Microsoft’s AI-enhanced Bing and Google’s Bard have begun testing the latest type of AI technology, the big language models that packed such a big wow factor into OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But a much smaller player, Brave, on Thursday added some of those language-processing capabilities directly to its web browser with a feature that summarizes search results.
The feature, called Summarizer, generates some abbreviated explanations for questions in some search results, combining this with below-the-line links to its information sources. It’s also designed to offer richer text snippets than you see in more ordinary search results.
This is a new example of an overhaul that is sweeping the search engine business. Google has been adding more direct answers to search queries for years, showing maps, business hours, song lyrics and product recommendations alongside traditional links to others’ websites. The AI revolution is taking this utility to a new level, for example with the new Bing search results, enhanced with artificial intelligence and sometimes difficult conversational abilities.
Large language models like the one that powers ChatGPT are trained to recognize patterns from huge chunks of text from the Internet. They can produce impressive results by synthesizing coherent sentences and even writing essays on a huge variety of topics. But LLM AIs really don’t know anything and their authoritative tone can be misleading. Brave, which built its own LLM for Summarizer, offered caveats about its use.
“It’s critical to remind users that one shouldn’t trust everything an AI system produces, much the same way one shouldn’t trust everything posted on the web,” Brave told Summarizer. “At the risk of stating the obvious, we shouldn’t stop thinking critically about anything we consume, no matter how impressive the results of AI models may be.”
In my testing, it provided useful results for some queries – for example, “What is pixel grouping?” and “What do the numbers on tire sidewalls mean?” But it also struggles to coherently process the elements of time for current affairs questions like “What happened to the Chinese spy bubble?” and “Will the EU approve Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision?”
Brave offers a feedback button for comments on Summarizer results, and the feature can be disabled in the settings.
Brave is an unusual example of an independent browser company that has carved out a niche for itself despite the dominance of Google’s Chrome and, to a lesser extent, Apple’s Safari. The company relies on Chromium, the Google-led software project that underpins Chrome, but has built its own search engine and ad system.
Brave has established itself in the browser market by removing ads and tracking technology from websites by default, substituting its own privacy-first ad technology as an alternative. About 57 million people now use the browser every month, and the search engine that the company built into the browser now fields 22 million queries a day.
Summarizer is now available on desktop and mobile browsers.