Developer search engine for code snippets has caveats

The YouCode search engine helps developers find code snippets and relevant documentation. However, questions surround its usefulness and monetization strategy.

YouCode, launched earlier this month, is an extension of the You.com search engine, which went live in November as a competitor to Google. YouCode offers highlighted code snippets in search results, though developers can also find documentation and other relevant programming information. Although the tool may speed up coding, industry experts wonder how user data will be used in the future and whether its usefulness extends beyond learning to code.

Unlike Google, which requires developers to open new tabs to view code snippets, developers can find examples and explanations without leaving the current window.

“Searching for help using regular Google search goes beyond a developer’s needs, requiring the developer to fine-tune the results,” said Larry Carvalho, principal consultant at RobustCloud. “YouCode is very specific and can improve developer efficiency by returning results that match a developer’s needs.”

Use results with caution

More than 20 of the most popular developer sites are aggregated by You.com’s AI-enabled search engine, including Stack Overflow, GitHub, PyTorch and Hugging Face, said Richard Socher, founder and CEO of You.com.

The search engine returns the most popular result for a certain keyword. For example, if a developer types “JavaScript prime numbers“, the engine returns the top rated code snippets from StackOverflow.

Search results contain relevant suggestions for programming queries, Kevin Jordan said, a partner of Security Research Group, a cybersecurity firm.

If you’re looking for something in Python, you might be trying to remember how to iterate a list… right away you can figure out what you need to do.

Kevin JordanPartner, Security Research Group.

“If you’re researching something in Python, you might be trying to remember how to iterate a list,” Jordan said. “Right away you can understand what you need to do.”

Most of the results seem to come from StackOverflow, but that’s no surprise to a developer.

“It’s exactly where I would go to find relevant code for a project,” said Chris Riley, senior developer relations manager at marketing technology firm HubSpot.

However, if a developer doesn’t want results from a specific site or wants to prioritize results from a preferred source, an easy-to-find thumbs up or down button appears next to the code snippets. That site will then post less — or more — often depending on the rating, Socher said.

As an AI pair programmer, all advice and suggestions from code completion tools should be taken with a grain of salt.

“It’s very easy to stick a bunch of other people’s code together for a working result, which is by no means best practice,” Riley said. “I consider the primary use case to be learning and prototyping. In an engineering organization, I doubt this practice will be accepted as it poses a security risk.”

Search results for YouCode are customizable.

The roadmap can include subscriptions

You.com received $25 million in Series A funding this month, bringing its total capital raised to $45 million, according to a company press release.

The cash injection, led by AI-focused Radical Ventures, will be used to open the entire You.com platform to features such as the ability for users to build apps that run in search results, which should be available later this year, Socher said. But the company’s current priority is to improve YouCode functionality for developers, he said.

Although YouCode is free and does not serve ads, the company may adopt a subscription-based model in the future, Socher said.

As such, the future of monetization for You.com and YouCode is unclear.

“How the two products will use your search history with targeted ads, particularly email addresses, remains to be seen,” Carvalho said.

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