Google has dominated internet search for over two decades. But new AI startups like Perplexity.ai believe the time is ripe for an alternative that understands natural language and summarizes information from across the web.
Perplexity’s AI Assistant Provides Conversational Answers
Perplexity.ai launched in 2022 with the goal of creating “AI-native search” that feels more natural for users. When you search on Perplexity, it responds in plain language instead of just links.
This allows you to have an actual conversation with Perplexity’s AI assistant. You can ask follow-up questions to clarify or expand your search. The assistant even has a “Copilot” feature that proactively asks you questions to better understand your intent.
Perplexity summarizes information from across the web to provide direct answers to queries. It also includes links to the original sources it used so users can verify the information themselves.
The startup believes this conversational, transparent approach will resonate with users who find traditional search overwhelming or ineffective when they have complex information needs.
Perplexity Integrates Leading AI Models
Perplexity combines its own proprietary AI models with third-party models like OpenAI’s GPT-4, Anthropic’s Claude, and Google’s Gemini.
For paying users, Perplexity offers access to GPT-4 and Claude without usage limits. This allows it to utilize the most advanced language models to have natural conversations with users.
Perplexity’s founders have backgrounds at AI leaders like Google, Meta, and OpenAI. Their technical expertise allows the startup to effectively integrate diverse AI models into a unified search experience.
Funding from Silicon Valley Luminaries
Perplexity has raised over $100 million to date, including a $73.6 million Series B round in January 2024.
The startup’s prominent investors illustrate the interest in new approaches to search. Backers include Nvidia, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke, and former Google and YouTube executives.
This influx of funding from tech industry leaders suggests they believe Perplexity has potential to disrupt online search. The startup now has the capital to scale its technology and expand its reach.
Perplexity’s Goal: Become Users’ Go-To Source
Perplexity founder and CEO Aravind Srinivas stated the startup’s goal is to become most people’s “single source of truth” when they need information online. He believes there’s room for multiple AI chatbots, but one needs to emerge as the authority for factual answers from the web.
Srinivas argues that Perplexity’s summarization abilities and sourcing transparency make it well-suited to assume this role. The startup aims to become the starting point users go to when they have an important question to answer.
In its first year, Perplexity gained 10 million monthly active users. While dwarfed by Google’s billions of searches per day, this indicates promising early traction.
How Perplexity Aims to Beat Google at Its Own Game
Google has honed search to a science after two decades of dominance. So how can Perplexity compete? The startup believes it can beat Google at certain aspects of the search experience.
Perplexity argues back-and-forth conversation will yield better results than keywords into a search box. The AI assistant adapts follow-up questions based on your initial query and interests.
Listing sources allows users to cross-reference Perplexity’s summaries. Google provides snippets but doesn’t link to or identify sources.
The Copilot feature proactively engages to clarify intent and discover adjacent topics. Google tries to understand intent from limited keywords.
By summarizing results from diverse sources, Perplexity aims to reduce individual source bias. Google’s algorithms amplify bias in some cases.
Letting users choose AI models and turn Copilot on or off provides more control. Google search is a black box algorithm.
Key Investors Think Perplexity Can Displace Google
Given Google’s entrenched position, Perplexity certainly faces an uphill battle. But key backers like Jeff Bezos and Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke clearly think the startup has a shot at disrupting Google search.
Their investments indicate confidence that Perplexity’s natural language and transparency advantages resonate with users. If Perplexity succeeds in becoming the starting point for a sizable portion of searches, it will erode Google’s gatekeeping power.
Of course, Google won’t cede its search dominance easily. It has already introduced conversational features like its own AI assistant. And reports indicate Google is developing capabilities similar to Perplexity’s summarization across sources.
But for now, investors are making a big bet that Perplexity can leverage current frustration with search and AI breakthroughs to carve out a prominent position before Google fully evolves its offerings. Perplexity’s $100 million in funding gives it runway to rapidly expand its reach.
Perplexity’s Goal: The “Single Source of Truth” for Web Knowledge
In a world of misinformation and filter bubbles, Perplexity believes its AI assistant has the potential to become the authoritative starting point for fact-based knowledge. Rather than bouncing between sites, users can get summaries checked against original sources.
This has the appeal of saving time while increasing accuracy and transparency. Perplexity may never fully unseat Google search. But if it becomes the go-to assistant for a significant segment of high-value queries, it will achieve meaningful influence as a check on Google’s dominance.
With top tech leaders now backing Perplexity, the stage is set for an AI battle that could determine the future gatekeepers of online knowledge. Perplexity aims to answer users’ questions with speed, accuracy, and nuance that Google search lacks.
The startup’s conversational approach feels like a more human way to find information. While Google has the resources to catch up, Perplexity’s head start and laser focus give it a fighting chance to emerge as the AI assistant people rely on to make sense of the digital world.