Call it a redemption narrative: After working to grow Google’s lucrative advertising business for 15 years, Sridhar Ramaswamy left the Silicon Valley Goliath to co-found Neeva, a subscription-based search engine that promises not to profit off its customers’ search data. It sounds good in theory; many companies have exploited user data under the guise of their free services. But whether Neeva can get users to care enough about their data to pay for privacy is a whole other story.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Ramaswamy, Neeva’s chief executive, what makes his search engine any different from the litany of others that have tried to take on Google. (Remember Duck Duck Go, Bing and Yahoo?) She presses him on whether users, who have long been conditioned to expect search to be free, will be amenable to a subscription-based alternative. And they discuss Google’s antitrust suit, what incognito mode really does and why background location is “truly evil.”