Just over a year ago, Google announced its next decision to offer a “wide variety of browsers and search engines” to users of new Android smartphones on European soil, being able to choose a different one from the company –by default– in the configuration process of the newly acquired terminals. A movement that came at the behest of the Union’s regulatory bodies and that the Mountain View firm reluctantly launched.
The aforementioned words have been translated, since March 1, on a new screen that is displayed when configuring a new terminal with the company’s software on European soil. In it appear three options, in addition to Google’s own, among which you can choose to configure it as the default in the system.
In Spain – because one of the key points of this measure is that search engines may be different in each country – the Americans Info.com and DuckDuckGo, together with the French Qwant, are the ones that will appear before the eyes of users when start your new Android. With them, and with the German Ecosia – one of the most critical of the Google selection system for this configuration screen – we talked about an option that is both in demand and controversial.
A proposal that broadens the panorama
The Californian technology company hopes that the movement will be enough to quell the regulatory thirst of the European regulatory bodies, generally more severe with the big tech companies in Silicon Valley than other countries in which they also operate. Meanwhile, those search engines that have managed to insert themselves among the options now shown see it as a new opportunity to make themselves known and increase their share of users thanks to their presence in the most popular operating system in the world. Others describe it as another act of abuse of power by Google.
The three present in Spanish territory coincide in highlighting the great opportunity of appearing before the eyes of all those who configure their new terminal. From Qwant they assure that they expect to see their mobile user base grow “significantly” as a consequence of the average. How much? Although still to be seen, a recent study by DuckDuckGo estimated between 300 and 800% the increase in use and potential impact that the new option could mean for search engines.
Figures that could represent a real paradigm shift for many of them, who have been present in the market for years on a secondary basis due to the limitations of not having the resources of a giant in the sector to extend their domains. It won’t be that simple, however.
For a user to consciously choose a new search engine, they must already know it in advance and identify something in it that makes them renounce the ubiquitous Google. It is easy to imagine that, in a good number of cases, the one who faces the selection screen to see first has not had previous contact – or even knowledge – with the rest of the alternatives that are displayed before his eyes. Why give up the usual and extended for a strange service?
On the part of info.com, they express the desire that “word of mouth” knowledge is part of the job, while an investment in marketing in the countries where they are present does the rest. A stance similar to the one they take in Qwant, where they emphasize that, by itself, this is already an opportunity for people to “realize that they don’t have to use the same search engine as everyone else.” DuckDuckGo, meanwhile, is also planning to amplify its reach in Europe.
A criticized system
Although those that are among the options that finally appear among the different countries have received the news with evident satisfaction, there is a fact that has sparked criticism from many of the organizations that are currently trying to make a name for themselves in the search landscape. online: the auction system.
Chosen by Google, this forces search systems that want to appear among the default options to pay an amount – which has not been disclosed – when setting up the smartphone. It automatically means leaving many small companies out of the field, since they cannot bear the costs derived from it. Both large and small have questioned whether this is the best proposal to decide who does and who does not appear.
“The auction system has been designed to make Google money”
Among those who did not even try to make the cut is the ecological search engine Ecosia, who has strongly criticized the bidding system in order to appear in the aforementioned section. “We do not agree with the current mechanism of the selection screen (ACS),” they tell this medium. “We suggest creating a ‘fair preference menu.’ That is, a fair and completely open list that ranks search engines based on their market share.”
They also point out that the auction mechanism goes “against the spirit of the European Commission legislation of July 2018. Internet users deserve to have a genuine choice on which search engine to use that is not biased by who has been able to pay Google more. “
The list of default search engine options should be based on their relevance to users, so it would all depend on Ecosia’s popularity by market. The more awareness of the climate crisis grows, the more we are also growing in markets throughout the world. Our users appreciate that we are a social company that plants trees, our transparency and the fact that we respect their privacy.
A shared vision with DuckDuckGo, who has defended that the implanted model is not the ideal one, despite the fact that your search engine is found in all the territories where the auction has been opened. The firm says it is an option that “has been designed to make Google money, not to provide a meaningful option to the consumer.”
Like Ecosia, they propose a open model in which the list of available search engines is extended where, together with a brief description of the same, it is the user who can freely decide the one that best suits their needs. The current proposal “just isn’t necessary,” they say, especially harming those who put “the user experience on monetization and show fewer ads,” who “put privacy before profit and earn less money for each ad. to be shown “and to those who choose to” give away a substantial part of their earnings to good causes. “
An unknown future
Although proposals will not be lacking for Google to modify this first approach to the way it treats other search engines, it remains to be seen whether any of them end up changing the model that the great Silicon Valley company has adopted.
“Because of its omnipresence, sometimes we forget that Google is not the internet, it is one of several search engines,” they say from Ecosia. And although it is true, the greatest amount of resources available usually translates into a better user experience, as they tell from info.com, since it derives in a significant investment in product. Against that, and everything less tangible, such as the settlement in the conception and identification of users, it is difficult to fight, but not impossible.
To achieve this, from info.com they appeal to the simplicity of their product as a fundamental pillar to urge change; from Qwant, to its European origins and to its bet for privacy; one last reason that is also part of the attractions of DuckDuckGo. Ecosia, for its part, despite not being part of the list, refers to the social responsibility of the moment, which falls on its work to combat climate change.
The only certainty, for the moment, is that the option that Google has been forced to include is a first step, although is far from being considered the movement that equates all players in the online search segment. Much of the work continues to remain among those who choose to occupy a place, from now on more than ever before, on the devices of millions of people in the old continent.