Can these search engines do the impossible – take market share from Google?


After more than a decade of relative stasis in the search engine market – that is, with Google cementing its dominance at every step – is there an opportunity for Google’s alternatives to gain share? ?

Some famous players in space think so.

In June, there was the public launch of Neeva, an ad-free subscription search experience. Co-founded by a team of former Google search and advertising product managers, it is led by Sridhar Ramaswamy, who led Google’s search advertising business. Then the privacy-focused browser Brave announced its own search engine.

Most people probably haven’t given much thought to their search engine. Google owns 90% of the North American search engine market, according to Statistics counter data, up from 84% 10 years ago. Google Search is everywhere: Chrome (with built-in Google Search) holds the majority share of the browser market, and Google Search is licensed to major potential competitors like Apple.

But as privacy and security become a higher priority for American consumers, these issues are prompting people to rethink their search engine decisions.

AdExchanger looked at the business models and strategies of the search engines that competed for Google’s share of the search market and, in some cases, a share of the Google advertising pie.


DuckDuckGo, founded in 2008, was one of the first privacy-focused browsers to keep search users away from the Googleverse. It is a constant competitor in the category, if only because it is an alternative to Big Tech search engines (i.e. Google, Microsoft Bing and Yahoo) and s’ is forged a position as a privacy-focused provider.

DuckDuckGo sees itself as “an Internet privacy company,” said Kamyl Bazbaz, vice president of corporate communications. In addition to the search engine, last month it announced a desktop app that can be used as a browser. A separate email privacy solution filters emails from certain vendors so that the true address is not disclosed.

Search engines today need features for mapping, travel planning, and news. Google spends tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year on all of these things. DuckDuckGo subcontracts this work. TripAdvisor provides travel research information; Apple’s Safari WebKit is the browser technology code and Apple Maps is the location data provider; Wikipedia answers a few basic query results. The most important partner is Bing, which manages ad sales. (Each request comes as if it came from a new user.)

DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014 and made over $ 100 million last year, Bazbaz said.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t have the resources and platform advantages of other search engines, but it shows just how lucrative a search engine can be, even without Google’s tracking device. In the United States, DuckDuckGo’s market share has grown from 1.3% two years ago to around 2.5% now, although it does not exceed 1% use elsewhere, according to Statistical The data.

But it still has an execution rate of $ 100 million. And there is room to grow.

DuckDuckGo expects the number of users to increase from people browsing privately to avoid trackers or using two-party authentication or security services to protect accounts, Bazbaz said. People who have had their identities stolen, accounts hacked, or data breached also tend to see how their choice of search engine can affect their real lives. “This group has become a lot more common than it was five years ago,” he said.


Neeva is perhaps the most adventurous new search engine business model.

Other market players take it for granted that advertising and affiliate marketing will represent the revenue. It’s hard enough to compete with Google without adding a cost barrier. But Neeva has a subscription business.

Ad-supported search engines inevitably favor advertisers over user interests, Neeva CEO Ramaswamy told AdExchanger. Ads start to hunt you down the web or grow to look like organic results. “With Neeva, you never have to ask yourself, ‘Is this an affiliate link? “”

Neeva still has free access. Ramaswamy said the subscription blocking will roll out in the coming months and eventually settle at around $ 5 per month.

Each user’s monthly allowance is shared between news editors and other Neeva partner sites to appear in the results, based on their site’s search engine traffic.

The company had 10,000 users in July after a year-long test mode.

Many of the early adopters came from public relations efforts, Ramaswamy said. Neeva has not posted any announcements. Parents like the clean, more controlled research experience, he said, and are willing to pay for an alternative. And a surprise segment is that of the elderly. Many online scams that target seniors start with ads for device and software support searches.

Courageous research

Browser company Brave acquired a search engine startup called Tailcat in March and launched the beta of its repurposed search product in June.

Brave Search, as it’s called, will have ad-supported and ad-free levels. It will also be integrated with the Brave browser in a unique way. On the one hand, starting at the end of the year, it will be the default search service for the Brave browser, which has 32 million monthly users, CEO Brendan Eich told AdExchanger. Brave Search had over 100,000 Brave users registered as first users of the search product, a large user base as the company refines its algorithm.

“People are willing to give us a try because we’re deprived, we’re taking a hit against the Big Tech monopoly, and they’re willing to help us improve,” Eich said.

A lot of people confuse the browser with the search engine, he said. The two aren’t intrinsically linked, although Google does create a powerful synergy between Chrome and its search ad business. The search engine and the browser are “the other side of the same coin”.

Brave has yet to make advertising deals, Eich said. But the company is “crypto first” and will integrate its browser cryptocurrency, the Brave Browser Attention Tokens, so that users can earn rewards by seeing search ads – a service it already offers for users. ads from its browser home page.

Can anyone do it? Can any of these companies reduce Google’s search engine market share or Search Network advertising activity?

The answer is no.

To put DuckDuckGo’s $ 100 million annual revenue into perspective, Google’s search advertising business added $ 13 billion last year and earned over $ 29 billion in the second quarter alone.

However, the search engine market is extremely valuable, so a startup like DuckDuckGo can be profitable and grow steadily despite Google’s dominance. Privacy-conscious users and online security-conscious people are now an important market in their own right.

And there will be other ways in which competing search engines will attract activist or philosophical users. Brave’s Eich pointed out how other privacy-focused search services (namely, DuckDuckGo) censor queries and images like the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” – the famous photo of a non-violent Chinese activist – because that their search index uses Microsoft Bing, which must reconcile the Chinese government.

But while Google remains the search engine of choice, more people are testing the waters than you might think:

“By the way, 10% of the population in the United States tries a new search engine every month,” Neeva’s Ramaswamy told AdExchanger. “So there is an active churn rate. “


Rosemary S. Bishop