Well, this comes straight from the desk of “I didn’t see this coming”, but the search engine toolkit company Ahrefs just told me that they’ve been working on their own search engine on the sly, pumping $60 million in resources into their own search engine, called Yeah. It’s a unique proposition, running its own search index, rather than relying on Google or Bing’s APIs.
As for the name? I do not know; Yes, that sounds pretty silly to me, but I guess at least the name is one character shorter than Bing, the other major search engine that I will only use by accident. Name aside, Yep is taking a new path in the internet advertising world, claiming that it gives 90% of its ad revenue to content creators. The pitch is quite elegant:
“Let’s say the biggest search engine in the world makes $100 billion a year. Now imagine if they gave $90 billion to content creators and publishers,” the company paints a picture of the future it wants to live in. “Wikipedia would probably earn a few billion dollars a year from its content. They could stop asking for donations and start paying a living wage to people who polish their articles.
It’s an incredibly quixotic windmill to fight for the startup company Ahrefs. Its CEO explains why it makes sense to him:
“Creators who make search results possible deserve to receive payments for their work. We’ve seen how YouTube’s profit-sharing model has made the entire video industry prosper. By sharing advertising profits 90/ 10 with content authors, we want to build momentum towards a fair treatment of talent in the search industry,” says Ahrefs Founder and CEO Dmytro Gerasymenko, and continues to stress that his search engine is supposed to be strongly privacy conscious.” We save some search data, but never in a personally identifiable way. For example, we will track the number of times a word is searched for and the position of the link that gets the most clicks. But we will not create your profile for targeted advertising.
That might sound a little idealistic, but damn it, that’s what got me excited about Yep in the first place. It represents the faintest of echoes of a more innocent and hopeful web than the poisonous social media cesspool of chaos and fake news we often find ourselves in today.
I was a bit surprised to learn that the company has decided to launch its own data centers – it claims to have already launched over 1,000 servers, storing over 100 petabytes of data. It’s an odd choice, given that cloud-based solutions are generally more flexible, but Gerasymenko has a plan for that too, saying they’re much more expensive for such a large infrastructure, with a target of hundreds or thousands of high-end servers running at full load 24/7.
Of course, this whole project didn’t start with a search engine – the company already had a huge set of data available about its day-to-day activities. Ahrefs has been crawling and storing data on the web for 12 years to provide its clients with its core product: a set of SEO tools. The search results are powered by its own crawler – AhrefsBot – which the company says visits more than 8 billion web pages every 24 hours. The company says the new search engine will be available in all countries and most languages.
So, uh, $60 million with no outside investment? That’s a lot of dough – where does it all come from? The company explains that it has reinvested the income from its paid subscriptions. The company says it currently has $100 million in revenue a year from its more than 50,000 customers and has so far avoided outside investment. The company has 90 employees and is headquartered in Singapore. The search engine project has a team of 11 people, including data scientists, back-end engineers and front-end developers. Gerasymenko himself plays an active role in building the search engine, the company tells me.