The Brave browser will now default to the company’s supposedly privacy-preserving search engine, while a new web discovery project aims to collect search data with privacy protection again.
The Brave web browser is based on the Google-sponsored Chromium engine, but with features designed to prevent tracking, as well as an unusual reward system using its own cryptocurrency, the Basic Attention Token (BAT). Brave Search will now be the default on new desktop, Android, and iOS installs. Existing Brave users will keep their current default unless they choose to change it.
Brave Search was released in beta in June and uses technology called Tailcat, acquired from the failed German Cliqz projectwhich also sought to provide an index without Google.
The company said in June that “for certain features, like image search, Brave Search will fetch results from Microsoft Bing,” in line with Ecosia founder Christian Kroll’s assertion, who told us earlier this months that Bing’s existence is “absolutely essential” to competing search providers.
A “search independence” metric shows the percentage of results delivered by Brave’s index, and this is 87% for all Brave search users at the time of writing. The company claims to receive nearly 80 million queries per month. Google makes as many queries in less than four minutes, figures show here.
Search independence shows how many results come from Brave compared to other engines, primarily Bing
Search is smart in this regard since at the bottom of the results is an option to “find elsewhere”, in our case offering Google, Bing or Mojeek (a UK-based independent search engine). Performing a new search immediately is one of the indicators of poor search results that can possibly be saved to improve the engine.
Brave Search is currently ad-free, with the bad news being that “the free version of Brave Search will soon be ad-supported,” according to a post. yesterday. “Brave Search will also be offering an ad-free Premium version in the near future,” the company said, although no additional details are yet available.
Brave also introduced the Web Discovery Project, a method of collecting user data (such as bad search data) while claiming to protect their privacy. “Brave needs data to fuel its search for privacy,” the project explains. The project aims to prevent the linking of records as belonging to the same person, to prevent profiling, “by strictly prohibiting any user identifier”.
User data is still aggregated, but on the user’s device, and when the data is sent back to the Brave server, it omits any user IDs.
How good is Brave Search? Since many users are used to using search for navigation, many searches are trivial, meaning “take me to Apple” or similar. A question like “How many states in the US” is answered when typing into Google (as a “prediction”), where Brave search found a Wikipedia article in the top position, requiring additional clicks to get information.
A developer query such as “call to undefined function simplexml_load_file” successfully returns a Stack Overflow entry with useful information. There are many types of searches though, and our brief experiences show that Brave lags far behind in the depth and quality of organic results, but a pleasure to use with respect to the lack of ads – and while that is about to change, it may still be less confusing and ad-laden than a typical Google search results page.
While in principle a new privacy-friendly search index is welcome, there is still a long way to go before it can have a mainstream impact. Google currently has a 92% market share, according to Statistics counter, with Bing in second place at 2.66%. In web browsers, Google Chrome and Apple Safari account for about 84% of the market, and both default to Google Search. Brave’s market share falls somewhere in “Other”, although the company reports over 13 million daily active users, more than double than a year ago. ®