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Brave Search Enters the Ring - How Does It Fare Against the Competition?
On top of that, Brave Search will eventually implement community-curated open ranking models. Users will be able to anonymously contribute to the system which will help diversify results and prevent censorship. Keep in mind that Brave has not finalized what kind of system it will be, but you can read their paper about it here.
While this sounds nice, there are already other alternatives out there. In Brave's announcement, it proclaimed its new search engine to be the "first independent privacy search/browser alternative to big tech". I mean... it's technically true as other independent privacy search engines do not have their own browsers. However, is Brave Search actually good? Can it thrive after the "shiny new thing" phase ends?
Where Does Brave Search Fall Under the Spectrum?
Not all privacy-focused engines are created equal as already demonstrated in the image above. However, DuckDuckGo is just one of the many alternatives already available. I did a writeup for the SearchWithPresearch competition back in March where I compared Presearch with other privacy-focused search sites like DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Startpage, Metager, SearX, and Mojeek.
DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Startpage, Metager, and SearX all source their results from other sites like Bing and Yandex. In contrast, Brave Search is not a metasearch engine is more akin to Presearch and Mojeek who are truly independent. When it comes to centralization vs. decentralization, Brave Search belongs to the former category. Presearch and SearX are decentralized where users can run their own instances or nodes to contribute to the systems.
Overall, Brave Search is most similar to Presearch.
How Well Does It Run?
Brave Search will measure how much your results come from its own index. On the sidebar, it will display your own percentage and the general percentage. Currently, the general percentage is 87% and my personal percentage is 94% which is pretty good. Brave is hoping that it can get that up to 100% when the final product launches.
In terms of search results, whenever I search for the same topic on both Brave and Presearch, the results are usually different in terms of how they are ordered. For an interesting experiment, I intentionally searched for something that would probably confuse the engines: the Gray's Anatomy textbook (not to be confused with the TV show, Grey's Anatomy). On Brave, it thought that I was looking for the TV show, so it changed my search to "grey's anatomy". As a result, results for the textbook didn't show up.
In contrast, Presearch's first result was the Wikipedia article for the textbook and its fifth result was a link to buying the textbook on Elsevier. For reference, Google also produced similar results to Presearch's. When I told Brave to search instead for the actual textbook, the results were similar.
I've been very satisfied with Presearch and have continued to use it as my main engine. However, I would be lying if I said that I do not wish for Presearch to add some more bells and whistles. The one thing that really stood out to me was how the Brave Search UI is very similar to DuckDuckGo's. As someone who used DuckDuckGo as my go-to engine before I switched to Presearch, everything felt very familiar.
For instance, when you image search, just like with DuckDuckGo, you can fine tune your results by specifically requesting for large images, GIFs, pictures with transparent backgrounds, and so forth. Unfortunately, Presearch does not have this sort of feature.
In addition, when you search for something, Brave will automatically provide suggestions underneath. Sometimes, depending on what you're looking for, the suggestions may come with an accompanying thumbnail. Overall, it's pretty a nice touch.
Closing Thoughts: Will I Switch?
The overall experience was very positive and I was impressed on the polish the Brave team put in. As a former frequent DuckDuckGo user, I felt right at home with the fine tuning options for general, image, news, and video searches. The question is whether Brave Search good enough to convince me to migrate from Presearch.
While I was satisfied with how well it ran and while Presearch may lack certain features Brave Search has, I will still main on the former for one main reason: the rewards. With Presearch, I have earned a bunch for PRE from making searches and running a node (you can check out my Linux Mint tutorial here and my overall experience here).
That said, it is possible that Brave Search will implement a similar ad rewards system to what the browser currently has. However, just to reiterate so as to not get your hopes up, the Brave team has only acknowledged it as a possibility. Based on its answer in the FAQ page, it looks like ads with rewards on Brave Search won't happen in the near future.
All in all, I'm pretty happy earning PRE on Presearch while earning BAT on the Brave Browser. But if you're someone who is not satisfied with Presearch's performance, maybe Brave Search will be that viable alternative.