Brave browser replaces Google with its own search engine

Brave, the privacy-focused browser that blocks third-party ads and trackers by default, switches to using its own default search engine, the company announced. The change will be applied to new users and will affect the search engine used via the browser’s address bar. Brave Search will replace Google in the US, UK and Canada, Qwant in France and DuckDuckGo in Germany. Other countries will be switched in the coming months.

It’s a big step for Brave’s fledgling search engine, which launched in public beta earlier this year, because most people only take what they’re given. Having the search engine set as the default browser is a valuable promotional tactic, and so important that the practice has become an important focus of antitrust scrutiny. In Europe, Google is now offering a choice of search engines to Android users after being fined $5 billion by EU regulators for, among other things, illegally linking Google Search to Android. Over the years, Google has also paid companies like Apple and Firefox to be the default search engine in their browsers.

“As we know from experience in many browsers, the default setting is crucial for adoption, and Brave Search has achieved the quality and critical mass to become our default search option and to provide our users with a seamless online experience by default,” Brave co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich said in a statement. He added that his search engine now handles “nearly 80 million queries per month”.

Although the change boosts awareness of Brave Search among Brave users, the browser’s market share is so small that it doesn’t even register against established competitors like Chrome, Safari, Edge and Opera, according to data from StatCounter. However, since September 2021, Brave claims that its browser had nearly 40 million monthly active users.

In addition to boosting Brave’s search engine awareness, the move is a sign of its confidence in the new privacy-focused service. Brave Search is notable for being built on Brave’s own independent web index, whereas many competitors rely on a mix of results from larger indexes like Microsoft Bing (although Brave has said it will pull results other suppliers where it cannot produce enough itself). The company says its search engine does not track “users, their searches, or their clicks.”

Along with the change to the default search engine, Brave is also launching a new registration system for users to provide their data and improve its search results. Brave says its Web Discovery Project collects search and browsing data in a way that cannot be linked to individual users, and that cannot be sold to advertisers or turned over to authorities.

Brave Search is currently free and does not serve any ads, but the company says it plans to roll out ads in its free version in the future, as well as launching a premium ad-free service.