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Google’s rivals opt out of search engine auction, calling it ‘anti-competitive’ (venturebeat.com)
173 points by fourthark 62 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments



What is the alternative? There is a finite amount of screen space for listing alternative search engines. How do you choose what shows up there? (I'm not saying there couldn't be a better one than whoever pays most, I'm just not sure what it is, and none were suggested in this article).

If you just put, say, a text-entry search box (or select menu with dozens+ of options?) there to choose any of unlimited number of alternatives (with none on screen to begin with), it will definitely result in even fewer users choosing something other than Google.


I think the ultimate problem is Google doesn't pay anyone. Google is the default winner in this scenario, they always list for free. Essentially creating a scenario where no matter who is chosen, Google wins. Either the user selects Google and Google makes money off of them, or they select Google's competitor and Google takes money from their competitors.

An auction is a fair way to determine a group of options, but an auction where one party always wins for free is not. The solution is to break up Google, and force Google to bid for the right to show up on the list on Android-the-company's platform just like everyone else.


> The solution is to break up Google, and force Google to bid for the right to show up on the list on Android-the-company's platform just like everyone else.

Google already pays more to fund Android than it would cost to place in a search engine listing auction. If all you're really suggesting is that they do separate accounting for part of that funding and call it "large bid in search engine listing auction" then nothing changes in practice.

Which is kind of the point. They're already effectively paying for placement by funding Android development in general.


That would be fair enough if there wasn't a link (Google account) that connects me as an Android user with me as a Google search user. They even could be separate companies, but they would be still tracking me as one person and selling my data together. Please correct me if that would be legally impossible.


It may not change much now, while Google is dominant and profitable in both markets, but it would prevent using Android revenue to prop up search in the future, if say DuckDuckGo became the leading search engine.


Google already pays more to fund Android than it would cost to place in a search engine listing auction.

Sounds like it'd be a win for Google as well then. Brilliant.


If Android were a separate company from Google, and the owners of Android and Google were the same (i.e. the post anti-trust breakup scenario), you'd expect a financially equivalent outcome. Google will obviously bid high enough that they are going to end up in the choice screen. How do we know this? iOS.

As an owner, I don't care if one of my companies pays the other one some money. There are probably some accounting details, but ultimately it matters little. Other search engines would be competing for second, third, and fourth place.

The only material difference between the current scenario and that one is that, IRL, Google will continue sponsoring Android even if this auction were insufficient to keep it solvent on its own. Otherwise, the outcome is the same. Of course, in that imaginary world, Android probably would become insolvent at some point, because a free mobile OS is not exactly a big money maker. I wonder who would buy it? See, even that other world naturally tends to become this one.


> [...] Android probably would become insolvent at some point, because a free mobile OS is not exactly a big money maker

They'd still be making 30% is it? On every app purchase and in-app purchase on the play store, which is surely in the billions.


It seems like Google's play store is doing well with 24.8 Billion dollars of Worldwide gross app revenue [0] as of 2018. Awhile ago Oracle gave an estimate of 31 billion dollars as an estimate of total revenue [2] but that seemed like a high estimate to me.

0-https://www.statista.com/statistics/444476/google-play-annua... 1-https://www.statista.com/statistics/281106/number-of-android... 2-https://www.businessinsider.com/oracle-android-generates-31-...


Revenue is not profit. Only a percentage will go to Google. It is still a big number and certainly profitable, but developing/maintaining the store and Android are both very expensive.


You're not wrong, Android and Google will always be buddies as long as Google is top dog. But, if you break Android out of Google it allows shareholders to challenge decisions by the management of Android.

There'd at least be the legal hurdle that Google has to actually always be the best choice. Bing could theoretically offer more for the top slot and Android can't factor in the other intangibles of putting Google first anyway like they currently do.


Theoretically. But if they're not willing to offer top dollar for iOS, they sure won't for Android. And anyway, if they value Android spots so much, they will be able to bid in this auction and appear on the list. The list is randomized on each startup, so it doesn't matter whether Google bids more than Bing. The only thing that matters is who bids for fourth place and who bids for fifth. I sincerely doubt that anyone believes Google would fail to bid in the top four.

TBH, I find it really interesting that people are complaining so much about this. It's actually a much more competition friendly approach, and less beneficial to Google, than what Apple does with iOS' search default. I guess it's a little different in that for iOS it is Apple aiding and abetting Google's monopoly, whereas with Android it seems like self-dealing. But I have yet to see a suggestion for something else to do that leads to a reasonable outcome.


The owners would be the same initially. The board would be different and Over time the ownership would drift. I don’t think equity and funds managers would view the payments between the 2 companies to be not real


I'm open to the idea of breaking them up and separating the paid and organic sides more fully (and with much more outside accountability, but the auction model isn't terribly instructive.

Auction houses virtually always charge fees, typically as a percent of the close price, with some allocated against the buyer, some against the seller (on the order of ~5-15% on each side).

They also have listing fees for sellers and bidder registration fees for buyers, so if no lots change hands they still cover their expenses.

The requisite hotel rooms for the auction staff are typically comped by the hotel attached to the venue, and venues are often comped as they attract bidder bookings during otherwise slow periods.

Auction houses don't pay themselves to list their own items or merchandize their own services.

It's almost pure upside the auction house. Their big risk is nobody will register to bid and/or buy and next year's auction is dead in the water.

In Google's case, the advertiser is covering both fees, and the user is "paying" (if you will) in terms of giving up their personal data in exchange for search results (more or less) so Google can charge their pool of advertisers more (in aggregate).


> The solution is to break up Google, and force Google to bid for the right to show up on the list on Android-the-company's platform just like everyone else.

A very worrying trend that people support such things so blindly.


> Essentially creating a scenario where no matter who is chosen, Google wins

Given that this is something entirely orchestrated by Google in an attempt to make lawmakers think that competition is A-OK and no legislation is needed to curb Google’s power, this kind of thing is to be expected.


On the contrary, I think this plan took a lot of gall to come up with. If Google's trying to avoid legislation, it should be "self-regulating" itself hard to try and prove legislation isn't needed. But this system is pretty transparent what it is doing and the EU is going to see right through it.


It’s a closed auction run on their own terms, that excludes entire classes of alternative search engines by design.

A “lot of gall” is a very generous interpretation.


The ones that are used the most. Accurate numbers might be impossible, but not many search engines see heavy use, and those are the ones you want to show if you care about consumers. This is the best you can do in the absence of lookng inside the brains of consumers.


From a practical standpoint, there are only two globally relevant search engines: Google and Bing. There are a few country-specific engines (Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia, etc), but they have very little reach outside their home countries.


That's not bad.

But I suspect it would end up being about the same list as the highest-bidders (although Google wouldn't make money from the auction), cause what you have to bid is probably pretty correlated to how many users you have, and there's no way Ecosia would be on the list.


My best suggestion if it's to be truly neutral:

Allow all search engines with more than some small number of European users (say 10,000 monthly active users for six consecutive months, or pick a higher but still broadly attainable threshold) to apply for inclusion for free.

Randomly pick four or five to show on the main screen each time, in randomized order, without treating Google specially. If necessary, have one special slot that cycles randomly among all the top several search engines in Europe, and exclude those from the other slots.

Have a "More options..." link which shows every search engine who has applied, again in randomized order.

That's it.

But yeah, I don't expect them to be that neutral unless forced.


Yeah that honestly would be a pretty shit UX. The closest thing I could see for relevance would be listing by users automatically which could make them look bad given it favors them.


How do you choose what shows up there?

What's wrong with a simple RAND() function? Give every option an equalish chance of being above the fold.


Because it's a terrible user experience. They do want end users to easily find and select their preferences after all.


Without using a bias or metric, there is no way to filter a list of items. The only other option is randomness, and there is a notion of fairness to it, at least mathematically. Maybe the list could be 5 options chosen randomly. As long as number of users is several orders of magnitude over the number of choices, it could be considered as somewhat fair.


Suppose Google donates the proceeds of the auction to charity. Would that make it ok?


One place I worked, someone made the observation that every time there was something we felt dirty about doing, we'd suggest donating some amount of the revenue to charity.


It would help if the revenue did not go to Google but for instance to charity.


There is not a finite amount of screen space there, scrolling lists exist.


There is a finite amount of space for what shows up initially on the screen, and what shows up initially on the screen will have a HUGE advantage. (In the possibly small pond of ANYONE that changes the default).

I suppose deciding that "AAAAAdvantage Searches" shows up on the initial screen, like the old yellow pages, would be one alternative to the highest bidder. Someone might consider that preferable.


The Firefox model is a good example. The initial short list of available search engines (7 slots instead of 4) is auctioned off but there's also a "Find more search engines" button with a list of 3,823 providers.

This is not a problem that a UX designer would have a hard time with.


The Firefox model is very close to what's being proposed here actually: This is the short list that ships by default, and you can pick whatever search engine you want after the initial setup anyways. I think it's reasonable for them to say they don't want to have 3,823 options on the initial setup screen for the phone, most people are just trying to get through it and don't want an extensive decision-making tree before they can write their first text message.

The difference here is that Google owns Android and Google doesn't have to bid. In my book, this is the case-in-point demonstration why Android and Chrome are the two properties that Google must be forced to spin off. Letting one company own both the dominant platforms and the dominant services that run on those platforms is a very dangerous mix.


> The difference here is that Google owns Android and Google doesn't have to bid.

This is a nonsensical argument. What is the practical difference between Google bidding and Google automatically taking a place? If Google bids, that money goes to Google, so it's as if they didn't spend any money. In both cases, by Google taking a spot, Google loses revenue from the bidder who would have otherwise taken that spot.


That's kind of the point: Google should have to bid and the money spent shouldn' go back to Google.

Such a thing would happen if Android was managed by a separate company.


The money would go to Android, to sponsor android development. Would it suffice if Google broke down their financials enough so that it was clear that this money was invested in android, and not in, say, maps?


I'm not sure that would be enough, because Android development is still principally built around Google's proprietary services and integrations. A spun-off Android would presumably support the same feature set for Google Search and say, Ecosia, alike.

Also, of course, Google can just lower their own existing Android spending line and inject it back into Search, to zero out any impact on them. Similar to how my local area likes to justify highway toll increases "we'll spend it on education!" but then stripping out education funding elsewhere to compensate, and using it for something else.


Google bought or built android to be the main mobile search engine. I understand for competitive reasons them being forced to give others a place in the search selection but why the hell should they take themselves out or even be forced to sell Android. Google auctioning the search placement is fuck you to the search engines complaining about its monopoly if they think it's get an advantage by being the default search they should be willing to pay something for being 1 of the selection.


> A spun-off Android would presumably support the same feature set for Google Search and say, Ecosia, alike.

This is already the case. Unlike with iOS, Google's apps do not have access to any more APIs than other developers' apps. One could argue that the APIs themselves are prioritized and developed according to the needs of Google's apps far more than the needs of other developers' apps, which I agree is potentially problematic, but without a particular consumer-harming example, it would be impossible to build an antitrust case on that. For example, I might like it if Amazon's App Store could have automatic app upgrade permission on my non-Amazon devices (requiring some API changes in Android to make this secure for app stores not installed on the system partition), but Amazon would have a tough time demonstrating enough consumer harm for the government to take action.


What would be the business model of Android if they were an independent company? It's FOSS so they can't really charge licensing fees. But they'll still need to make enough money to keep up with iOS.


Android Services Framework requires certification in order for you to get Play Store access.


Indeed, an independent Android, no longer with the sole purpose of driving Google account expansion, could charge hardware manufacturers. It's likely literally every hardware manufacturer would accept a modest licensing fee in exchange for not having to invent their own OS.

Something like Google's fake consortium from back in the day could have more impact, too. If Android was managed by something akin to the Open Handset Alliance, where significant hardware platform partners had a say in how Android was developed and monetized, it's likely you'd see a really healthy ecosystem of support for it, not controlled by a single entity.


Selling the right to be the default search engine to the highest bidder seems like a pretty good business to be in. Apple reportedly makes $12 billion per year on that.

No, wait... That can't be right. According to this thread that's immoral rent-seeking, and Apple would never do that. Those reports must be lies, and Apple has just randomly selected Google to be the default search engine on iOS. It's kind of amazing that Google has gotten lucky in that random selection so many years in a row, but such is life.


> No, wait... That can't be right. According to this thread that's immoral rent-seeking, and Apple would never do that. Those reports must be lies, and Apple has just randomly selected Google to be the default search engine on iOS. It's kind of amazing that Google has gotten lucky in that random selection so many years in a row, but such is life.

Actually, the argument is not that it's rent-seeking, it's that it's anti-competitive. It's not anti-competitive when Apple does it, because Apple doesn't have an equivalent search offering that automatically wins the bidding process. Nice straw man argument, though.


It's not a straw-man when people are actually making that argument. (Rent seeking is a quote from this thread, not something I made up).

The proposed model is obviously better for search engine competition than what iOS and Firefox do. In those models, there is no user choice: the platform holder takes the highest bid, which based on empirical evidence will be Google. It's way easier for the alternative search engines to get a foot in the door when there are multiple slots up for sale.

(And if Android were split out from Google, they'd go with the iOS model of selling just the default rather than the one where users choose from a list, since it's more profitable and has a simpler setup flow.)

The most common idea being floated in this thread right now is that Google should be part of the bidding and all the proceeds from the auction should be donated to some third party. How is that supposed to increase competition? We know that Google will win one of those spots. From the point of view of search engine. All that proposal will do is bleed Google for a few billions of dollars a year, it will not make it any more nor less likely for users to choose to use alternative search engines.

So no, I don't think that the main worry on people's minds in this thread is the competitiveness of alternative search engines. There seems to be no interest in making it easier for those search engines to gain market share and thus economies of scale. It's all about seeing some punishment be meted out.

(I think there are valid criticisms to be made of the auction format though; seems like it could be made more efficient and fair with some simple changes.)


Isn't bleeding Google of a few billion an important component, if this plan also bleeds all their competitors of a few billion? I mean, all of their competitors have a lot less money than them, so the fact that Google also gets placement for free is what makes this uniquely comical.

If we're trying to break up the search monopoly, Google should be paying other search engines to be in it's setup flow, so the money is going to the companies that need it.


No, I don't think it's important. Users have value to search engines. Every user who chooses a non-Google option from the dialog will immediately cause Google to make less money, and the selected competitor to make more. (Because all the competitors will be bidding less than Google makes per user, and bidding less than they themselves make per user).

So I think saying that the competitors will be bleeding billions of dollars is just not true. Unless they totally misjudge their bids, they should still be in a better position than they are now.

(But I'll happily volunteer to be the third party getting those billions of dollars a year. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig!)

> If we're trying to break up the search monopoly, Google should be paying other search engines to be in it's setup flow, so the money is going to the companies that need it.

Sounds great, I'll happily volunteer for that too!

But more seriously, that sounds like a rather bizarre plan to me. Is it part of any kind of established anti-trust doctrine?

The most competitive alternative (Bing) is owned by a trillion dollar company, controlling one of the biggest operating systems and the biggest browsers. You'd seriously have Google pay Microsoft to make Bing better?

The next one on the list is owned by a mere $250 billion company, so obviously there's no question at all about Verizon needing some handouts.

But what's the next step after that? Google should perhaps give Apple some free money so that they can make iOS more competitive? It's too bad for Google they shut down G+, if they'd waited just a bit longer they could have gotten Facebook to chip in some money to fund its development.


If by "bleeding Google of a few billions" you mean "forcing Google to pay the same cost their competitors do instead of using their position to avoid that cost", then yes.

Paying for in-demand services isn't punishment, it's one of the fundamentals of capitalism.


Sure, that works. Do you think that would satisfy the OP? Why don't they suggest it in the article/their press releases?


It's not clear to me that Google needs to _earn money_ through this auction (one they enter free of charge, even!) Simply randomizing the list is better than always placing Google in the first screen of slots and then charging everyone else for a slot of their own.


I recall Microsoft would randomly show a preferred browser after their antitrust case? Google could randomly order the search engines.


> What is the alternative?

Stop Android from being a monopoly.

This solution has the same problem as the Windows browser ballot — it starts from the assumption that the OS must continue being a monopoly.


> Stop Android from being a monopoly

How?

Apple doesn't care to compete, they've taken the profitable users and sell them higher and higher margin devices.

Microsoft doesn't care to compete, they killed the windows phone team and then killed the goodwill they had developed by releasing windows mobile 10.

KaiOS doesn't really compete.

Blackberry 10 didn't really sell.


> How?

How do we usually stop companies from being monopolies? Do that.

I don't accept that phone operating systems are a natural monopoly and that it's OK to have only 2 companies in a position to control them.


Random.

No joke, it's fair. I also doubt Google is auctioning this space for the sake of fairness. Their competitors are going to take a slice of their cake, and this is the most efficient (and legal) way to get as much of it back as possible.


Someone else said 3,823 search engine options are given in Firefox. (They still auction off the top 7 initially-on-screen options, apparently).

How many of those do you think are... even really usable?

I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that choosing randomly (for default, or for whatever X can show up initially on-screen without scrolling) is going to give many many non-expert users an unusable search experience, and an unusable Android experience to the extent that search is significant.


Most of those 3,823 options [1] are site-specific searches, e.g. Wikipedia, YouTube video search, Amazon and eBay product searches, etc. They aren't "search engines" in the sense of services which search the Web at large.

[1]: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search-tools/


Random selection would be extremely easy to abuse, and result in a garbage user experience. With random selection, creating new shell companies running some basic web search implementation and a ton of ads. With random selection and an unlimited supply of such entrepreneurs, the users would statistically always be forced to choose from one of four scammer search engines to proceed with the setup.


Random is neither definable, auditable nor equal. It would be the absolute worst solution


As a bit of history, here's what happened to Microsoft when they refused to comply with the EU order to open up the protocols that Windows Server used to communicate with Windows clients as one of the enforced antitrust remedies.

>The European Union's chief antitrust regulator fined Microsoft Corp. another $1.3 billion (899 million euros) today for what she said were business practices that "continued to stifle competition" after it was ordered to change four years ago.

Today's fine, she said, was applied because Microsoft continued to thumb its nose at the EU for more than a year -- 488 days, Kroes said at one point -- by charging an "unreasonable price" to rivals that licensed Windows' communication protocols to make their own software work more smoothly with the U.S. software maker's server products.

https://www.computerworld.com/article/2537525/eu-fines-micro...


This is amazing. Is the EU still on the same level of consumer protection? Because I see some pretty large problems with Apple's walled garden.


Hacker news, the media and politicians love Apple for the doing the same shit that Google does.

So lets not forget Google is paying apple nearly 10 Billion a year to be its default search engine.

The hypocrisy makes me sick.


This is so absurdly disingenuous from Google.

The (very good) idea is that Google Search should be competing fairly with the other search engines.

It's not fair to make these other search engines, already the victims of anti-competitive behaviour, pay millions of dollars (or whatever) into Google's bank account to be listed, while Google pays nothing.

It's like if Ford owned the roads and GM had to pay Ford for each car they sold.


What is your proposal? I don't see not much other options:

1) Excludes Google from Android/Chrome's default search engine options. This clearly doesn't make sense for Google and I don't think there's an easy way to enforce this. 2) Lists all every search engine that exists on the planet. This still doesn't answer the question who should be placed on the top of the list. 3) Break google up into Android/Chrome and the rest. This is not even an option for EU since their jurisdiction doesn't reach to Google.

Maybe Google can say something like, "all of the profits from this auction will go back to the society!", which practically doesn't make any differences to them since the profit from this auction will likely be a minute fraction compared to the Google's yearly revenues.


Do what they did on Windows, pick the 4 or 5 most popular. (In that case it was browsers)

I know, I know, what about the less popular search engines?

Well. It's better than Google takes all, and customers get easier access to 5 search engines instead of 1. (Yes they can already choose others. Almost no one bothers)

Maybe they could rotate the last 2 choices between a field of say, 20.

Thing is, if no one's heard of the option, I doubt they'll choose it, so there's not much point offering beyond say, 5 choices.

I'm guessing though.


In this case, Ecosia would still rant about it. They would only change their complaint text from "what about non-profit oriented search engines like us?" to "what about search engines nobody has ever heard about like us?". Interestingly enough, they use Bing API for actually producing SERPs, so basically this is a PR stunt for not getting free access to a marketing method that is irrelevant to user experience. While their claimed goal of promoting afforestation is rational/noble, I consider their argumentation in this case to be disingenuous.


Actually making the profits donated to a non-Google entity works quite well. Then Google should have to bid as well. Then it is fair and competitive and would actually drive the market towards a competitive equilibrium


I don't think it really addresses the complaints in the article, though. The main complaint wasn't that the proceeds go to Google, it's that the premise of an auction naturally favors profit-focused search engines. I think it's a valid problem, and the only ways to counter it have to use a ranking that doesn't involve money.


What about the EFF?


4) Pay an unaffiliated third party to run the auction, and pay to bid like every one of their competitors. Or if technology doesn't allow this, make payments to cause the same outcome. This is roughly your second paragraph, just a slight variant.

Choice of third party is tricky, but a dedicated or existing trade association that includes them and any interested major competitors on equal terms would probably do it.


This makes sense in principle, but I'm seeing a bunch of legal/technical/transparency issues on selecting the third party over the globe.

The root problem is a trust issue and I still don't see how Google can convince bidders that the auction is run by some entities which won't do any (implicitly) good for Google in return of selecting them, especially Google still owns a full control on picking the "third party". This can be solved if a state picks the third party, but now we have even bigger problems; you will have to enforce the same policy on most of the platform holders with similar issues (virtually every single major tech firms)


And that doesn't account for the fact that big corporations have a huge say in what the government does.

Hoo boy.


I don't like it being an auction because then customers aren't necessarily getting the better choices, they're getting the choices backed by the most wealth

It would also harm not for profit search engines.

Why not choose based on popularity?


1) Excluding Google from the Android/Chrome’s options is possible: just remove it from that list.

2) DuckDuckGo has a list of search providers using their !bang query. It’s not exhaustive, but adding one to the list is a form submission to DuckDuckGo.

3) A break up is not necessary: the EU can charge Google increasing fines and significantly hamper Google’s European operations.

I think 1) and 2) together could work: the browser could have no list of search engines but could download a list of search engines from a known good URL when it run for the first time. The owners of the known good URL could be a consortium of search engine providers. There are definitely flaws with this approach, and it gives the user an extra choice, but giving the user this extra choice is the point.


1) "Technically" possible. Google won't do that though unless there's an external, super strong push. 2) DDG can do that since its main target is tech-savy users (at least for now). 3) EU can do that until it doesn't escalate into EU vs US trade dispute. 5B is probably okay since Google really didn't even pay their tax in EU appropriately, but 50B will be big enough for US to intervene.


I replied to the assertion that those things were not possible, not that they were probable.


Isn't that exactly what Google has to do to be the default search provider for IOS?


The difference is that Apple doesn't have its own search engine getting a free slot.

If Google handed administration of the auction over to an independent third party, who would accept all of the paid-in fees from the winners, thus bearing the same cost as everyone else, then it would be a lot harder to make a case against this arrangement.


Why not ask Google to do exactly what MS was asked to do with the browsers for Windows: offer a spot on the choice screen for free, with Google search engine occupying a random position on the screen. I don't think any of the browser developers were asked to bid for a spot on the choice screen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BrowserChoice.eu


I don't understand the downvotes. We are clearly at the same point with Google Search that we were with Windows at that time.


The difference is that there were only a few browsers back then, it was easy to list them on a screen.

There are tons of search engines out there, how do you decide which ones to show above the fold on a user’s tiny screen?


The browser choice screen included over time ~17 browsers. On the main page you had the main browsers, while the smaller ones ended up under a "More" button.

And the "tiny screen" doesn't seem to be an issue when picking one of the dozens of languages during the phone's setup. Or any of the countless activities on a phone that overflow one screen.

This particular list shouldn't be treated differently unless it's purely a money grab.


It's also a barrier of entry to non profit search engines


It's a barrier for any search engine and Google knows it. Google is the only participant who doesn't have to pay and they're leveraging their 90% of the market share (about the same IE had 15 years ago) to squeeze the others.

My question still stands and (downvotes and the "small screen" non-issue aside) nobody is able to explain why Google should get a different treatment from Microsoft given the similar position.


It occurs to me that this is like supermarkets charging companies to put products on their shelves, then also launching their own brands and competing with them on their own shelves.

I think it's easy to see how customers are harmed by this, their choice becomes the supermarket brand or whoever shelled out the most for shelf space.

So Google search is an android home brand?

(Also why isn't the supermarket thing deemed anti-competitive?)


Indeed. I was pretty off-put by the auction. Rather un-googley.


:-D

Indeed, it's great that they've never tried building their entire business model on auctioning off the ad spots in search results. It's much more fair to everyone to just allow anyone to apply for a spot for each keyword for free, and then choose randomly from that set.


Ecosia is just a thin wrapper around Bing that allocates revenue towards climate crisis. It’s a noble cause but essentially a middleman, I don’t see why they should be given equal standing to Google/Bing for free.


I disagree with a lot of what google is doing. It's unfair that google seems to have a free spot and do not have to compete in the bidding here [0].

IANAL, so I wonder if this really fulfils what Google is trying to achieve legally. They are giving users more choice but they are effectively using their market position (Android) to get more google search usage seemingly unfairly so I would think this would lead to more anti-trust issues for them.

That said, I agree with dahdum, I don't see why any of these providers should get any help in a competitive bid. If Ecosia sees value in being here there is a price to be paid, I would be surprised if they didn't pay for all the advertising they have done.

-0 "Search providers are required to apply for inclusion through a bidding process to become one of three alternative choices to Google Search" - from Article


The spot isn't really free. The spot has the same value as the spots they are auctioning. By not auctioning it off, Google pays an opportunity cost for the spot. Not that this even matters practically.

I really don't understand people's obsession with this aspect of it. Google makes so much money from its search that there is no way that any potential cost to them from having to bid for this spot would have any real competitive impact on the search market.

For default search on iOS, Google already pays Apple more per year than the EU fined Google on this issue.


This is crazy, Google spends billions on Android. They are not blocking you from installing other search engines (now that would be anti competitive).

I think it's kinda crazy that the EU is forcing them to show other search engines to begin with. Only fair that those search engines pay a solid contribution to android development to be featured.

Reminds me of the Microsoft/IE days. At the end of the day better products came along and replaced IE. Showing competitors doesn't solve anything in this case.


They're unfairly abusing their dominant market share (75%?) to harm competing search engines, which is not allowed in EU law.

Nothing crazy about it.


I do see tschellenbach's point. Way back when google seemingly bought android to be more able to compete in search [0], and now it has been good business for them even back in 2010 android showed real promise in terms of profit [1]. So Google spends a lot of time and man hours building the most popular OS. And I can relate to google in some weird way, for not really wanting to put competitors as default options. Now as tschellenbach says,

> "Google spends billions on Android. They are not blocking you from installing other search engines"

if they did that, they would get a clear anti-trust violation I hope. Reading up on some history we see this quote from Wikipedia [2](The best source): "Compared to the European Decision against Microsoft, the DOJ case is focused less on interoperability and more on predatory strategies and market barriers to entry." If history is good president, and if Android has interoperability with other search engines and there are not predatory strategies then it should be fine right?

I think the word harm, as whalabi uses it, is too ambiguous here, having a better product 'Harms' your competitor in some way, but we wouldn't file anti-trust for this reason. The question is more like "is google behaving in a predatory manner using android". Looking at the US case, I would be tempted to say no, after all IE/Edge are defaults on windows, and this is fine so long as those two aforementioned conditions are maintained. But defaults are powerful, powerful things. Bing has come a long way almost solely because of the power of defaults [3], so maybe it should be more regulated in this regard.

0- https://www.cnet.com/news/google-buys-android/ 1- https://venturebeat.com/2010/10/27/google-exec-android-was-b... 2- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Cor.... 3- https://mspoweruser.com/microsoft-q4-2018-bing-search-busine...


Arguably, the EU's rule imposed on MS to link to competing browsers has had a profound impact. In 2002, IE totally dominated the browser market, whereas in 2019 IE doesn't exist anymore as an autonomous product/code base.


Chrome and Firefox spread by word of mouth, not because of the EU mandate. Lay people use what their friends and family recommend, or they take what looks familiar.


I can't say that I blame them. This is really an underhanded way of complying with the EU's judgement. whether you agree with the EU judgement or not, the fact is they were fined and found to be in violation, and have been tasked with creating a fair and equitable way for consumers to choose their search engine, and this reeks of rent seeking.


Why can't/ don't phone makers like Samsung set the search engine on their Android phones to whatever they want (whoever pays them the most) which would make the Android default irrelevant?

Is leaving the default alone part of the conditions they have to comply with to ship Google's apps?


I don't care for companies that resell search results provided by another company. Bing! is okay, Yahoo, Ecosia and any of these other middlemen in the world of search I just don't have any incentive to use or reason to trust them.

I am sure the work Ecosia does is commendable but reselling search engine results is not going to plant enough trees to save the planet. It might provide their founders with a comfortable salary plus an ego-boost for do-gooding but I might as well do my Christmas shopping from The Hunger Site (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunger_Site) for the good it does.


If you want to make a service with positive environmental impact and positive financials, you have to start somewhere.

The place you start is likely to be close to your expertise. In Ecosia's case, it could scale massively and they could replace the search stack with their own as the business grows.

Until a carbon tax is implemented, most businesses trying to have a positive environmental impact will be hard pressed to find financial stability.


> The place you start is likely to be close to your expertise.

What is their "expertise", though? Being an effective search engine requires expertise in search. If Ecosia is going to outsource that entirely to a third party, like Bing... what does that make them an expert at? Donating to charity?


Yeah, it should be mentioned when you select the default search engine. I fear the common consumer will default to Google for lack of better understanding of what the other options provide and those consumers are by far the great majority. At least a door is opened.


Especially if they're only going to present four options, they really should allow each company to list a small blurb to go under their title. It's likely Ecosia would vastly increase it's market share if given this option... and largely why I'm not surprised Google isn't offering such a blurb in the screenshot.


This article also quoted DuckDuckGo and Qwant, which are search aggregators and not just pass-through.

I agree, Ecosia isn't a compelling alternative. It's the same business model as Credo Wireless and various do-good credit cards. Good for them for speaking up though.


If you want to plant trees you could always pass your savings from Bing rewards onto a direct charitable donation.

I'm only a moderate Bing user but still get like $10/mo in rewards.


That is pure ad-hominem. You are not engaging with the argument being made, you are attacking it solely based on who is making it.


The fair choice is a text box: enter your search engine url. If you don’t know what it is, google it. The purpose of the legislation should be to make users aware of their options, not to let google prefill it for them. Users bear much of the responsibility for creating monopolies and have a duty to be educated about the market, if they wish to keep having a free market.

This would create an incentive for search engines to spend the money on ad campaigns for brand awareness instead of bidding for google. Win win for the market


As a user I want the option of choosing for myself. (Whatever I want.)

From that potential designs should be obvious.


What would happen if every search engine out there each put in a bid of 0 (zero) dollars?


Yes, you can have a scroll bar - but where do you set the minimum threshold for qualification? If I slap a search box in front of CommonCrawl, have I now created a search engine?


how about allow any search engine to apply for a slot for free and then list all in random order, including goole search. users can then type the name directly for the popular ones. or they pick random ones until they find one that is good. pretty sure google can find an even better way than this if they really want to be fair. anyway, as it is, they will get fined again, pretty sure about that, EU doesn't like getting off the hook through a technicality


Or a middle way. A "featured search engine" tab for those who are willing to pay for what is essentially advertisement and an "other" tab where everybody can apply for a random position.




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