In a surprising turn of events, Neeva, an ad-free search engine launched in 2019, has decided to shut down its services. Unlike traditional search engines like DuckDuckGo that rely on purchased search APIs such as Microsoft’s Bing, Neeva developed its own search crawlers, indexing and organizing petabytes of data.
Neeva was founded by Sridhar Ramaswamy, an Indian-American computer scientist who joined Google in 2003 and was responsible for the development of AdWords’ backend infrastructure. After a successful career culminating in his promotion to Senior Vice President of Ads and Commerce at Google in 2013, Ramaswamy left Google in 2018 and subsequently launched Neeva in 2019.
Differentiating itself from most search engines, Neeva prided itself on user privacy, opting to forego tracking users and displaying ads in favor of a subscription-based revenue model. The intention was to challenge Google’s ad-supported search engine model, which Ramaswamy believed had limitations, particularly concerning user privacy.
With the rise of generative artificial intelligence and large language models in early 2022, Neeva was keen to integrate AI components into its services, showing an adaptive edge in the rapidly evolving tech industry.
Despite the team’s confidence in Neeva’s proprietary search engine and artificial intelligence capabilities, user adoption remained a challenging obstacle. As a result, the decision was made to shut down Neeva completely by June 2, 2023, after three years of operation.
The team cited the biggest issue as convincing users to switch search engines and helping them understand the difference between search engines and browsers. Winning users over proved to be much more challenging than getting them to pay for a better experience.
Compounded by an unfavorable economic climate, the Neeva team decided that creating a sustainable business in the consumer search domain was no longer viable. In the wake of this decision, the team announced their intention to pivot into AI, though specific plans have not yet been disclosed.
As part of the shutdown process, Neeva Premium subscribers will be able to request refunds for any unused portions of their subscription. In keeping with their commitment to user privacy, Neeva will delete all user data.