“…advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results.”
– Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a 1998 research paper while they were doctoral students at Stanford
I’ve been trying out the search engine service Neeva lately. You can read more about the founding of the company by ex-Googler Sridhar Ramaswamy here (it’s a fascinating story).
I come from the time when the web was still in its primordial stage. Thought technologies such as web browsers and search engines were still young and completely exhilarating. I paid for Netscape (and I was amazed when I got to college in 1996 and walked into the computer lab with 8 machines running Netscape, WordPerfect, Office, and the Corel suite). Browsers and search engines and minute-based access to the web were something you paid for (unless you stockpiled AOL disks like I did).
Neeva is definitely a different service. I’m still wrapping my head around it, but it feels like a good mix of “old school web” and what we’ll eventually get to once we exit this period of advertising-based “free” services that have been the predominate business model on the web for the last 15 years.
The search interface is clean and fast. There are no ad trackers. The company is looking to make money by offering subscriptions. That’s intriguing for me. I’ve never been a big fan of the saying “if you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product” and all, but it does ease my mind to exchange money for what I consider valuable services on the web (Pinboard for bookmarking comes to mind).
Google is such an intimate part of all of our lives, whether we care to admit it or not. Our memories, correspondence, social graphs, birthday reminders, calendars etc are all wrapped up in the service (at least… much more than that for “power users” like myself). But we need alternatives.
I’ll continue experimenting with Neeva to see if it’s one of the dandelions that pops up to spread seeds across the ecosystem of the web or if it’s just a one-season deal. But it “feels” like it has staying power. And for that, I’m excited. Will report back here about my usage as it accumulates in the coming weeks.