By adding an AI chatbot, youChat, to its search engine, You.com attracted the notice of many an internet user last week.
“Trying out You.com because people are excited about their chat bot. First observation: their disclaimer. Here’s this thing we’re putting up for everyone to use while also knowing (and saying) that it actually doesn’t work,” Emily Bender wrote.
Trying out https://t.co/xZAorKqkPl because people are excited about their chat bot. First observation: Their disclaimer. Here's this thing we're putting up for everyone to use while also knowing (and saying) that it actually doesn't work. pic.twitter.com/ANI6emfi9l
It’s not surprising because until very recently not many people had heard of You.com and its products.
What is You.com?
You.com prides itself as a privacy-focused search engine that “summarizes the best parts of the internet for you” without ads and with great privacy, a departure from the traditional search engine.
The company was founded by former employees of Salesforce and was launched last November.
Its co-founder and CEO Richard Socher said he wanted a search engine with a “balance of privacy and personalization.”
After the search engine announced it would open the public beta, it successfully raised $20 million in funding from Marc Benioff, the Salesforce founder.
“We believe that you should control your search: your privacy, results, and time,” the company said.
According to Benioff, You.com’s AI helps users find the most relevant results from the web and apps that one can sort and prioritize for optimum search experience.
Unlike Google, the king of search, You.com does not store any sensitive data and is customizable. The search engine displays results from searches that are sorted by specific websites. And such categories can be sorted by the user.
However, the company uses Microsoft Bing‘s results for web results.
But, instead of a host of links when one runs a search, You.com’s results are sorted into rows, each one with a number of options from sites such as Twitter, Reddit and BBC, and images and other traditional search results.
The company, like many other smaller search engines, is reliant on other engines such as Yelp’s catalogues of businesses, LinkedIn and Wikipedia for facts.
No plan to make money
At its launch last year, Socher said the company has no immediate plans to make money, a development many felt would free it from taking on ads and resist takeover bids from the big tech behemoths who may see value in the startup.
The You.com CEO believes that although the entire economy has moved online, Google was still a gatekeeper.
“They are invading privacy to squezze out more and more performance,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post.
Instead, as part of its privacy mantra, the search engine does not store users’ IP addresses and shies away from collecting users’ information for targeting ads. The only data the company stores is used to improve one’s search and is never sold or distributed to third parties, the company says.
When a user browses in fully private “incognito” mode, the search engine will not collect data. But when one searches in regular mode, the engine collects data but only for purposes of customizing one’s results and has no targeted ads.
This is a marked departure from an already established business model where such ads contribute to revenue in a big way. It’s competitor, Google, and social networks like Facebook store all data and monetize on it by selling targeted ads to customers.
When you sign in to You.com, the website will give you control over the websites you want to see in your results.
The company launched its youChat bot last week much to the delight of many tech enthusiasts. “Christmas came early: Today we wanted to gift you with biggest disruption search has seen in years. @YouSearchEngine has been running at light speed to deliver YouChat – a conversational interface that’s aware of recent events and has citations. 👉 you.com/search?q=what,” says Sami Rahman.
🎁 Christmas came early: Today we wanted to gift you with biggest disruption search has seen in years.@YouSearchEngine has been running at light speed to deliver YouChat – a conversational interface that's aware of recent events and has citations.
— Sami Rahman 👋🏽 (@SamiRahman) December 23, 2022
He wasnt the only hyping the youChat bot ahead of its launch.
Today, youChat goes live.
Open, broadly capable, conversational AI for search with knowledge of recent events and citations of sources.
— Richard Socher (@RichardSocher) December 23, 2022
But not everyone is impressed by the chatbot.
so https://t.co/0bjNukak5R makes itself relevant by adding a chat component, which supposedly grounds its answer in real documents via refs, and handles recent content.
i am curious how much of it is a thin wrapper over gpt+bing, vs internal dev. i suspect former.
— (((ل()(ل() 'yoav))))👾 (@yoavgo) December 25, 2022
“So you.com makes itself relevant by adding a chat component, which supposedly grounds its answer in real documents via refs, and handles recent content. Looks neat! I am curious how much of it is a thin wrapper over gpt+bing, vs internal dev. I suspect former,” a user says.
The search engine relies on AI, particularly machine learning and deep learning, to better understand and to give preferences while websites and sources are presented as “apps” on the search results. This way, one can discover answers at a glance, dive deep into specific findings, or take action directly from search results.
The company currently doesn’t have ads. But its not ruling out ads completely in the future.
“We will never have targeted, privacy-invading ads. We will never follow you around the internet or sell your data,” the company says.
“We may have private (i.e. query-dependent) ads in the future. For example, if you search for an air compressor, you may see an air compressor ad, but it won’t be linked to you and it won’t invade your privacy.”
The search engine is currently getting a somewhat negligible amount of revenue from affiliate links and get part of the earnings for some of the products in the Walmart app.
In summary so far; the You.com search engine delivers a great overview of what’s available online and via apps, and is a welcomed alternative to Google’s rather stale search results page.