Neeva, the ad-free, privacy-focused search engine founded by ex-Google employees, is shutting down

Neeva, the ad-free, privacy-focused search engine founded by ex-Google employees, is shutting down

Neeva, previously positioned as a rival to Google Search, revealed on Saturday that it would be closing down its search engine. The co-founders, Sridhar Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan, who played significant roles in Google’s transformation into an advertising powerhouse, were the driving forces behind this search engine.

In a blog post announcing the closure, Ramaswamy and Vivek Raghunathan stated that the challenge of convincing users to pay for a superior experience was comparatively easier than persuading them to try a new search engine in the first place. They highlighted the difficulty of attracting new users in a different economic climate as a major obstacle in sustaining their business operations.

When Neeva was introduced amid the pandemic, it generated considerable excitement as a potential rival to Google Search. Co-founder and long-time Google executive duo presented Neeva as an ad-free search engine that prioritizes user privacy. Initially, the search engine was available for free usage, but after three months, users were required to pay $4.95.

In a blog post on Saturday, Raghunathan expressed, “We have come to realize that building a search engine is one aspect while persuading regular users to transition to a superior option is an entirely different challenge.” He further highlighted the difficulties faced in convincing users to switch, ranging from the complexities of altering default search settings to educating people about the distinction between a search engine and a browser. The acquisition of users has proven to be exceptionally challenging.

Following his departure from Google, where he held a prominent position overseeing the company’s advertising business, Ramaswamy established Neeva in 2019. During the launch of Neeva, he voiced his belief that Google had become excessively fixated on sustaining growth rather than prioritizing user experience.

In the current landscape of the core search engine market, Neeva’s decision to shut down comes at a time when significant shifts have occurred due to the emergence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This highly influential and widely embraced conversational AI chatbot gained immense popularity last year. In response, both Microsoft and Google have incorporated Generative AI into their primary products. Recently, Google introduced Bard, their own conversational AI chatbot, as a competitor to ChatGPT, boasting the capability to provide human-like responses.

Looking ahead, Neeva expressed their intention to explore the utilization of generative AI and large language models in the context of search. This strategic direction was outlined in their blog post.

Over the next few weeks, and its consumer search product will be deactivated. The company assured users that they would receive refunds for the remaining duration of their Neeva subscriptions and that all user data would be permanently deleted. The co-founders expressed sincere gratitude to their community and conveyed their apologies for being unable to continue delivering the search engine that users desired and deserved.