Anyone can create or change Goggles. However, at the time of the beta release, Brave created eight different Goggles as examples. (It says these will be deleted once people create their own). Examples of these include Goggles reranking search results to remove copycat pages, removing search results from the top 1000 sites, boosting content on tech blogs, and more.
Brave created Goggles (which it first outlined in a 2021 white paper) to try to help remove bias in search results, including Brave searches, and give people more choice, Pujol said. “Bias is everywhere: underlying data, which sites are easier to crawl, which models to choose, feature selection, presentation bias, popularity, the list goes on indefinitely,” Pujol said. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to remove all bias from search results.
“Goggles will allow the creation of universes that multiple users can search,” said Uri Gal, professor of business information systems at the University of Sydney. Gal added that the move has been welcomed in a search market that has seen “little innovation or competition” over the past few decades. “This will reduce the risk of people getting a single view — or the part of reality they’re interested in — created and maintained by a single platform (e.g. Google, Facebook) based on proprietary algorithms,” Gal said.
Brave knows that people may use Goggles to reinforce their worldview and filter topics that match their existing beliefs. At the time of publication, both right-leaning and left-leaning political goggles were created by AllSides, an American company that rates media organizations for political bias. “We believe in free speech, and therefore, we cannot decide what is right or wrong,” Puyol said. “People using Goggles are consciously acting when they apply Goggles, and a contrarian view should be readily available. This clarity is itself an improvement over the current context, where the change occurs without the user being aware of it down.”
Brave said it will treat Goggles like all online results and “will not review or police them” unless required to do so by law, such as removing instances of child sexual abuse material.
Still, there are questions about how this will work in reality. “Implementing bias control is a deliberate move,” said Bart Willemsen, analyst, Gartner’s vice president focused on privacy, adding that he expects Goggles to produce positive results. “With the vast amount of information available, both disinformation and disinformation, properly sorting out what is considered relevant and what is irrelevant or even untrue is a daunting task,” Willemsen said.
Despite Google’s dominance, there is a booming market for privacy-focused alternative search engines that claim not to track users or use their personal information for creepy ads. This includes Brave, which launched its beta search feature last year. These include DuckDuckGo, StartPage, and Mojeek, which have slightly different privacy notices and work. (DuckDuckGo uses Bing to help enhance its search results, while StartPage is based on Google.) While billions of searches are made each year with Google alternatives, it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to Google’s dominance.
The search results displayed by the company, although based on a variety of factors, can be controversial. Companies may face difficulties expanding political content and free speech issues. In October 2021, Twitter admitted that its algorithms amplify right-wing politicians more than left-wing politicians. More recently, the far right has complained that DuckDuckGo is limiting Russian propaganda, even though its results are provided in part by Microsoft’s Bing. By contrast, a 2019 study by Stanford University researchers found that Google’s search results were not biased towards any one political affiliation.
When Brave first pitched the idea of Goggles in 2021, it said it would make a proposal to include Goggles in any other search engine. So far, there hasn’t been any conversation about this, Pujol said. Significant changes to the status quo may be unlikely. “I don’t see Google or any other major platform integrating user-defined goggles,” Barnet said. “It interferes with the way they serve you personalized ads, and the way they collect your activity data to serve ads. In other words, it interferes with their business model.”