Google announces auction “winners” for default search places on Android phones

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Back in August of last year, Google said that it would allow rivals to compete to be the default search engines on new Android devices in Europe, announcing plans to auction spots on a “choice screen” from which users will select their preferred search engine.

The move came a year after the European Commission fined the tech giant 4.34 billion euros ($6.37 billion) for blocking rivals by pre-installing its Chrome browser and search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.

From March, new Android users will be given a choice of four search engines to use as a default on their phones and tablets. DuckDuckGo will be the most frequently offered alternative, while Microsoft’s Bing will be offered as an alternative in the UK only. Google (surprise, surprise) will always be on the list.

Other search engines that will now appear to users include GMX, Info.com, Qwant, Yandex and PrivacyWall.

The search engines on offer will vary for each EU country but the process has been the same, with each rival search engine telling Google how much it is willing to pay. The three highest bidders are then shown to users.

The auction will be repeated every four months.

When it was initially announced, some rivals described the system as another abuse of Google’s dominant position, finding it incredible that Google will make money from this proposal, deciding that competitors will have to pay for the privilege.

Search engine Ecosia, which uses its profits to plant trees in areas of deforestation, said it had boycotted the process altogether.

Chief executive Christian Kroll said:

We believe this auction is at odds with the spirit of the July 2018 EU Commission ruling. Internet users deserve a free choice over which search engine they use and the response of Google with this auction is an affront to our right to a free, open and federated internet.

Why is Google able to pick and choose who gets default status on Android?

Google described the auction process as a “fair and objective method” to determine which search providers are given as options for device users.

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