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Brave browser just swapped out Google for its own privacy-focused search engine

A close-up of the Brave browser listing in the Google Play app store displayed on an Android smartphone.
(Image credit: Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock)

After months of buildup, the makers of the Brave browser have finally made the company's own privacy-focused search engine, appropriately named "Brave Search," the primary search engine on the Brave browser.

"Brave Search is built on top of an independent index and doesn't track users, their searches or their clicks," the company said in a press release yesterday (Oct. 19).

Brave Search is now the default search engine on new installations of the desktop version of Brave, as well as the Brave Android and iOS apps, in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other countries will be switched over later. 

Existing Brave users are unaffected, but can always switch their browser's search engine to Bing, Brave, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Google, Qwant or Startpage. Anyone can use Brave Search from any browser at https://search.brave.com/.

Brave is a Chromium-based browser that's been around for a couple of years. We use Brave a lot, as it's fast, strips out most ads and works just as well as Chrome does with Google's online services.

How to make Brave Search your default

To set Brave Search as your default search engine in the Brave Browser, tap the three vertical lines at the top right of the browser window and scroll down to and click Settings. 

On the resulting page, click "Search engine" in the left-hand navigation bar. A drop-down menu at the top of the page lets you choose your search engine. 

"As we know from experience in many browsers, the default setting is crucial for adoption," Brave CEO Brendan Eich said. "Brave Search has reached the quality and critical mass needed to become our default search option, and to offer our users a seamless privacy-by-default online experience."

Eich co-founded Mozilla and created JavaScript previously in his career, and was briefly CEO of Mozilla until it became known he'd contributed to a California political campaign opposing same-sex marriage.

Back in June 2021 when Brave Search entered public beta testing, Eich told Tom's Guide that the new search engine was designed to be "the first multi-platform, private, browser/search alternative to the Big Tech platforms."

In a statement of principles posted online in June, Brave promised that Brave Search would not track or profile users, would use its own search engine whenever possible (it reaches out to Bing and Google when it has to) and would be transparent about its search algorithms and ranking systems.

However, Brave Search reserves the right to show ads like Google does, although it isn't doing so yet. Users who want to avoid ads will have to pay an undisclosed amount.

How well does Brave Search work?

We took Brave Search out for a spin in June, and again today (Oct. 20). It's nearly the equal of Google and Bing for general queries such as "fish," displaying map results, related questions and videos as well as relevant web links, though it's not as good with images. 

For more specific results, Brave still does pretty well, though it's the area in which Google excels. 

A search for "Calliaqua," a town on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, returned the Wikipedia page in the top position, but some of Brave's (and Bing's) other top results were for a luxury villa of the same name on the neighboring island of Barbados. Google did better, putting the links to the Barbados resort much lower on the page.

There's a gear icon on the top right of each Brave Search results window — click it and you'll see how many of the search results were Brave-only. For "fish," Brave retrieved 97% of its own results. However, for "Calliaqua," Brave still returned 97% of its own results, which is pretty impressive.

Optional collection of user browsing data

Brave also announced the launch of the Web Discovery Project, an opt-in setting to the Brave browser that sends anonymized usage data to the company, ostensibly to fine-tune the search engine. It can work no matter which search engine you have set as your preferred default, which leads us to wonder if it might also be used to fine-tune ad results.

To opt into the Web Discovery Project, go into the Settings as above. The toggle switch is right under the search-engine selector.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.