What you need to know
- Google's auction-based search choice system is going away after backlash from rival search companies.
- In replacement, a system that includes up to 12 search engines will come into play on new Android devices.
- This change is rolling out from September 1.
Google will be altering its search choice screen for Android users in Europe. From September 1, users will be able to see an expanded list of up to twelve search services. Previously, the company offered four choices, each one based on an auction.
Google is retiring the auction due to feedback from both the European Commission and search companies, instead opting to promote the top 5 search services in each eligible country, that is, the European Economic Area and the United Kingdom. It will now display the top five most popular search services in each applicable country, followed by up to seven other eligible services in a randomized placement.
Writing in a blog post, Google's Oliver Bethell said:
Reporting on the original ballot, Android Central noted that it was "little ironic that Google is giving away places for its Android choice screen via an auction as opposed to a more equitable schema" and was a move that didn't quite comply with the "spirit of the EU's decision."
Rival search providers also came out hard against it. DuckDuckGo had also argued that as phones can scroll, Google's limit of only four was arbitrary and the auction process itself unfair. In October 2020, Qwant CEO Jean-Claude Ghinozzi also spoke out strongly against the search auction alongside a coalition of other providers, telling TechCrunch:
It's not clear that a choice screen would result in users actively choosing alternative search engines. This didn't happen for Windows browsers back on Microsoft, and there's no indication that it did for Android users in 2020. However, more user choice is always better. Users may find out that they like Bing for its Rewards or DuckDuckGo for privacy after taking a chance and giving it a try.
That said, Google's competitors are pleased with this change. In an emailed statement to Android Central, Kamyl Bazbaz, a DuckDuckGo spokesperson, said:
Why would anyone choose anything other than Google for search, Google is the undisputed leader in search, browser and smartphone OS, it's not Google's fault that it's rivals are inferior.
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