Bing Loses Big in Android Search Provider Auction

Posted on January 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google, Mobile, Android 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,, 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. 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, 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.

Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (45)

45 responses to “Bing Loses Big in Android Search Provider Auction”

  1. Chris_Kez

    Why only four, and why do this via an auction? The whole thing is weird and kind of pointless.

  2. helix2301

    I was under the assumption Microsoft owned the Search on Yahoo and AOL. When you run ads on Bing it asks you which search engine you want to use and in the book into the google plex it talks about Microsoft buying the rights to be Yahoos search provider for a billion dollars.

  3. helix2301

    So after doing some research it looks like this might actually be a huge win for Microsoft in there ad business

    Bing Ads will serve all Yahoo search ads in new Microsoft-Verizon Media deal

  4. Sprtfan

    I'm a little confused on what is being said here. Basically is it just that Microsoft decided not to bid much money to make the list in every country but the UK? This entire process seems very odd.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Sprtfan:

      That they have to pay Google, when it is supposed to be Google's punishment seems very odd as well. You don't usually make a profit when being punished - although I think Facebook proved that big tech doesn't care about punishment, when their stock rose $6b after receiving a $5b fine...

  5. Vladimir Carli

    There are 28 countries in the EU. 27 when the UK will drop out

  6. Daekar

    So... don't get me wrong, I'm not up on this news, but to me this looks like Microsoft just didn't bother giving Google money by bidding except in the UK. Is that what happened?

    • wright_is

      In reply to Daekar:

      That is what it sounds like. But Bing has a record of being poor in non-English search and services, so it isn't that surprising that they put up money in their strongest market and didn't bother where they are weak.

  7. wp7mango

    Bing in the UK is actually really good. Specifically when it comes to maps. Although Google has better Street View, Bing has much better mapping using Ordnance Survey views, which is something Google doesn't offer at all. I use Bing for all my searches, although I use Google for news.

  8. jimchamplin

    Most people are probably just going to tap Google anyway. Overcoming the public image of "Google is the internet" won't be easy.

  9. feek

    I think I'm confused. Who are the providers who voted on this? Did the cell phone carriers in each country vote on the search engines? But it's an auction - did the search engines pay to vote? Ergh

    • wright_is

      In reply to feek:

      The latter and yes, ergh! When a customer chooses one of the alternatives, they pay Google. That is Google's punishment for abusing the market, they get paid again as part of their punishment... Somehow it doesn't compute.

  10. benisaacs

    Doesn't Bing power DuckDuckGo so this isn't all bad news?

  11. sonichedgehog360

    EU, force Apple to let me use a different different browser and email client than Safari and Mail. This is 2020 and Apple is getting away with anti-trust violations that Microsoft was obliged to reconcile.

  12. wright_is

    I think it is disgusting that Google decided to let its competitors bid for position and that the EU didn't stop them. This was supposed to be a slap in the face for Google, not another way for them to make a profit!

    As to Bing, its non-English results are fairly poor, although the German language version has improved somewhat over the last decade. So it isn't really surprising that it didn't really put up a fight in most markets.

    For a long time, Microsoft wasn't making a dent in the German market. Search was either Yahoo! or Google, although they swapped places way back. Hardly anyone has heard of Bing, they made a half-hearted attempt at promoting Bing around 2010, but the results were so poor, nobody really bothered.

    Likewise, for email, addresses were the most popular until around 2010, but and are now much more popular. Gmail is catching up, but is still under represented.

  13. crp0908

    So when most companies get hit with an antitrust punishment, it often costs them money. However, in this case when Google gets hit with an antitrust punishment, they receive money? Is that understanding correct?

  14. red.radar

    As long as they are on the screen I say Microsoft did pretty well. The auction is rather slimey and I bet Microsoft didn’t want to legitimize the practice. Or was at least upset they didn’t think of it first ( /sarcasm )

    I think the EU should have dictated the criteria of the ballot screen. Google is notorious for being a flippant with compliance.

  15. ubelhorj

    Didn't Windows Phone also do disproportionately well in the UK?

    • Jackwagon

      In reply to UbelhorJ:

      I feel like the UK seems to have somewhat of a pro-Microsoft bent, at least judging from some of the tech journalists (I believe a good portion of the writers for Windows Central, for example, are from there).

  16. Jim Lewis

    OTH, Bing is the Search provider for Amazon Echo devices, according to my 2nd Gen Echo Show screen.

  17. mrkirbs

    I don't quite follow what happened. It seems like Microsoft just didn't bother doing the auction thing at all? Is there an explanation of what this auction process entailed somewhere?

  18. Patrick3D

    Most people must not know about Bing Rewards, then again the rewards available may not appeal to people in some countries. I use it for Amazon gift codes.

    • untitled1

      In reply to Patrick3D:

      Same here. And 99% of the time I'm able to find what I want easily on Bing. Maybe once or twice a month I find myself resorting to a Google search.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Patrick3D:

      Hardly anyone knows about Bing, let alone that they have a rewards program. Only those "in the know" have any idea. They don't advertise, the don't promote themselves and their local language results are often pretty poor.

      Microsoft did try and promote Bing around 2010 in Germany, but it was half-hearted and their results were so poor that it was a joke. I did use Bing for a while, as 75% of my searches were English, but when I needed local information, I had to look elsewhere.

      I've been using DuckDuckGo as my main search engine for a couple of years now.

  19. phuor

    Does top position mean top of the screen?

    Being last means bing will be at the bottom closest to the thumb?

  20. tripleplayed

    Seems like the thing should just be random. I don't really like the idea of changing money for placement.

  21. tboggs13

    I don't know, on a big screen phone I am going to hit the button closest to my thumb. bing!

    Life gives you lemons...

  22. rm

    Yes, Google is just trying to get more money by auctioning this out. It should like, I said when they announced this auction, by random. However, Bing is still really winning, because people will not at least have a chance to select them now because without this list, they would not be thinking about Bing at all. It still should be random because this is part of the remedy for Google breaking the law! Google maybe should be last all the time on the list and the other random.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Bing is still really winning. Is an amazing sentence.
    • Pungkuss

      Yeah, the EU wanted to give each of these search engines free advertising. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Google is hosting a auction and will charge the lowest bid. If the user picks Google you don't have to pay anything. If the user doesn't the company chosen will pay Google the lowest bid of the 4 as customer acquisition cost. This seems fair, as Google does not charge for Android and thus as a different business model than Microsoft did. Microsoft sold windows to OEMs and did not need the advertising. You can't remove Google's ability to make money off Android. This is a good middle ground.
      In reply to RM:

  23. untitled1

    The choices should be a randomized selection of 4 of the 6 most popular search engines in a region, differing for each user, so that a rising contender has at least a snowball's chance of making the menu. Could be a weighted randomization if you like.

  24. prettyconfusd

    Surely just alphabetical order would suffice?

  25. imdamnme

    There are 28 countries in the EU, soon to be 27.