Brave Search Launches AI-Powered SERP Summarizer
Brave Search is the latest to follow suit in the AI search game. Its new tool, The Summarizer, places a concise AI-generated summary at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). The feature draws upon existing web content to aggregate results. Brave makes the claim this is a more reliable approach compared to other “purely generative” AI models.
Launched back in 2016, Brave is a free web browser developed by Brave Software and built on Chromium — the same open-source code behind Google Chrome. It was released as a beta in March 2021, following acquisition of the ‘Tailcat’ search engine index.
Under the mantra of ‘Search Without a Trace’, Brave Search sets out to offer its users a private and transparent search experience. It neither collects nor shares user data and it uses anonymous search queries to protect privacy. A key aspect is that it has its own independent index. As such, there is no reliance on another search engine to provide results.
Brave introduced its AI SERP Summarizer SERP last week. The tool uses large language models (LLMs) to form an answer from existing pages on the web. Brave Software claims this is a trustworthy and less error-prone way of doing things compared to “purely generative” AI models.
Well, let’s ask it ourselves: “What’s the Brave Search SERP Summariser?”
“Brave Search Summarizer is an AI-powered SERP feature that provides concise answers (generally two or three sentences), with one or multiple citations, to user search queries based on search results found on the web.”
As Brave’s Summarizer admits, answers are limited to a brief paragraph — invariably two or three sentences. Nevertheless, Brave Software has in some sense beaten Microsoft and Google to the punch, given that ChatGPT and Bard features (for Bing and Chrome, respectively) are only available in a restricted beta state.
Brave’s LLMs have been developed to process “multiple sources of information present on the web,” so as to avoid “unsubstantiated assertions” — no doubt a veiled reference to reports of ChatGPT and Bard going awry.
“Unlike AI chat tools which can provide fabricated responses, the Summarizer generates a plain-written summary at the top of the search results page, aggregating the latest sources on the Web and providing source attribution for transparency and accountability”
The Summarizer tool uses three known LLMs trained on different tasks: (1) question answering, (2) zero-shot filtering, and (3) a summariser/paraphraser.
Question Answering: Using LLMs trained on vast amounts of text data, this model attempts to extract an appropriate answer from text snippets crawled from websites.
Zero-shot filtering: Filtering is the process of selecting or excluding data based on specific criteria (eg., hate-speech, vulgar writing, spam).
Summarizer/Paraphraser: The best answers are summarised into a brief and readable response, free from repetition.
Let’s test the summarizer with a few more questions.
First off: “What is SEO?”
Answer: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results.
Here, the tool is taking two sources of information — one from mailchimp.com and the other from moz.com — and aggregating that info into a single paragraph.
Let’s try another: “What was the American War of Independence?”
Answer: “The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783) was a military conflict in which American patriot forces under George Washington’s command defeated the British, establishing and securing the independence of the United States.”
Wikipedia is the only source for this answer, but the tool is doing its job by reducing the key information taken from the Wikipedia lead section. The point is that this is not a copy-paste of the original text.
This is what differentiates Brave’s tool from the text presented at the top of other SERPs. On Google Search, for example, Snippets are the highlighted search results that appear at the top of Google’s organic search results, providing a summary of the content on a webpage that Google thinks best matches the user’s search query. However, such information is extracted direct from the source page.
Because the Summarizer draws upon up-to-date web sources, it is capable of delivering current information in real-time. That stands in contrast with ChatGPT, for instance, which has no reference data beyond September 2021.
In addition to the summary feature, Brave Search now highlights relevant sentences in listed results. Previously, it had only highlighted search keywords from the page description.
Let’s test Brave’s Summarizer with something more recent:
Not bad. At least, this was one lucky attempt.
Unfortunately, Brave’s Summarizer only shows up on the SERP for 17% of search results at present. That’s too low a figure to make much difference to one’s search experience (there’s less than a 1-in-5 chance you’ll ever see it) and it’s especially rare to see the summarizer show up for any sort of topical searches. Brave promises to grow that number “in the near future.” They also make their own concessions:
“Although the industry is generating much hype around AI, at Brave we are not yet convinced that LLMs can replace search as we know it. However, if used properly, these new models can help the user navigate results, which is the approach we follow with the Summarizer.”
Brave’s own AI tool is also capable of making mistakes. There’s the potential for errors can arise if the summary accidentally aggregates information from two disparate or contradictory sources. Using the AI computing terminology, Brave refers to such mistakes as “hallucinations”:
“Besides scalability, a tremendous effort has been put into ensuring the quality of the generated summaries … However, as the model is still in its early phase of development, there is the possibility of producing ‘hallucinations’, which mix unrelated snippets into a single result.”
The main challenge to the success of Brave’s Summarizer may be whether or not users really care if the webpage summaries appearing in their SERP are direct snippets, or if they would prefer aggregated, partially-AI answers. The reality is that, more often than not, the highest-ranking pages on the SERP are the highest-ranking for a reason. (Are you feeling lucky?) Users who would prefer not to use the Summarizer can turn it off by opting out in settings. For the time being, Brave’s Summarizer is a neat trick with the potential to gain more relevance when it attains broader coverage of web searches.