Google to allow other search engines on Android for free

9 Jun 2021269 Views

Image: © charnsitr/Stock.adobe.com

The announcement comes just days after a €220m fine in France where Google agreed to make changes to its advertising business.

Android screens in Europe may start looking a little different as Google makes it free for other search engines to become the default on a user’s screen.

Google has previously operated a pay-for-play model for search engines, requiring these search engines to pay for their place on Android through a function called Choice Screen.

Google prioritises its own search engine on smartphones, with three other slots available through a bid auction process. Users can then select their preferred search engine from this list on the Choice Screen.

The strategy attracted much ire from industry and regulators alike over the years.

This week’s changes stem from an EU antitrust investigation into Google – and a €4.3bn fine in 2018 – and its dominance with the Android mobile operating system. The tech giant told the European Commission that it would loosen up rules, allowing greater access to other search engines services on Android.

Three years on, these changes will come into effect in September and will apply to devices in the EEA and UK.

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“Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen including making participation free for eligible search providers,” Oliver Bethell, director of competition legal at Google, said.

“We will also be increasing the number of search providers shown on the screen.”

Google has been quick in the past to fire back against accusations of its dominance in Android, citing research that claimed users are well aware of how to change their default search engines.

Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive of rival search engine DuckDuckGo, said the latest moves from Google are three years overdue and don’t extend far enough.

“[It] should be on all platforms (eg also desktop Chrome), accessible at all times (ie not just on factory reset), and in all countries,” he tweeted.

The news come just a few days after Google was fined €220m by French competition authorities regarding its dominance in advertising.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com