Brave's new privacy-focused search engine takes aim at Google

Brave says its search results come from its own built-from-scratch index.

Chromium-based browser maker Brave has launched a beta of its Brave search engine in a bid to create a privacy-focused alternative to Google. 

The new search engine puts Brave into the category of firms that have both a browser and a search engine: Google, Microsoft, Yandex and Baidu are also among these companies with both. 

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Brave acquired the search engine Tailcat in March and promised to take on Google by approaching online search with a greater focus on privacy. Brave said its search is built on top of a completely independent index, and doesn't track users, their searches, or their clicks. "Brave has its own search index for answering common queries privately without reliance on other providers," it said. In contrast Duck Duck Go uses Microsoft's Bing to power its results, it notes.

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Brave is promoting the idea of privacy-protecting ads that can pay publishers and users with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) when users pay attention to ads. It's also opposing Google's emerging new system for tracking users online without cookies, called FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts.

Brave's newly launched search engine can be used from any browser on desktop or mobile at search.brave.com.

The company claims it now has 32 million monthly active users of the Brave browser, up from 25 million in February. It also claims that over 100,000 people signed up for preview access to the new search engine. 

The Brave search user interface more closely resembles Google's simple white homepage than Microsoft's busy Bing page with nature scenes behind the search box and news tiles at the bottom of the page. Brave's search box however includes one more detail than Google's, stating to users that they can "Search the web privately".   

There are settings options in the hamburger menu in the top right of the UI, but users can't sign in yet with a Brave account, which would limit search across devices. The Brave browser, however, does enable sync, and it's been updated to include the Brave Search beta as an option to choose from. 

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Brave offers light and dark mode for search, as well as settings to choose whether users want to see units of measurement in US form (pounds, feet and Fahrenheit) or in metric form (kilograms, meters, Celsius). There are also options for anonymous local search results. 

"Anonymous local search results will use the IP address broadcast by your device but without sharing that IP address and without storing it," Brave notes. It also explains what metrics it's measuring and does provide the option to disable anonymous usage metrics data collection. However, metrics data collection is on by default. Preferred language options are coming soon.     

"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," said Brendan Eich, CEO and co-founder of Brave

"Unlike older search engines that track and profile users, and newer search engines that are mostly a skin on older engines and don't have their own indexes, Brave Search offers a new way to get relevant results with a community-powered index, while guaranteeing privacy. Brave Search fills a clear void in the market today as millions of people have lost trust in the surveillance economy and actively seek solutions to be in control of their data."