Hey Google, Can you search this on You.com instead?

Can the new AI-powered search engine “You.com” disrupt the search engine landscape?

A screenshot from you.com that reads “The search engine that summarzies the web for you.
You.com was founded by Richard Socher, former chief scientist at Salesforce, in 2020.

We live in truly remarkable times! If someone had told you in the pre-Internet era that a piece of software on a computer will one day be your personal assistant, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. But as the Third Industrial Revolution (also called “Digital Revolution”) is progressing at a rapid pace and we slowly delve into Fourth Industrial Revolution, we often find ourselves stunned at how rapid really the technology around us is changing. One thing we have to remind ourselves is that the progress we made in the last 30 years is no indicator at all as to what our current rate of progress is (think: linear vs. exponential growth) as Tim Urban describes in his blog post The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence.

It comes as no surprise that there will be more and more AI-powered services in the future that take the cognitive load off us. You.com (currently beta) is one such example — in this case for search. The new search engine has the potential to alter the way we (expect to) digest information and interact with the world around us altogether.

In this post I won’t be discussing Google’s advanced AI capabilities when it comes to search since most readers will already have used the Google search before and know what the search results page looks like. Instead, I will take a look at how You.com plans to reimagine search in the coming years with a completely new approach to finding information online. I have a background in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and will therefore take a closer look at the NLP functionalities that You.com has to offer.

You.com

We’re constantly searching for answers to our questions, be it at work, when interacting with other people or in our personal lives. This is exactly what You.com is trying to solve. At its core their mission and values are as follows:

Our mission is to make the world’s information useful for you. We aim to help our users succeed with every search. Our core values include trust, kindness, facts, and user success.

Why use You.com instead of Google?

On the FAQ page of the beta version they state:

You.com summarizes the best parts of the Internet for you, without ads and with great privacy. Our AI will help you find the most relevant apps but you are in control and can customize these apps and sources. We believe in bringing more trust, kindness and facts to the internet.

Furthermore:

Our aim is to make your life easier by summarizing the web for you, eliminating the need to open multiple tabs. We’ll also allow you to define your preferred sources and, whenever possible, show you results from the sources you prefer first — saving you time.

Also, we have no ads, so you always see the most relevant results for your query in the web results. Each of the rows represent one search app. These apps form an interface to your digital life.

What makes You.com so special?

For example, if you are a developer you can simply use the Code Complete app that can generate code from natural language. As you can see in the image below, I typed “print the current date” and on the right side You.com generated the Python code. You can also change the programming language that is returned using the dropdown menu and find alternative generated code snippets when scrolling to the right.

A screenshot form the page showing the Code Complete tool.
A screenshot form the page showing the Code Complete tool.
You.com’s Code Complete app is integrated in the search and writes the code for you just like GitHub’s Copilot does.

The Code Complete app is part of the You.com Apps ecosystem. Right now there are only 100 apps (some of which are AI-powered), but you see where this is going…

What other You.com Apps are there?

A screenshot that lists the Apps from the FAQ page.
A screenshot that lists the Apps from the FAQ page.
There are currently 100 different apps (only a few shown in the image) that You.com comes with.

Here you can find a list of all currently available apps. The following are my favourite ones so far. (Image source: You.com Apps)

Reddit search results regarding Covid19
Reddit search results regarding Covid19
See discussions at a glance about the COVID-19 vaccine in the Reddit app.
Stackoverflow results are directly shown on the search results page with the top answer.
Simply search for “json” and you find an integrated JSON validator app.
Find scholarly articles in the Arxiv app.
Whereas Google still just shows search results, You.com offers a Fact Checker app when searching “was holocaust fake?”

These are just a couple of apps to begin with (remember, the search engine is only in its beta stage). In the long run there will likely be more apps fueled by more sophisticated AI methods.

What’s the catch? How does You.com make money?

On their FAQ page they state:

You.com currently has no ads. None of the results you’re seeing get preferential treatment due to advertising. We will try to avoid ads for as long as we can. We will never follow you around the internet or sell your data and will never use targeted ads. We may have query dependent ads in the future: You look for an air compressor — you may see an air compressor ad. But it won’t be linked to you or invade your privacy.

You.com currently gets (a tiny amount of) revenue through affiliate links. We earn a part of the profit for some of the products in some apps (such as Walmart). Affiliate relationships do not affect the way we display or rank products in any way.

We will explore other monetization ideas in the future and look forward to your feedback in that process.

How does You.com counter bias?

You.com offers a default list of sources with the aim of balancing popularity, comprehensiveness and ease of use. We can’t show every site on the internet since that would be an overwhelmingly long list. We are currently focused on the USA.

You.com’s default news sources list is based on research from AllSides. Given a core company value of “facts”, our team chose to display more neutral sources in the list.

How can I access You.com?

The website is not public, yet. You can only access the beta if you get an invite. This means you have to sign up for the waitlist.

We don’t currently have an automated system for this, but please ask them to sign up for our waitlist on You.com, share their emails with us, and we’ll bump them up on the waitlist.

Concluding remarks: Will You.com have a profound impact on the search engine landscape?

You know what? Let’s hope they do. Google is by far the most dominant search engine right now and it doesn’t look like this will change in the near future. However, there is an increased demand for privacy oriented search engines such as DuckDuckGo, Startpage and Neeva or environmentally friendly ones like Ecosia. Competition is key to bringing new innovations to the world and therefore I’m confident that new search paradigms developed at You.com and elsewhere will not be ignored by Google. Quite the contrary, there is reason to believe that people at Google are already aware of You.com as their newest direct competitor in the search engine market. If You.com manages to reimagine search by combining state-of-the-art deep learning approaches from NLP and Computer Vision with user-friendly design, it will be inevitable for Google to step up their game to compete in the coming AI age. My conclusion is that healthy competition ultimately benefits the user and that is what counts.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Chuck Wooters for providing feedback on earlier versions of this post.

Please hit me up on Twitter for any corrections or feedback.

data and tech enthusiast at heart | soon to be MSc graduate https://twitter.com/langfab