Microsoft’s AI-boosted Bing and Google’s Bard have begun testing the latest type of AI technology, the large 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 abilities directly into 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 that with footnoted links to its information sources. It’s also designed to offer richer snippets of text that you see in more ordinary search results.
It’s a new example of an overhaul that’s sweeping the search engine business. Google for years has been adding more direct answers to search queries, showing maps, business hours, song lyrics and product recommendations along with traditional links to others’ websites. The AI revolution is taking this utility to a new level, for example with Bing’s new AI-boosted search results and sometimes-fraught conversational abilities.
Large language models such as the one that powers ChatGPT are trained to recognize patterns from vast swaths of text from the internet. They can deliver impressive results, synthesizing coherent sentences and even writing essays about an immense variety of subjects. But LLM AIs don’t truly know anything and their authoritative tone can be misleading. Brave, which built its own LLM for Summarizer, offered cautions about its use.
“It’s crucial to remind users that one should not believe everything an AI system produces, in much the same way one should not believe everything that is published on the Web,” Brave said of Summarizer. “At the risk of stating the obvious, we should not suspend critical thinking for anything we consume, no matter how impressive the results of AI models can be.”
In my testing, it delivered useful results for some queries — for example, “What is pixel binning?” and “What do the numbers on tire sidewalls mean?” But it also struggled to coherently handle time elements for current-events questions like, “What happened with the Chinese spy balloon?” and “Will the EU approve Microsoft’s Activision acquisition?”
Brave offers a feedback button for comments on its Summarizer results, and the feature can be disabled in settings.
Brave is an unusual example of an independent browser company that carved a niche for itself despite the dominance of Google’s Chrome and, to a lesser degree, 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 got a foothold in the browser market by stripping ads and tracking technology out of websites by default, substituting its own privacy-first ad technology as an alternative. About 57 million people now use the browser each month, and the search engine that the company built into the browser now fields 22 million queries per day.
Summarizer is available now on desktop and mobile browsers.