Google’s grip on the web has never been stronger. Its Chrome web browser has almost 70% of the market and its search engine has a whopping 92% share. That’s a lot of data – and ad revenue – for one of the most powerful companies in the world.
But Google’s dominance is in question. Regulators question its monopoly position and claim the company has used anti-competitive tactics to strengthen its dominance. At the same time, a new wave of rivals from Google are hoping to capitalize on a greater public desire for online privacy.
Two years after the public launch of a privacy-focused browser, Brave, founded by former Mozilla executive Brendan Eich, is also taking charge of Google’s search activity. Brave Search’s announcement puts upstarts in the rare position of taking both Google’s browser and search domination.
Eich says that Courageous research, which has opened a waitlist and will launch in the first half of this year, will not track or profile who uses it. “Brave already has an anonymous user model by default without any data collection,” he says, adding that this will continue in his search engine. No IP addresses will be collected and the company is investigating how they can create both a paid and ad-free search engine and one with ads.
But creating a search engine is not easy. It takes a lot of time and, above all, money. Google’s search algorithms have spent decades crawling the web, building an index of hundreds of billions of sites, and ranking them in search results.
Google’s depth of indexing has helped secure its leadership position in the market. Globally, its closest rival is Microsoft’s Bing, which has only 2.7 percent of the market. Bing’s own web index also helps deliver results with other Google rivals, such as DuckDuckGo which uses it as one of the 400 sources that power search results.
Eich says Brave isn’t starting its search engine or index from scratch and won’t use indexes from Bing or other tech companies. Instead, Brave bought Tailcat, an offshoot of German search engine Cliqz, which was owned by Hubert Burda Media and which closed last year. The purchase includes an index of the web created by Tailcat and the technology that powers it. Eich says some users will have the option to opt-in for anonymous data collection to help narrow search results.
“What Tailcat does is review a query log and a click log anonymously,” Eich explains. “These allow it to create an index, which Tailcat has done and already done at Cliqz, and it is growing.” He admits that the index won’t be as deep as Google’s, but that the best results it shows are largely the same.
“It’s the web that interests people,” says Eich. “You don’t have to crawl the entire web in near real time like Google does.”
The Brave Search team is also working on filters, called Goggles, which will allow users to create a series of sources from which search results are pulled. Users can, for example, use filters to only display reviews of products that do not contain affiliate links. A filter can also be set to display only independent media results.
And Google may soon have even more competition. There have been unconfirmed reports that Apple is building its own search engine, even if it could make it lose billions of dollars Google pays to be the default search choice on their Safari browser. Another competition comes from Neeva, built by former Google engineers who plan to use a research subscription model; You.com, which is in an early testing phase; and British start-up Mojeek, which has crawled over three billion web pages using its own crawler technology.