Google is set to charge search providers for the privilege of appearing alongside its own engine as the default search option on Android. The Mountain View company announced that the top-three bidders will be included on Google's new search choice screen presented to Europeans when setting up an Android device for the first time.
The move follows the European Commission’s July 2018 decision to punish Google for anti-competition violations. Google was deemed to be forcing Android users to use its own apps like Search and Chrome, and fined a record-breaking $5 billion. As a result, Android phones and tablets shipped into the European Economic Area (EEA) will in the future feature a choice screen, giving users the option to choose a default search provider.
However, Google is not rolling over and increasing competition for free. Plans to hold a first-price sealed-bid auction have been revealed. The auction will take place on a per-country basis. Each country will have a minimum bid threshold and, as stated on the official Android blog: "The three highest bidders that meet or exceed the bid threshold for a given country will appear in the choice screen for that country."
There are a couple of other requirements search providers must meet, such as having an app that is available for free on the Google Play Store, and having support for local languages in the countries in which they are bidding for. Google also stated that beyond the price that winning bidders will pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen, there are no costs associated with the auction or the choice screen.
No information was given regarding what the minimum threshold will actually be. Google's argument has always remained that in order to monetize its investment in the Android operating system, it needed search features to be tied to Chrome. The EU, however, rejected this argument. Now, it seems Mountain View has found another way.
Search providers have until September 13 to submit their bids, with the winners due to be announced on October 31. It's also worth noting that the period the likes of Yahoo, Qwant and Ecosia will be bidding for is from January 1 to December 31, 2020, suggesting that this auction will be an annual thing.
Users will see the choice screen when setting up a new Android device for the first time or after performing a factory reset of a smartphone or tablet. You can still change the default search provider at any time after the initial setup of course, as you can do now.
What do you think about Google's decision? Can it recoup some of that massive fine this way? Let us know.