Illustration by Stephen Shankland / CNET

Brave, the maker of a popular ad-blocking browser, on Tuesday opened a public beta of its privacy-focused search engine, a first step in creating a product that could rival the Google Marketplace titan. . Courageous research will become the default search engine in Brave browser later this year.

Unlike other newer search engines, which typically repackage Google and Microsoft’s Bing results, Brave builds a web-independent index. (Brave Search will rely on Bing in some areas, like images, where its own results aren’t good enough yet.)

Initially, Courageous research will not show ads: this is the main way Google uses to monetize its search results. Later it will offer ad-supported free search and paid ad-free option.

Tackling Google is a huge undertaking. Over 92% all searches go through Google, according to analytics firm StatCounter. Bing is far behind with less than 3%. But an opportunity may have opened as Google comes under increasing pressure to protect consumer privacy and like governments around the world step up antitrust scrutiny. Public opinion, lawsuits, and legislation could help little challengers take on Big Tech.

Getting more people to use Brave Search is critical to its success, said chief executive Brendan Eich, who ran Mozilla and Firefox before co-founding Brave. “Users are essential to improving our search,” with their collective actions anonymously directing Brave servers to high-quality websites that Brave Search should analyze and include in its results, he said.

Brave isn’t the only company dedicated to Google’s core business. DuckDuckGo, which offers a privacy-focused search engine and mobile browser, said this month that its annual turnover now exceeds $ 100 million and that he plans to launch a desktop browser.

DuckDuckGo, along with Yahoo, Ecosia, StartPage, Qwant, and other smaller search engines, are repackaging Microsoft Bing and Google search results through partnerships with leading search companies.

Google did not immediately comment on this story. But he described his efforts to provide accurate search results and reduce misinformation. especially for COVID-19 Information, in recent blog posts.

Brave built its search engine from Tailcat, which it acquired earlier this year from the German company Hubert Burda Media. Tailcat was designed to provide search results without recording user activity or creating profiles.

Brave launched its first browser five years ago. It is now available on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS and Linux.

The company has grown its user base to 32 million people every month. Eich hopes to reach 50 million by the end of the year.

Get grafted on Google search results

It takes immense resources to scour the entire web for information, build an index of that information, and then evaluate the best results for a given search query. Brave doesn’t build its search index on its own, however.

Instead, the startup is outsourcing the work with the help of Brave users who, if they opt for data sharing, can provide Brave with data on what they are looking for and what search results they click on. , Eich said. This “clickstream” data is anonymized and therefore cannot be tracked by individual users, he said.

Checking the browse data is similar to an approach Microsoft used in Bing – an approach that led to Google loading that Bing copied the Google search results. In 2011, Google manually hardwired its search results to show particular pages for nonsensical searches like “hiybbprqag”. Google employees searched for these terms in computers using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser running the Bing toolbar extension. Bing, in some cases, then started recommending the same pages as Google’s search results.

Eich, like Microsoft, argues that there is nothing wrong with using user journey data in this way. And he says he’s applying a lot of machine learning technologies that go way beyond just copying what comes out of Google’s search engine.

“Rather than copying, we prefer to talk about learning, because we think it’s more precise. Machine learning systems don’t just copy, they aggregate and optimize,” Eich said. “Brave Search is a user-driven machine learning system.”

As for Bing, Eich said that Microsoft “got this hlybbprqag result in its index either by clicking on the bogus result link or blindly scratching the results not clicked by Bing.” The first is “akin to search click fraud,” he said, where people try to manipulate search results by clicking on results they want to see ranked highly. The second possibility would indicate that the click data was not properly verified. “We won’t scratch blindly,” Eich said. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ad blocking and tracking

By default, Brave removes advertisements on the web and blocks website code that can track your behavior on the Internet. Tracker blocking is a feature of competing browsers like Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Chrome, which is built by Google, is also working on privacy controls.

Users can opt for Brave’s own advertising system, a privacy-focused option that returns a portion of the revenue to its users through Brave’s cryptocurrency, called the Basic Attention Token. Those who post YouTube or Twitch websites and videos can also sign up to receive payments from Brave users.

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