Google: Search engines should pay for recommendation on Android
Android devices operated in the European Union will soon display a selection of search engines to users. Three search engines, next to Google Search, which is the default on most Android devices, will be presented to the user of the device; third-party earch engines need to fill out an application form and may need to pay Google for the inclusion.
Google was ordered to pay a record fine of 4.3 Billion Euro because of anti-competitive practices surrounding the company's search engine Google Search and other Google applications on Android.
The upcoming search engine selection screen displays three alternative search engines to Android users from the European Union. Most Android devices come with Google Search as the default search engine. Android users can install different search engines on their devices but 95% of all searches use Google Search as the search engine on Android according to the EU. The EU regulators believe that the dominance of Google Search can be attributed partially to Google making deals with manufacturers to make Google Search and apps the default on Android.
Google plans to display the choice screen during initial setup of the device. Users need to select one of the listed search engines during setup to proceed. The selected provider will be set as the search provider in the search box on the home screen, in Chrome as the default search engine, and the search app of the selected provider will be installed as well.
The effect of a user selecting a search provider from the choice screen will be to (i) set the search provider in a home screen search box to the selected provider, (ii) set the default search provider in Chrome (if installed) to the selected provider, and (iii) install the search app of the selected provider (if not already installed).
Google plans to start showing the choice screen in early 2020.
Search providers need to meet certain requirements to be eligible for inclusion. The requirements are listed on this support page on the Android website. Criteria include that a localized version is provided, that the search provider has a search app that is available on Google Play, that it is a general search provider and not a specialized one, and that the search provider provides Google will the necessary technical assets.
Google rolled out choice screens on Google Play in April 2019 to users from the European Union. The choice screens presented a list of additional search providers and mobile browsers to users. These were displayed without extra charge to search engine companies or browser makers.
Pay for inclusion
Search providers who want to be included need to fill out an application form and Google wants to auction off spots in the recommendations listing to the highest bidder for each country. Search providers need to set a price that they are willing to pay to Google each time a user selects their search engine from the choice screen. Google set a minimum price which it has not disclosed and will keep bids by search engines private.
The three highest bidders that exceed the minimum will be presented to users in random order next to Google Search.
Google will pick search engines randomly from the list of providers that applied if fewer than three search engines bid or if bids remain under the limit.
"An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen." according to Google. Several search engine companies and operators have criticized Google for the auction system. Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo criticized the auction system in a tweet on Twitter:
A pay-to-play auction with only 4 slots means consumers won't get all the choices they deserve, and Google will profit at the expense of the competition.
In 2009, Microsoft faced a similar situation in the European Union. Internet Explorer was the dominating browser thanks to its inclusion in the Windows operating system. Microsoft agreed to display a browser ballot screen to users from the European Union. The screen listed up to twelve different browsers to users during setup. Browsers were selected based on popularity and displayed in random order; companies did not have to pay for inclusion.
Opera Software was one of the companies that benefited from the inclusion.The company revealed that downloads of its Opera web browser tripled after the browser ballot screen started to show up in the EU.
The auction system favors companies with deep pockets; while it is certainly possible that search engine providers fill out the application form without putting a bid in, it seems likely that search engine choice won't be based on popularity but on financial resources. Search engines like Startpage or DuckDuckGo cannot compete financially with multi-billion Dollar companies such as Microsoft and its Bing search engine or Yahoo, and it is quite plausible that Bing or Yahoo will dominate the listings in the EU as a consequence.
A fair system would give users more choice, and suggest the most popular search engines in each region to the user. A "more" option could also be implemented to provide users with another list of potential search engines.
Now You: What is your take on the system?
Seems pointless imo. Most people will chose Google regardless of a choice and people who care will get out of there way to change it anyway even without this “choice screen”.
I think the EU referred to Windows Phone as an example that refutes the claim that users would select Google anyway. IIRC, only 25% of users picked Google Search when analyzed. Still, a sizeable portion of users would certainly pick Google. The screen would still be useful, even if the majority would pick Google.
Well people who buy windows phones must really like Microsoft anyway so why would they use google when they could use a microsoft product.
There should be one more option: No search. I always disable/remove any way of searching from my device. If I want to search for something online, that’s what the browser has been made for.
“I want to search for something online, thatâ€™s what the browser has been made for”
And which search engine you browser uses ? Unless you browse to the search engine’s home page and start there.
I use Google and Yandex. I however always go to the search engine’s page manually through a shortcut pointing to custom URLs in order to use the intl versions, as otherwise I get redirected to the .com.ua domain here, and my browser clears cookies on exit.
I think the browser search engine matters less compared to the device one. In device you might want to search for an application, or a contact. You don’t want this query to be sent anywhere. In browser you don’t (and can’t) perform this kind of searches. Even there you should disable this functionality, but still.
@ilev: “Unless you browse to the search engineâ€™s home page and start there.”
That’s exactly what I always do.
“The EU regulators believe that the dominance of Google Search can be attributed partially to Google making deals with manufacturers to make Google Search and apps the default on Android.”
Google should be slapped with more fines for every deal they made to be the default search engine.
“Search providers need to set a price that they are willing to pay to Google each time a user selects their search engine from the choice screen.”
Google should be fined for this anti-competitive practice too.
Great report/article again Martin,
About the in main opinion not so far choice system.
The European union has really butchered this one up.
Maybe because the members of the European Union are displaying the same behavior as the American senators, who are getting paid to support the commercial company there best interest coarse. So after this latest far reaching not European citizens friendly blunder its more than fair to start to wounder, or the members of the European Union on the take?
I am strongly believe (I am even convinced about it) that now was the time to inform the users that search engines like Google ($oo$le) are not really search engines, but informers from Google there paying customers, who only want to put there name up high on the search result list.
Really fair results where maybe possible in the beta versions of the first search Google engine back then but after the Google (and many others like Bing) never looked back.
This was the time that the European union could inform the public about the behavior of Google and give them a choice, that was more sensible.
Again no hard Eurobrexit from dishonest company’s like Google and many others who only think of them self.
It’s not just about business, Google also promotes the politics it wants. When you search for trending topics you get articles from sources that Google wants you to see, not necessarily the best or most popular articles.
This is exactly the real problem we are facing. People are getting used to big companies getting fined billions (with a b) and carry on using their services like absolutely nothing happened. There was a window to make a real difference by calling these companies out and spread awareness but instead it just becomes another news article shared via facebook, twitter, etc, and forgotten in 10 minutes.
Mind you this issue actually affects more than simply people’s privacy, it’s now about politics and economics.
People are dozed, numb, tired of being bombarded with news they don’t have the time nor the will to read anymore. Their attention span and their ability to be empathetic to anything that doesn’t directly affect their livestyles, even when in direct conflict with their principles, has quite literally been eroded and is non-existant anymore. Bread and circus, as they did in the old Roman times, still works flawlessly to this date.
I wonder how long will take for people to wake up when the consequences of their numbness start kicking them in their crotches, and I don’t mean only in the realm of technology/privacy/politics but the actual reality i.e.: environment.
I do try and bring these topics up in conversation and it seems most clear to me that people do agree with these issues constantly. Is about spreading awareness and make them see that there are options right out there, if they care to look that way.
Anyway, great article as always Martin, we need more people like you to help reach wider audience about these topics.
Then I hope that projects such as the PinePhone (https://www.pine64.org/pinephone/) will get from the ground. It is supposed to run several Linux based phone OSs (one at the time). It doesn’t have spectacular hardware in it, but if you look at their other products in their store, the price won’t be high either.
So it will be an ideal phone to try out different OSs on.
And yes, if it was still a viable option, I would go back to a Windows based smart phone. Had my previous Nokia Lumia 520 for four years. Then switched to Android, as I couldn’t buy a spare battery here in Paraguay anymore.
Android irritates the h.ll out of me. Apple products I don’t even consider, their philosophy of ‘their way or the highway’ rubs really wrong with me.
Tried several brands: Huawei, Kyocera, GeoTel, Samsung, Xiaomi. Haven’t tried a phone with “vanilla” Android on it, but on the phone the live tiles interface of Windows worked way better than I expected. Even on that old and really not-so-powerful Lumia 520.
Was doubting about getting an Android phone or a BlackBerry (with OS10) at the time, but then was offered to buy a new Lumia for 75 USD. Spent 300 USD on the Android successor and was fed up with it after about a year. Haven’t had any Android-based phone for longer than a year, because of fear of “murdering” it against a wall.
So, when it is possible to buy a PinePhone, I will go and get one. While I don’t expect it to be better than the Windows Phone experience I had, it cannot be worse than Android or iOS.
Thanks for letting me rant.
I’m with you. Android has become so much work to use in even a mildly safe way that it’s no longer sustainable, and there’s no way I’ll buy an Apple product of any sort. There are no smartphones on the market right now that appeal to me even a little. If I had to choose between no smartphone and any of the current commercial offerings, I’d have to go with no smartphone.
@Gerald Manders @John Fenderson:
I’ve been lately trying to figure out alternatives for desktop/laptop and smartphones, and there are surprisingly a number of great options already available or coming up soon:
Some of these are in their early stages or in constant development but for the price they offer is pretty good deal I’d say, and what’s more is that it works out-of-the-box so you don’t have to do any tinkering yourself. There are other options for you to flash your own custom ROM (in Android) although not too many and development usually goes to the mainstream devices and therefore more expensive ones.
Although I use Waterfox on my Windows laptop I can’t install it on my phone because, as I only discovered very recently Samsung installed an x86 OS even though the CPU is x64. Consequently, Waterfox being an exclusive x64 bit browser can’t be installed on my phone.
So I’ve switched to using Firefox and have set my search provider to Startpage.
Apart from that I just don’t use the phone to surf the web unless I’m on vacation and even then I’m not particularly interested in using it for that purpose. I just don’t like the small screen. That coupled with miniscule text which is nearly always pale grey in color gives me a blinding headache after just 10 mins of use so I avoid it like the plague.
“An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen.”
Tech downtalk strikes again. Whoever wrote that either thinks their audience is completely stupid or the writer is hopelessly naive. Probably both.
Would not be surprised if Google’s so called auction is ignored.
FWIW, we’ve had good luck with unlocked Moto’s bought directly from motorola/lenovo. Of course, you have to go through and disable chrome, auto store updates, etc., but it’s possible to end up with something that almost never shows ads and still works very well even with message, call and email notifications enabled. We use an email app called “email” and focus browser w/DDG or Startpage for search, although browsing on a phone is awful, tiny screen and non-stop scrolling.
Been through 3 gens of Moto G’s and one gen of Moto E’s. No regrets at all.
Yeah, android’s a mess and iOS a very expensive mess!
And of course Googlâ‚¬ has to find a way to skirt their punishment by selling slots in an “auction” instead of just, you know, showing the other search engines by popularity…
Imagine if MS just allowed browser makers to pay them for a spot instead of simply displaying the most common 3rd party browsers?
Hopefully, Googlâ‚¬ will get another fine for this.