Brave launches its own search engine with help from former Cliqz developers and technicians – TechCrunch


Brave, the privacy-focused browser co-founded by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich to launch its own brand search engine for desktop and mobile.

Today it is announced the acquisition of an open source search engine developed by the team behind the Cliqz anti-tracking search browser combo (now defunct). Technology will underpin the future Brave search engine, which means that it will soon provide millions of users with a search and browsing experience entirely without “big tech”.

“Under the hood, almost all search engines today are built or driven by results from big tech companies. In contrast, the Tailcat search engine is built on a completely independent index, capable of delivering the quality people expect but without compromising their privacy, ”Brave wrote in a press release announcing the acquisition.

“Tailcat does not collect IP addresses and does not use personally identifiable information to improve search results.”

Cliqz, which was a European privacy-focused fork of Mozilla’s Firefox browser, was shut down last May after its majority investor, Hubert Burda Media, halted multi-year efforts to build momentum for an alternative to Google – blaming tougher business conditions during the pandemic for forcing it to pull out the plug sooner than it would have liked.

The former Cliqz development team, which later worked on Tailcat, is switching to Brave as part of the acquisition. The engineering team is led by Dr Josep M Pujol – who is quoted in Brave’s press release as saying he is “excited to be working on the only real search / private browser alternative to Big Tech”.

“Tailcat is a fully independent search engine with its own search index built from the ground up,” Eich told TechCrunch. “Tailcat as Brave Search will offer the same privacy guarantees that Brave has in its browser.

“Brave will provide the first private browser + search alternative to Big Tech platforms, and allow users to seamlessly browse and search with guaranteed privacy. Additionally, due to its transparent nature, Brave Search will tackle algorithmic bias and prevent outright censorship. “

The courage to enter the research industry reflects his confidence that confidentiality is becoming commonplace, according to Eich. He points to “unprecedented” growth in browser usage over the past year – from 11 million monthly active users to over 26 million – which he says reflected the sharp increase in the use seen earlier this year by the e2e (nonprofit) encryption. the Signal messaging app (after Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policies to allow increased data sharing with Facebook through WhatsApp work accounts).

“We expect to see even greater demand for Brave in 2021, as more and more users demand genuine privacy solutions to escape the invasive practices of Big Tech,” he added in a statement. “Brave’s mission is to put the user first, and the integration of privacy-preserving research into our platform is a necessary step to ensure that user privacy is not plundered to fuel the economics of surveillance. “

Brave Search will be offered to users alongside a list of more established third parties (Google, Bing, Qwant, Ecosia, etc.) that they can select as their default browser.

It will also potentially become the default (that is, if users don’t choose theirs) in the future, according to Eich.

“We will continue to support ‘open search’ with several alternative engines,” he confirmed. “User choice is an ongoing principle at Brave. Brave will continue to offer several alternative choices for the user’s default search engine, and we believe our users will seek unparalleled privacy with Brave Search. When we’re ready, we hope to make Brave Search the default engine for Brave.

When asked how the quality of results Tailcat delivers compared to Google Eich described it as “quite good”, adding that it “will only get better with adoption.”

“Google’s ‘long tail’ is hard to beat for any engine, but we also intend to compete on this front, once integrated with the Brave browser,” he told us in an interview. via email, claiming that Google’s massive size offers competitive advantages. opportunities for a search rival. “There are aspects where Google is falling behind. It is difficult for them to innovate in research when it is the main source of their income.

“They are averse to the risk of experimenting with new techniques and transparency, while under pressure from shareholders to link their own companies to the rare area of ​​search engine results pages (SERPs) and under pressure from search engine optimization (SEO). “

“On issues like censorship, community feedback, and algorithmic transparency, we believe we can do better from the start. Unlike other search engines, we think the only way to make big improvements is to build again, with the know-how that comes with building, ”he added. “The ability to use Bing (as other search offerings do) instead of building the index exists, but that will only get you into Bing in terms of quality (and as with such offers you will be fully dependent on Bing). “

Brave is aiming for general availability of Brave Search by summer or even late spring, according to Eich. Users interested in testing a first iteration can register for a waiting list here. (A test version is expected in “the next few weeks”.)

The name Tailcat is unlikely to be familiar as it was an internal project that Cliqz had not implemented in its browser before it closed.

Eich says development continued at Burda – “to develop a full-fledged search engine.” (When the holding company hasannounced the formwork of Cliqz, last april, he said Cliqz’s browser and search technologies would be shut down, but also said he would bring in a team of experts – to work on technical issues in areas such as AI and research. .)

“Cliqz offered the SERP-based search engine but had not yet implemented Tailcat in its browser,” Eich said. “After Cliqz closed last April, a Burda development team continued to work on search technology under the new project name Tailcat in order to develop a full-fledged search engine. The team were hoping to find a long-term home for their work to continue their mission, and are delighted to be a part of Brave.

Financial terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed, but we have confirmed that Burda becomes a Brave shareholder as part of the deal.

“We are very happy that our technology is being used at Brave and therefore a An Authentic, Privacy-Friendly Alternative To Google Is Being Created In The Heart Of The Web navigation and search functions, ”said Paul-Bernhard Kallen, CEO of Hubert Burda Media, in a statement. “As a Brave stakeholder, we will continue to be involved in this exciting project. “

While Brave began by focusing on creating an alternative browser – with the idea of ​​rethinking the predominantly ad-supported internet business model by incorporating a cryptocurrency rewards system to generate payments for the creators of content (and paying users for their attention) – it now speaks for itself as a pro-privacy “super app”.

Currently, Brave Browser bundles a privacy-preserving advertising platform (Courageous announcements); news reader (Brave today); and offers a Firewall + VPN service – that it will complete with the next search engine (Courageous research), and a videoconferencing service that preserves confidentiality (Brave together) which is also in preparation.

The unifying brand proposition for its “super app” is a commitment to providing users with true control over their online experience, unlike traditional alternatives.

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