Anyone can create or modify a Goggle. But at the beta launch, Brave created eight different Goggles as examples. (It says that these will be deleted when people create their own). These examples include Goggles to rearrange search results to remove copycat pages, remove search results from top 1,000 sites, boost content found on technical blogs and more.
Pujol says Brave created Goggles – as it first outlined in a 2021 White Paper – to help remove biases from search results, including those in Brave’s search, and give people more choice. “Prejudices are everywhere: the underlying data, which sites are easier to crawl, which models are selected, feature selection, presentation bias, popularity, the list can go on and on,” says Pujol. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove all biases from the search results.
“Goggles will allow the creation of more universes for users to search,” said Uri Gal, a professor of business information systems at the University of Sydney. Gal adds that the move is welcome in a search market that has “seen little innovation or competition” over the past few decades. “It would reduce the risk of people getting a single view of reality – or the part of reality that they are interested in – that is created and maintained by a single platform (eg Google, Facebook) based on proprietary algorithms , “says Gal.
Brave knows that people can use Goggles to strengthen their worldview and filter out topics that match their existing beliefs. At launch, both right-wing and left-leaning political goggles have been created by AllSides, a US company that rates media organizations for their political bias. “We believe in freedom of speech, and as such it is not up to us to decide what is right or wrong,” Pujol said. “The person wearing the Goggles takes a conscious action when using a Goggle, and conflicting perspectives should be readily available. This explicitness alone is an improvement over the current landscape where this kind of change is made without the user discover it.”
Brave says it will treat Goggles the same way it does all web results, and “does not censor or monitor them” unless it is required to do so legally, such as removing cases of child sexual abuse material .
But there are questions about how it will work in reality. “Exercising bias control is an act for the thoughtful,” says Bart Willemsen, a VP analyst with a focus on privacy at Gartner, who adds that he hopes Goggles can have positive results. “In the abundance of information that is available, including dis- and misinformation, it is a huge task to correctly cure what is believed to be relevant and what is not or even untrue,” says Willemsen.
Despite Google’s dominance, there is a booming market for alternative privacy-focused search engines that claim not to track users or use their personal information for creepy ads. This includes Brave, which launched its search in beta last year. Among others – all with slightly different privacy requirements and ways of working – are DuckDuckGo, StartPage and Mojeek. (DuckDuckGo uses Bing to help drive its search results, while StartPage is based on Google.) While billions of searches with Google alternatives are made every year, it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to Google’s dominance.
The search results that companies show while being based on several factors can prove to be controversial. Businesses may encounter difficulties in reinforcing political content and issues of freedom of expression. In October 2021, Twitter admitted that its algorithm amplifies right-wing politicians more than left-wing ones. Recently, people on the far right have complained that DuckDuckGo restricted Russian propaganda, even though the results were partially provided by Microsoft’s Bing. In contrast, a 2019 study by Stanford University researchers found that Google’s search results did not favor any of the politicians.
When Brave debuted its idea for Goggles in 2021, the company said it would open an offer to incorporate Goggles into any other search engine. So far, says Pujol, there have been no conversations about this. And major changes in the status quo are unlikely. “I do not see Google or any other major platform integrating custom Goggles,” says Barnet. “It would disrupt the way they tailor advertising to you and how they collect data about your activity to deliver that advertising. In other words, it would disrupt their business model.”