Google will change its home screen to allow the choice of default search engine for those who activate an Android device for the first time in Europe. Now, search engines that want to appear as an option to users will no longer pay an entry fee to the company. The decision was announced on Tuesday (8), on the company’s official blog.
Google will offer 12 search options for Android
Since September, big tech has been offering other search engines the chance to enter the home screen for free, as well as making more features available to those who access the Android menu for the first time; it currently offers a choice of just four search engines, one being Google itself.
The model will no longer use the paid auction format, in which search engines that appear on the Android home screen are selected. In it, the tools say what the minimum amount they can pay for each time they are selected by a user; Google then picks the top three companies, which must exceed a minimum cap, and places them on the page in a random order.
With the change in the homepage overlay, which should be implemented for Android users within the European Union and UK business district, the default search engine offering will jump from 4 to 12 – and none of them will pay to appear.
The top five search engines will be selected for their popularity in each country, using metrics from traffic analytics site StatCounter. The other 7, including Google, will be sampled at random — and if the number of visible search engines is higher, they will also appear randomly.
Even with the fee exemption, Google maintained several requirements to appear on the Android homepage: search engines must offer a “general search service”, which does not limit results to a single topic. In addition, each must have a free app on the Play Store and headquarter in the country where they offer services.
Android was once the cause of a billion dollar fine for Google
Google was accused of monopoly by rivals in Europe due to the model of pay-to-play, in which you have to pay to participate in the Android home screen, and took the case to the European Commission, the agency that regulates competition in the EU block. The company was fined in 2018 a record $5 billion — equivalent to BRL 19.3 billion at the time — for forcing cell phone makers to set Chrome and its search engine as the default in exchange for a Play license Store.
In March, the European Commission sued Google for an amount similar to the fine imposed in 2019; this time, big tech is accused of tracking users who use Chrome’s anonymous tab.
Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo — a search engine that competes with Google — said the update to Android’s factory reset interface is welcome, but it came late and should have been done in 2019.
Google is now doing what it should have done 3yr ago: a free search preference menu on Android in the EU: https://t.co/M9XmB1VuGr
However, it should be on all platforms (e.g., also desktop Chrome), accessible at all times (i.e., not just on factory reset), and in all countries. https://t.co/HcIrE8KJx3
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) June 8, 2021
“Google is doing what it should have done 3 years ago: a free search engine preference for Android in Europe. But it should be on all platforms (eg also for the Chrome desktop), accessible at all times (eg not just in factory reset), and in all countries.” – @yegg
EU regulatory commissioners pointed to Bloomberg that Google’s changes are welcome and positive, and respond to complaints from the competition: “users will have even more opportunities to choose an alternative”.
With information: Google, The Verge