This week, search startup MillionShort revealed a targeted billboard campaign just outside of Google's Mountain View office.
While it's doubtful the billboard interrupted Larry and Sergi's day, it does raise an interesting question that is rarely brought up. Are there true alternatives to Google?
If you've somehow ended up on a computer with the default browser set to Bing or Yahoo, you would probably answer no, there is no other option. But there is a small eco-system of startups that believe search can and should be done a better way.
One of those Startups is MillionShort and the following is an interview we had with their founder Sanjay Arora.
Tell me a bit about Million Short. Why did you create it?
SA: Million Short began as a thought experiment: what would happen if we could delve deeper into the Internet? I was curious if we could get back to something like what we had in the pre-Google days. I see how my young kids are being shaped by a world where their school assignments are dictated by what Google deems important. We are bombarded with major news outlets reporting on mega-corporations and their failure in keeping our trust. I truly believe that Search is too important of a function for just a small handful of companies to control. We need options.
What message are you trying to send with this billboard?
SA: Most people don’t think very critically about search. They take it for granted that one company controls 75% of searches. We’re trying to raise awareness about the lack of options and control that people have when searching the Internet. We want people to realize that — when it comes to search — they don’t have to settle for a corporation that they increasingly distrust. As I recently wrote on Medium, they deserve other options. That’s what we’re here to give them.
What's it like to be an entrepreneur competing against a giant like Google?
SA: Well, I think anyone in my position would say that it’s a constant battle. Google has done an amazing number of things for the world we live in today – but along with the good comes the bad. Filter bubbles, fake news – these issues have become huge issues because only a handful of corporations are controlling the way we discover and view the world. Getting the average person recognize the need for alternative search engines and then to provide the solution has been a challenge. But we believe strongly in our vision for a more free and open internet, and that keeps us going.
What advantages does Million Short have over Google?
SA: Million Short put the control back into the hands of the user. It allows users to remove up to the top 1 million websites in their search results, empowering users to discover content on the Internet that would have been buried in traditional results. Furthermore, users can customize their search results by advanced filtering. We give them options to filter sites based on ads, e-commerce, chat features, etc. We see Million Short as more than a search engine. It’s a discovery engine that’s designed to help people uncover new ways of understanding and engaging with the world.
What are your plans for the future of the platform?
SA: We have a product roadmap that we're very excited about. We're focused on features that aren't available at all on other search engines, in addition to improving the basics. A lot the innovation revolves around giving users much more granular control their results with filtering. We are also working on better ways to deal with fake news and to push people outside of their usual filter bubbles to discover new points of view. We are working actively on a search for kids, parents and educators. We also have some more experimental and thought-provoking features planned.
All of these features aim to put greater freedom and control in the hands of the user. We don’t want to dictate anyone’s experience of the internet — we want to empower users to explore the world wide web in new and unique ways.