Google gives European Android users the option of voting for a default search engine

Google gives European Android users the option of voting for a default search engine
Back in July of 2018, the European Union fined Google the equivalent of $5.04 billion for anti-competitive behavior. According to the regulators, Google forced phone manufacturers who wanted to license its version of Android to preinstall Google Search and Google Chrome on their devices. In addition, Google paid some manufacturers if they loaded only one Search app on their phones. That was Google Search, of course. And Google also tried to block manufacturers from selling handsets running an unlicensed (but open-source) version of Android.

You don't have to be one of the Parker Brothers to understand that this could be construed as monopolistic behavior on the part of Google. The EU demanded that Google make Android users in Europe aware that they aren't saddled with Google's Android apps, and last April the company debuted a couple of new pages that appeared on Android phones in Europe. These pages appeared the first time that the Google Play Store was opened following an update; one page showed that the Google Search search engine was installed on a particular Android device and the heading read: "You can choose additional search services for your device." Four third-party search engines were on the list, Qwant, Duck Duck Go, Ecosia Browser, and A button was next to each one allowing the user to select additional search engines for his handset besides Google Search.

Google is giving Android users in Europe an option to choose a default search browser from among four choices

Another page was headed "You can choose additional web browsers for your device." At the top, Google Chrome was shown as having been already installed. Other options included Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera Web Browser and the Puffin Web Browser.

According to The Verge, starting on March 1st, Google will show a similar page to Android users in Europe that will ask them to select their default search engine. Last year, Google Search had already be selected as default and users were selecting an alternative. This year, Google points out that "The choice you make will determine the search box on your home screen and in Chrome. If you don't have the provider's app, it will be downloaded from Play." Each country in the EU has four different options, and each provider bids to be placed among the four candidates by telling Google how much it is willing to pay every time an Android user selects its search engine to be the default. The three highest bidders are shown to users with the search engine selected by the user paying Google the amount offered by the fourth-highest bid. This is repeated three times a year.

Because the providers listed on the page are not ranked by popularity but by the amount they are willing to pay Google, Microsoft's Bing search engine only appears as an option in the U.K. In the latter country, search engines are liable to pocket more money from ads allowing Microsoft to bid higher. As you might imagine, rival search engines are not pleased with this system. DuckDuckGo's CEO Gabriel Weinberg called this process "pay to play" and said that "Google will profit at the expense of the competition." Weinberg's counterpart at Qwant said that Google was abusing its position as the dominant search engine to "ask for cash just for showing a proposal of alternatives."

Another search engine named Ecosia did not get involved in the auction; its CEO and founder Christian Kroll called Google's decision to use an auction process "at odds with the spirit of the July 2018 EU Commission ruling." Kroll said that he will be talking with European Union legislators about what he calls Google's monopolistic behavior.

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