this time.
They also have some unique features, like the ability to customize your news preferences, a way to bookmark results into what they call Spaces (handy for planning a trip), and you can combine search results from various online services including your email, Google Drive and Dropbox.
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Personally, I’m not ready to allow Neeva to index all of my most personal information contained in these places, but I like the idea of one search box to rule them all. I’m surprised Google doesn’t offer this option since so many people using search also have Gmail and Drive.
The bottom line, it’s worth checking Neeva out. They’re giving new users a generous free trial of at least three months, plus you can earn more free months by doing things like taking a tour of their features.
“By being customer-first and paid by customers, we can focus on what is it that you need,” concluded Ramaswamy.