“Ecosia says it will boycott ‘search choice’ auction on Android in Europe - Search Engine Land” plus 1 more
Posted: 12 Aug 2019 09:20 AM PDT
Berlin-based search engine Ecosia says it will not participate in Google's "search-choice" auction for Android devices in 2020 in Europe. Will other engines follow its lead?
Search choice to start in 2020 on Android. Earlier this month, Google announced that it will introduce a new "choice screen" in Europe for Android users in 2020. The screen will appear during set up and ask users to select a default search engine.
Google plans to use an auction, as it does with comparison shopping engines in Europe, to determine which search engines to present on the choice screen. The three highest bidders will appear, along with Google, as options for users. Google anticipates search choices will vary by country, with Google always present as a choice.
Search choice is Google's effort to comply with the European Commission's (EC's) July, 2018 antitrust decision involving Android and app bundling. Google has appealed the decision and a roughly $5 billion fine.
Ecosia CEO Christian Kroll issued a statement this morning explaining its decision to boycott the auction process. He said, "We're deeply disappointed that Google has decided to exploit its dominant market position in this way. Instead of giving wide and fair access, Google have chosen to give discrimination a different form and make everyone else but themselves pay, which isn't something we can accept."
'Creating scarcity.' The statement offers three reasons why Ecosia believes the auction approach is misguided:
Ecosia was founded in 2009 and donates most of its "surplus income" to non-profit organizations focusing on reforestation and conservationism.
Faced with immediate criticism of its announcement, Google defended the auction as "a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen. It allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly."
Why we should care. Whether or not there are 4 or 14 options for users to choose from, Google would still likely retain most of its current usage in Europe, because of its brand strength versus rivals. This is the central challenge for regulators, which are trying to "unbundle" Google and Android: how to give Google's competitors more visibility (and viability).
Comparison shopping engines have complained that the auction-based remedy used to give them more visibility in search results for the past few years has been more corrosive than beneficial.
It will be very interesting to see whether other search engines align themselves with Ecosia or decide to participate in the auction. Applications are due in mid-September. The EC still has the power to ask Google to come up with an alternative approach. And the market's response will have a significant impact on their determination.
Posted: 02 Aug 2019 12:00 AM PDT
Google said it will require other search providers to pay to become one of the default options available to European users when setting up their Android device.
The company said in a blog post on Friday that European users will see a new choice screen when setting up their device, showing a list of options they can select to be their default search engine for the search box on their home screen and Google Chrome.
Google already lets Android users change their default provider at any time, but the new set up page allows them to change it when setting up their device.
Rival search engines will have to bid in a blind auction to become one of those default options, Google said. The company explained that process in a separate page on Android's website:
In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. Each country will have a minimum bid threshold. The three highest bidders that meet or exceed the bid threshold for a given country will appear in the choice screen for that country.
The auction winners, and Google, will be ordered randomly in the choice screen. In the event of a tie, Google will allocate the slots randomly among the tied bidders. In the event that fewer than three eligible search providers meet or exceed the bid threshold, Google will fill any remaining slots randomly from the pool of eligible search providers. The pool of eligible providers will include those that applied to participate in the choice screen but did not submit bids.
A screen capture shared by the firm showed three alternative search providers, including Qwant, Ecosia and Yahoo. Google said other platforms can apply to be part of the new choice screen, adding it will be introduced on Android phones in Europe by early 2020.
Google says it will let users in the EU choose their default search provider when setting up an Android device, starting from early 2020.
The news follows a record $5 billion antitrust fine levied by the European Commission last year over alleged competition breaches from Google. One of the EU executive arm's main contentions was with the company's practice of bundling its Chrome and Search apps on Android.
Google has since appealed the fine, and said it is making a number of changes to comply with the EU's decision. Previously announced changes include letting smartphone makers distribute forked versions of Android, a new paid licensing agreement for Android phones and separate licenses for the Search and Chrome apps.
Clarification: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that Google already lets Android users change their default provider at any time, but the new choice screen allows them to change it when setting up their device.
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