HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: There has been a lot of chatter about artificial intelligence (AI) this year. If metaverse was the buzzword of 2022, AI is definitely the buzzword of 2023! I have been marshalling my thoughts, doing research, and beavering away on an editorial blogpost about AI for quite some time, and I hope to publish it as my next post on this blog.
And I do apologize to those of you who wish I would get back to writing more about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse! I have been quite busy with various projects at my paying job as an academic librarian, and when I get home, I am often too tired to blog. But I promise that I will soon return you to your regularly scheduled programming… 😉
On Wednesday evening, I was test-driving a new web browser I had downloaded on a whim from the Apple Apps Store, called Orion. For years now, I had automatically selected Google as my default search engine while using Chrome and Firefox, but I noticed that there were two ad-free search engine options in Orion’s setup, which I had never heard of before: Kagi (created by the same company that makes Orion), and something called Neeva.
Curious, I went down the rabbit hole, and did a few test searches on both Kagi and Neeva. I must confess that my search results from Kagi left me feeling meh, but I was so impressed with what I got back from the Neeva search engine, that I actually decided to pony up for a premium subscription! (Please note that you can use Neeva for free, but it limits the number of searches you can do in a month.)
One rather interesting feature of Neeva is that it includes an AI-generated “summary” of information on your search topic (something that both the Google and Bing search engines are also tinkering with). In Neeva’s case, the AI-generated summary paragraph includes numbered citations to the sources from which it pulled the information. For example, here’s what I got back after searching Neeva for the meaning of the phrase “pony up for” (a phrase which I used in the previous paragraph):
See the red arrow in the image above? You set up a personal account to use Neeva, and you can actually tell it which information sources you prefer, so that over time, it tailors your search results to your preferences (you can also select which sources you wish to see less of in your search results next time). Here’s a summary of Neeva’s other features.
This AI-generated summary is a beta feature, and frankly I was curious (and dubious) that it would work. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it fails spectacularly! However, I do like the fact that you can actually click on the numbered citations below the AI-generated text to go to the source material, which this reference librarian always believes you should do! Remember, treat any AI-generated text with a good deal of skepticism and suspicion. Don’t trust; verify.
But I didn’t decide to subscribe to Neeva based on its AI, which I see as a frill (as I said up top, expect a longer, separate blogpost with my thoughts on the whole AI hoo-ha). I signed up for a premium membership because I wanted to kick the tires on an ad-free, privacy-oriented search replacement for Google Search, in much the same way that I recently opted for Proton as an ad-free, privacy-oriented alternative to Google Mail and Google Drive. I just finally decided, after leaving Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, and especially after Elon Musk’s dumpster-fire takeover of Twitter, that I had had enough of Big Tech’s strip-mining my personal data by using their “free” services (where, of course, you are the product they sell to advertisers).
So, as I often like to say, I am off on yet another adventure—wish me luck! I signed up for one year of unlimited Neeva searching, and I will be comparing search results between Google and Neeva throughout the next twelve months, and I’ll report back that I find.
If you want to learn more about Neeva, you can learn more from their website, which includes a FAQ. You can also learn more about the Kagi search engine and the Orion web browser, if you’re interested (which I how I landed up going down this rabbit-hole in the first place!).
UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: This morning I stumbled across yet another privacy-oriented, relatively ad–free search engine which incorporates AI, called You.com. I quickly perused their online FAQ and learned that they do have private ads which do not collect user data or invade user privacy. The free service actually doesn’t have any such ads at the moment, but they are looking at monetization schemes in future.
After so many years of Google’s hegemony in online search, things are starting to get interesting! I will also give You.com a whirl, and I’ll tell you what I think of it.