Bing Loses Big in Android Search Provider Auction

Posted on January 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Google, Mobile with 45 Comments

Google has announced the results of its EU search choice screen auction for Android. And Bing came in dead last, behind DuckDuckGo, Info.com, and several local choices.

As you may recall, Google was forced by the European Commission last year to implement so-called choice screens—similar to the ballot screens we dealt with for Windows years ago—for search providers and web browsers when users first bring up a new Android device in the EU. The idea is to give consumers a choice of Google or its alternatives in these areas so that the search giant can’t continue abusing its mobile device monopoly power. The change will go live starting on March 1 in the EU.

To determine the order in which the Google alternatives will be displayed on the choice screens, Google held an auction by which providers could bid for placement on the screens. And this week, the firm announced the results of the auction, which varies by country. And in all cases save one—-there are over 30 countries in the EU—Microsoft’s Bing came in dead last in the search choice screen bidding.

Curiously, the UK was the only country in which Bing even registered, and it came in first place there.

The big winner was DuckDuckGo, which will be shown in the highest position on the screen in 29 of the 31 countries. Info.com came in second, with 16 second-place finishes. And then there were local choices, like GMX, PrivacyWall, Qwant, Yandex, and others. And then Bing. With one showing in the entire list.

The way the system works is that the top two choices, typically DuckDuckGo and Info.com, will appear in the top two positions on the screen. Google will be the third option. And whatever choice came in third in the balloting will be in the fourth position.

To be clear, this system doesn’t necessarily indicate popularity, though Bing is apparently more popular in the UK than it is elsewhere in the EU. But Bing’s share of the mobile search market is less than 1 percent, which is, granted, higher than that of DuckDuckGo (.20 percent). Google currently owns about 90 percent of this market, which explains the antitrust action that led to this change.

Regardless, this auction seems to violate the spirit of the EU’s antitrust action, and I believe a fairer approach would be to show the top four choices in any given country randomly. At least one alternative search provider, called Ecosia, has already complained about this to the EU.

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