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Google Outlines Its Search Ballot Box for Android

Posted August 2, 2019 | Android | Google | Google Chrome | Google Search | Windows


Starting next year, Google will provide Android users with a choice of five search providers to comply with an EU antitrust ruling. That is, in addition to providing Android users with a choice of browsers, it will also provide them with a choice of search providers, which will become the default in both a home screen-based search box and, if installed, Google Chrome.

“Search providers can apply to be part of the new choice screen, which will appear when someone is setting up a new Android smartphone or tablet in Europe,” Google’s Paul Gennai explains. “The application process for search providers opens today and the new choice screen will be introduced to new Android phones in Europe in early 2020.”

What Gennai doesn’t explain is that the search provider choices that EU-based Android users will see won’t be based on popularity. Instead, Google is creating a “choice screen auction” by which search providers can, on a country-by-country basis, inform Google how much they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country.

“The auction winners, and Google, will be ordered randomly in the choice screen,” Google explains separately. “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.”

If this auction seems slightly off-kilter, it may be because it clearly favors richer companies that can afford to pay more. And because it represents another new way for Google to monetize Android in the EU. So instead of being punished for abusing its dominance there, Google can continue benefiting from it.

Google doesn’t (publicly) see it that way.

“An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen,” Google notes. “It allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly.”

As for the users, Google says that the search provider choice screen will only appear on those devices where a hardware maker has chosen to preinstall Google Search. And after the choice is made, users can at any time change that decision, on the home screen and in Chrome, remove the home-based search box, and download other search apps. Users will only see the choice screen during the initial setup of their device.

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