A new search engine powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing is offering an alternative to the lists of web pages making up the results of a typical online search.
Called Andi, the search engine combines the use of large language models — think OpenAi’s GPY-3 — and live web data to craft an answer to questions posed by searchers.
“We use AI and natural language processing to understand a question’s intent,” explained co-founder Angela Hoover.
“Andi will look at the top 10 to 20 results for any given query,” she explained to TechNewsWorld. “Then, using large language models, it will generate a direct answer to the question.”
Andi search query screen (Image Credit: Andi)
Does the internet need another search engine? Hoover thinks so. “Google is broken,” she said. “Google is built for how the web worked 20 years ago. The cognitive overload of ads and links overload the user and leads to a lot of distraction and time wasted.”
“People want direct answers to questions. They don’t want a list of links,” she maintained.
Gen Z Appeal
Andi is designed for a younger demographic.
“It felt like getting my search results in a social media feed. That appeals to younger users,” observed Will Duffield, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
“The clean reading appearance that Andi is offering seems like a pushback against adding ever more widgets to search,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Hoover acknowledged that Andi aims to appeal to the young set, particularly Generation Z. “Gen Z lives in visual feeds and chat apps. My generation spends all their time in conversational interfaces,” she said.
“The key to taking on Google is having a conversational interface,” she asserted. “Everyone that’s tried to take on Google has just been a weaker copy with the same amount of overwhelming information, spam and clutter in the results.”
Andi search results (Image Credit: Andi)
A search engine that delivers answers might appeal to older folks, too, noted Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTechResearch in San Jose, Calif.
“In general, users are beginning to get weary of Google’s search algorithms as being biased, deterministic and selective,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Whether that perception is accurate or not,” he continued, “a new search engine that uses common-sense language and provides specific answers instead of links could be interesting, particularly to older users who don’t want to bother with reviewing multiple links to get an answer to a question or query.”
Need for Search Alternatives
Getting people to switch search engines, however, is a daunting task. “Google has set the bar really high for web search,” observed Danny Goodwin, managing editor of Search Engine Land & SMX, a digital marketing and advertising technology publication.
“The only reason we would need another search engine is if you can provide something better than Google,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Better search results. Better user experience. Better answers. Better whatever.”
There’s just too much information online now, much of it of low quality, added Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, commentary, and analysis website.
“Google has been trying to respond to growing complaints about a decline in the quality and usefulness of its search results,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I do believe there is an opportunity to deliver a new or improved search experience. But this is a big problem and many of the newer search engines simply duplicate the look and feel of Google.”
“The partial abandonment of Google by some younger users in favor of TikTok,” he said, “is an illustration of an appetite for something different.”
“It is hard to just get an answer anymore,” added Liz Miller, vice president and a principal analyst at Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm in Cupertino, Calif.
“The battle for who you see first in query results is brutally expensive for brands and increasingly obnoxious for users,” she told TechNewsWorld. “For many users the reality is that they just want the answer to the question they asked. They don’t want the Easter egg hunt that sponsored and tiered results deliver.”
Finding a Niche
Kerstin Recker, chief strategy and growth officer for the Seekr search engine said there are numerous reasons for the existence of alternative search engines. “When one search engine controls the majority of the market, it has control over what information most people are receiving,” she told TechNewsWorld.
“The top search engines all factor engagement into their ranking,” she continued. “The more clicks a result gets, the more likely that result will rank higher. What the majority of search engines do not take into account is quality of content.
“Alternative search engines are needed to balance out bias and give people more choice and clarity when it comes to information discovery and privacy,” she added.
Taking on the biggest search player can be challenging for an alternative search engine, but not hopeless.
“If you’re going to compete with a dominant product like Google, you find a niche that Google doesn’t want to meet — in this case, answering questions — and you come up with a service that does a better job,” explained Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.
“That’s normally a successful strategy called subtargeting,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Andi’s target demographic should also help it gain some traction in the market, Enderle added. “It’s targeting a demographic with something the demographic feels it isn’t getting from the primary search engine,” he said.
“The one thing about going after a young demographic is they’re very active on social media,” he continued. “So if a few influencers get excited about this, it could move a lot of people to this.”
Show Me the Money
Providing answers, not lists, isn’t the only way Andi differs from some of its competitors. It doesn’t charge for its service and it doesn’t record personal identifying information about its users.
Hoover explained that the service is looking at several ways to generate revenue, including creating a premium tier of service, offering API services, and partnering with publications. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to partner with tools like Amazon Alexa and other kinds of voice-powered search,” she added.
Duffield, though, said that it may become difficult to become profitable through organic link referrals and add-on services. “Current searches are bundled with advertising for a reason. That’s the way to make money,” he added.