Google is almost ready to release a new search provider selection screen in the EU, but it’s not doing so by choice. Last year, the EU ordered Google to offer placement to other search engines in Android, and Google is complying in the most Google way possible. It has conducted an auction for spots in the setup flow, and now the results are in. DuckDuckGo is a big winner, and Bing is almost entirely absent.
The EU antitrust decision in 2018 hammered Google for its practice of integrating Google Search with Android. If users wanted to use a different search engine, they had to manually install it and change the defaults. That’s a fine setup in most countries, but the EU is much more aggressive about pursuing antitrust matters. In addition to ordering Google to change its practices, it imposed a record $5 billion fine.
Google might end up recouping some of that loss when the new selection screen rolls out. The company opted to go with a “fourth-price” auction to choose the search providers. For each EU country, providers were invited to bid on one of the four spots. The three top bids get a place on the selection screen along with Google. However, they don’t pay the amount of their proposal. Each time a user selects a search engine, that company pays Google the amount of the fourth-highest bid. The selection screen controls which engine appears as the default in Chrome and the home screen search widget. The phone also downloads the search app from the Play Store automatically.
The search selection screen will appear on all Android phones set up in the EU starting march 1st. Google has provided a full list of which search engines will appear in each EU country, and DuckDuckGo will be an option in every nation. That means the company put in competitive bids everywhere, but Microsoft seemed awfully uninterested for a company that routinely criticizes Google’s practices in the EU. Bing will only appear as an option in the UK, which is a more valuable market than most of Europe. Info.com will also be listed in all EU countries, and Yandex will appear in most of Eastern Europe.
Some search providers expressed annoyance at Google’s auction setup, believing it was inappropriate for Google to profit from the EU decision. DuckDuckGo was among them, but it ended up participating in the auction nonetheless. Ecosia, which uses its profits to plant trees, called the process an abuse of Google’s market position and opted to boycott the auction.
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