Mozilla will replace the default search engine for some Firefox users
Firefox 98 will be released in early March 2022 and it will include a change that replaces the default search engine of the browser with another automatically for some users.
Firefox ships with a number of search engines based on a user's region. The default search engine is the one that is used automatically when the user types in the address bar or uses other means to search, e.g., from the browser's New Tab Page.
In most regions, Google Search is the default, but in some, other search engines such as Baidu or Yandex are the default. Firefox users are free to add search engines to the browser and change the default search engine. If they prefer to use DuckduckGo, Startpage or Brave Search, they may do so as the browser supports it.
An article on Mozilla's support website confirms that the default search engine may change for some Firefox users with the release of Firefox 98.
The support article is vague when it comes to specifics. It does not mention search engines by name nor does it provide any other details.
According to Mozilla, the change is necessary because it "was unable to secure formal permission to continue including search engines in Firefox". Mozilla "provided an opportunity to previously-included search engines to sign an agreement" and some search engine companies "did not complete the agreement" according to the article.
The nature of the agreement is unknown. It is unclear if it included financial compensation or other requirements. The Bugzilla bug listing is set to private.
Firefox ships with a number of search engines, many of which are local search engines that are available besides global ones, others are search engines of commercial sites. It appears that only these search engines are affected, but there is no confirmation of this at this point.
Firefox users who are affected by the changing of the default search engine are informed about this when the browser launches.
Your default search engine has been changed. Firefox no longer supports NAME. Google is now your default search engine.
Firefox users may re-add the removed search engine to the browser again after the removal; this is a strong point in favor of the theory that the removal affects built-in search engines only, as Mozilla might likely not allow this otherwise.
The support page lacks information and there is a chance that only a small subset of users are affected by the change. Mozilla is shooting itself into the foot with the omittance of important information in the article. Would it be that difficult to list the affected search engines or provide a brief explanation of the agreement that search engine companies had to sign?
This miscommunication happens frequently. It is often a tempest in a teapot that could have been avoided entirely if communication would have been clearer.