Pro-privacy browser Brave has been testing its brand search engine for several months — operating a waitlist where Brave (ha!) early adopters could kick the tires of an upstart alternative inhas now launched the tool, Brave Search, in global beta. Users interested in checking out Brave’s non-tracking search engine, built on top of an independent index and touted as a privacy-safe alternative to surveillance tech products like , will find it via Brave’s desktop and mobile browsers. It can also be reached from other browsers via search.brave.com — so it doesn’t require switching to Brave’s browser.
Brave Search is being search engine.that users of the company’s eponymous browser can pick from (including Google’s search engine). But Brave says it will make it the default search in its browser later this . As we reported back in March, the company acquired technology and developers who had previously worked on Cliqz, a European anti-tracking search-browser combo that closed down in May 2020 — building on a technology they’d started to develop, called Tailcoat, to form the basis of the Brave-branded
The (now beta) search engine has been tested by more than 100,000 “early access users” at this point, per Brave. It’s made this video ad tout its “all in one” alternative to Google . The company recently passed 32 million users (up from 25 million back in March) for its more comprehensive suite of products — which, as well as its flagship pro-privacy browser, includes a newsreader (Brave News), a Firewall+VPN service. Brave also offers privacy-preserving Brave Ads for businesses wanting to reach its community of privacy-preferring users.
For several years, growing public awareness of surveillance-based business models has been building momentum for pro-privacy consumer tech, And several players who started with a strong focus on one particular pro-privacy product (such as a browser, search engine, or email) have been expanding into a full suite of products — all under the same non-tracking umbrella. As well as Brave, there are the likes of Search but also a tracker blocker and an email inbox protector tool, among other products, and reckons it now has between 70 million users overall; and Proton, the maker of E2E-encrypted email service ProtonMail but also a cloud calendar and file storage as well as a VPN. The latter recently confirmed passing 50 million users globally.
DuckDuckGo has, by contrast, been at the non-tracking search coalface for2014, though not in the same profit league as Apple. But, more recently, it’s in rare tranches of external funding as its investors spy growing opportunities for private Search. Other signs of expanding public appetite to protect people’s information from commercial snoopers include the surge of usage for E2E-encrypted alternatives to Facebook-owned WhatsApp — such as Signal — which saw a download spike earlier this to WhatsApp’s terms of service.
Credible players that have amassed a community of engaged users around a core user privacy promise are well-positioned to ride each new wave of privacy interest — and cross-sell a suite of consumer products where they’ve been able to expand their utility. Hence, Brave believes the time is right for it to dabble in Search. In a statement, Brendan Eich, CEO and co-founder of Brave, said: “Brave Search is the industry’s most private search engine, as well as the only independent search engine, giving users the control and confidence they seek in alternatives to Big Tech.
Unlike older search engines that track andand newer search engines that are mostly skin on older machines and don’t have their indexes, Brave Search offers a new way to get relevant results with a community-powered index while guaranteeing privacy. Brave today as millions of people have lost trust in the surveillance economy and actively seek solutions to be in control of their data.” Brave touts its eponymous versus rivals (including smaller competitors) — such as its index, which it also says gives it independence from other search providers.
Why is having an independent index important? We put that question to Josep M. Pujol, chief of Search at Brave, who told us: “There are plenty of incentives for censorship and biases, either by design or what is even more challenging to combat, unintentional. The problem ofwithearch and how people access the web is that it is a mono-culture, and everybody knows that while it’s very efficient, it’s also hazardous. A single disease can kill all the crops. The current landscape is not fail-tolerant, and this is something that even users are becoming aware of. We need more choices, not to replace Google or Bing, but to offer alternatives. More options will entail more freedom and return to real .
“Choice can only be achieved by being independent as if we do not have our index; then we are just a layer of paint on top of Google and Bing, unable to change much or anything in the results for users’ queries. Not having your index, as with certain search engines, gives the impression of choice, but in reality, such engine ‘skins’ are the same players as the big two. Only by building our index, which is a costly proposition, can we offer real choice to the users for the benefit of all, whether they are Brave Search users or not.” Although, for now, it’s worth noting that Brave is relying on some provision from other search providers — for specific queries and in areas like image search (where, for example, it says it’s currently fetching results from Microsoft-owned Bing) — to ensure its effects achieve good relevancy.
Elsewhere, it also says it’s relying upon anonymized contributions from the community to improve and refine results — and is seeking to live up to broader transparency claims vis-à-vis the search index (which it also claims has “noresults”; and for which it will “soon” be offering “community-curated open ranking models to ensure diversity and prevent algorithmic biases and outright censorship”). In another transparency step, Brave reports the percentage of users’ independent queries by showing what it bills as “the industry’s first search independence metric,” indicating the ratio of results coming exclusively from its index
“It is derived privately using the user’s browser as we do not build user profiles,” Brave notes in a press release. “Users can check this aggregate metric to verify the independence of their results and see how our index powers result or if third parties are being used for long-tail results while we are still in the process of building our index.” It adds that Brave Search will “typically be answering most queries, reflected by a high independence metric”. However, if you’re performing an image search, for example, you’ll see the independence metric take a hit (but Brave confirms this will not result in any tracking of users).