Search is going to change in March 2020 for Android users in the EU.  In March when you buy and setup a new Android phone, EU users will be presented with 4 choices for setting the default search engine on that phone. Google will be one choice and Google has agreed to auction off the other 3 slots (so they can cash in).  (I don’t know if this effects older Android phones that upgrade to a newer version of Android.)

EU country by EU country here are the auction winners.

All this is important, because a certain percentage of people will choose a search engine other than Google.  Also, once chosen, people rarely change the default search engine on their devices. This presents a huge chance for the alternative search engines to gain some recognition and market share within the EU.  This is a big deal.

Random:

  • DuckDuckGo won a spot in every country.  This is good, but can they keep users, because I’ve heard their search results can be weak in some non-English searches?  This is where DDG’s sole reliance on Bing for the bulk of their results might be a liability.  Can Bing and therefore DDG provide satisfactory results in all European languages?
  • Info.com (the old Infospace.com) won in every country too.  Not a real good choice.  Kind of a waste of a slot and it shows the weakness of the auction model.
  • Qwant won in most major EU countries. This is good.  Qwant uses Bing for English language searches, but they have their own crawler and index for French, German, Italian and Spanish.  I hear their results in French are quite good so Qwant stands a chance of gaining users here.
  • PrivacyWall who are they and where did they come from?  I think they have their own index, which appears small.  They better crawl like crazy between now and March.
  • GMX is just a Google retread.
  • Regional search engines: Yandex (Russia) and Seznam (Czech Republic and Slovakia) are already dominant in their home languages so I expect they will pick up even more market share in this.

Of course Google is trying to subvert the intent of the EU regulators by making this an auction to the highest bidders.  It’s legal, but it proves the point that Android is open source in name only, a fiction, whereas it’s really totally under Google’s control.  Placement only for the highest bidders robs startups of badly needed operating and R&D funds and cripples charity based search engines from engaging in their charitable work.

Money should not be the only deciding factor.  Still this is a rear guard action on Google’s part.  The walls of Google’s search monopoly with Android have been breached and will this allow newer EU based search engines to come along?

My prediction is that both DuckDuckGo and Qwant will win some additional market share in Europe with this.  Both of those search engines have enough comprehensive features like Maps, Wikipedia etc to compete in the mobile market.  I think they can retain users who try them.  I don’t see that happening with Info.com, PrivacyWall or GMX, but maybe they will rise to the occasion, add features, and meet users long term expectations.

It appears new auctions will occur ever 3 to 4 months, it will be interesting to see how the lineups shift over time.

Of course none of this is available in the US, or most of the rest of the world.  In the US, Google retains it hold over Android and at the pace US trust regulators are working I don’t expect to see any significant opening up for a long time.

Get your popcorn out, this is going to be interesting.

 

 

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