April 20, 2024
Browser alternatives Brave, Arc, add new AI integrations


Generative AI isn’t just for making content — it’s also here to upend web browsing.

That’s according to two privacy-focused web browser startups, Arc and Brave, both of which this week announced new generative AI powered features for their browsers.

Arc adds Perplexity as a default browser search bar option

Arc, the minimalistic browser created by startup the Browser Company, added the ability for users to switch their default search engine in the browser tab to the new Perplexity generative AI search engine, from the current options of Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo! (powered by Bing), DuckDuckGo, and Yandex.

Aravind Srinivas, CEO and co-founder of Perplexity, posted on the social network X about the news triumphantly on Friday:

It’s great news for Perplexity, which is aiming to offer a large language model (LLM)-powered web search tool to rival Google and Bing, providing intelligent, updated summaries along with links to sources, and which many users say is already better than those older search options. The AI startup also recently announced a $73.6 million Series B funding round backed by giants including Nvidia and Databricks.

Now, with the Arc integration, Perplexity has a whole new group of users that it can tap into and searches it can run on their behalf, further improving its AI models and cultivating what it hopes will be a growing and loyal userbase.

The creators of Arc also view the new integration as a major boon for them and their users. As Browser Company CEO Josh Miller posted on his X account on Friday: “AI Search is the next frontier & it will be distributed via the Browser too. It’s our chance to start anew. Let’s do it!”

Srinivas also accused Google of having a “monopoly” on the search market and supported Miller’s tweet noting that Google’s Chrome browser, created in part of current CEO Satya Nadella, is “where most of Google’s Ad $ comes from.”

Brave builds in Mistral’s powerful open-source LLM Mixtral

Brave, by contrast, is going even further: the privacy-focused browser startup this week announced that Leo, its AI browser chatbot assistant, is getting upgraded with Mixtral 8x7B, an open source LLM developed by the French startup Mistral and based on Meta’s Llama.

Released in December 2023, Mixtral 8x6B has shown to be among the (if not the single) most powerful and performant LLMs presently available in the world, according to third-party benchmark tests.

It makes sense that Brave would want its Leo AI assistant to be powered by this model by default. When it was first introduced in preview mode in August 2023, Leo, which is designed to summarize the information on the webpage the user is visiting and answer questions about the contents, was powered by Llama 2.

However, with the third-party benchmarking showing Mixtral 8x6B outperforms it with its “mixture of experts” approach (which leverages multiple different LLMs for different tasks), of course Brave would want to use the best model for the job. At the same time, users can still choose between Mixtral 8x7B, Claude Instant by Anthropic, or Llama 2 13B from Meta to power the Leo assistant experience.

Brave included the following chart below to show off the differences in its offerings, all of which feature privacy features by using a “reverse-proxy” server to mask which user any particular query is coming from.

Credit: Brave

“Since its release, Brave Leo has been adopted by tens of thousands of free tier users and paid subscribers, and we expect even greater adoption as we expand our availability of LLMs to include Mixtral,” said Brian Bondy, CTO and co-founder at Brave, in a statement in Brave’s blog post announcing the update. “Our aim is to create novel and convenient use cases in the context of users’ browsing sessions, and to help our users interact with the Web in groundbreaking ways.” 

Sign of the times?

Brave and Arc collectively make up just a minuscule fraction of the total desktop web browser market share, according to web host Kinsta — though it is difficult to say for sure how much as both browsers seek to disguise user activity, and therefore may appear to advertisers and site owners as other brands of browsers, including Chrome and Firefox.

Yet, both are attempting to create a better, faster, simpler, and more private web browsing experience than market leader Chrome and its distant runners-up Firefox and Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer (deprecated) on desktop, and Apple’s Safari browser on desktop and mobile.

Therefore, their embrace of new AI tools does signal where their creators believe the future of web browsing and search is headed: towards an AI-driven user experience, where either an AI search engine or chatbot assistant will help you summarize the content and engage you in a QA or dialog about it, if you so wish, as opposed to the more “static,” passive reading web experience of yore.

Now the main question remains: will the legacy market leaders — Google, Microsoft, Apple — follow suit, and if so, how, using what AI models? Also: will consumers embrace these features?

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