Neeva Shutting Down

Another search engine shut down.

Contrary to popular belief, convincing users to pay for a better experience was actually a less difficult problem compared to getting them to try a new search engine in the first place.

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I see every day that people don’t really care about the search results as long as they get an answer to what they’re looking for. The new ‘chat-interfaces’ of the big search engines Bing and Google seem to support that theory. Someone can enter a query into a search box and a single response gets returned. Where the result comes from or how accurate are less important than getting the answer.

In the classic search engine model, it’s basically the same. The first ad gets clicked. Or the second or third. But the organic results are so low on the results page in Google that they don’t matter any more. When sales teams or managers go search their own business/employer on Google and see ads for the competition in slots 1, 2, 3 and 4, the marketing team gets a remark that they need to improve efforts (preferably without extra costs). No one seems to realize or even care about how search engine business models work.

If you take that into account, then why would an average Joe use another search engine than Google? At the end of the day: Google provides the search results they expect and they know how to use that search engine to get those results.

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Inertia is a powerful force. It’s why I have no illusions about Linux ever becoming a mainstream desktop operating system, but it makes perfect sense why, as a UNIX clone, Linux was adopted broadly by corporates.

Though you do have to wonder whether everybody will ever switch from OpenOffice to Libreoffice.

Unlike those free software projects, however, Google is already free for searchers. Corporates have an incentive to decrease costs, but what is the incentive for Google searchers?

I do think prices are going to keep going up for premium Bing proxies like Kagi, though: Microsoft Significantly Increases Bing API Search Pricing

Either way, this is not good news for search diversity. A smaller loss than Gigablast, in my opinion, but nonetheless a worrying hint that premium search engines may not be a viable business model. Kagi is doing better, I think.

Between Kagi and Orion, we are currently generating around $26,500 USD in monthly recurring revenue, which incidentally about exactly covers our current API and infrastructure costs.

That means that salaries and all other operating costs (order of magnitude of $100K USD/month) remain a challenge and are still paid out of the founders’ pocket (Kagi remains completely bootstrapped). [FROM Sept 2022]

Personally, I don’t think the problem is users not willing to try an alternative search engine, because Duckduckgo is doing great. Duckduckgo has been around for 15 years, and they have great marketing. You don’t need a huge market share to be sustainable. But you do need to be in it for the long haul, and I can’t blame Neeva if they aren’t. It’s a very tough market.

But I think Neeva’s post makes some salient points:

From the unnecessary friction required to change default search settings, to the challenges in helping people understand the difference between a search engine and a browser, acquiring users has been really hard.

Firefox on desktop is the only browser which makes adding search engines and setting them as the default search engine easy. Google Chrome on Android ostensibly offers an “easy” way of doing this, but you have to know the steps to perform the ritual, even if they are simple. Safari doesn’t even allow you to change search engines.

This is even assuming most people get past the point of understanding the difference between a browser and a search engine.

I guess Neeva will be knocked off the Search Engine Map soon…

I’m interested in seeing what products they’ll create next.


If you take that into account, then why would an average Joe use another search engine than Google? At the end of the day: Google provides the search results they expect and they know how to use that search engine to get those results.

I think the only reason most people will bother is because of the ads. Semi-technical and technical people who use search engines a lot get annoyed about ads and look into premium search options. The last time I used Google was shocking—they gave me 4 ads before I even got to the real results. Even if I cared nothing about privacy, that alone makes me want to stay away. I can’t go back to search plastered with ads…

But I think a lot of people are tolerant of ads, so it’s not that big an incentive. It’s just the only tangible one.


I see the owner has pivoted towards this with funding.

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