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Google’s “pay to play” default browser auction makes it hard for privacy-friendly browsers to compete

Privacy-friendly browsers that don't monetize user data can't afford to compete.
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Google has long faced criticism and even regulatory action, especially from the European Union, for having grown too big and dominant for anybody’s except its own good.

Another term for this is “monopolistic behavior,” and in one of its many “middle of the road” decisions – appearing forceful, but in reality bringing little to no real pressure to bear – in 2018, the EU decided to force Google to present Android users in Europe setting up their new devices with a screen giving them an opportunity to pick a search engine other than Google, as their system default.

(As it turns out, this is a distant echo of a similar decision made in Europe more than a decade earlier, when another largely inefficient attempt was made to contain a different unapologetic tech monopolist – at the time Microsoft – by introducing the “browser choice” screen.)

Now, many of those who had in fact activated a new Android device recently and were faced with the “search engine choice” screen might have wondered how exactly these supposed viable competitors to Google Search were even included.

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The question is – how do search engines even make it to the selection screen? The Wall Street Journal sheds some light on this explaining that Google makes the choice by organizing “auctions.”

But here is where some established yet independent and privacy-minded engines like DuckDuckGo must compete with Microsoft’s Bing – a clear mismatch.

The latest auction has reportedly left DuckDuckGo out of major markets like Germany, France, and the UK.

As for what that auction is about – DuckDuckGo CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg called it “flawed”:

“Anyone with less ads is getting hurt. Anyone doing privacy is getting hurt. Anyone doing things where they give away profit (to support causes) is getting hurt.”

Even as a tech enthusiast with particular interest in open source and alternative products, the screen I saw several month ago on a new Android phone puzzled me as it listed search engines that I didn’t even recognize (and that’s saying something) – let alone had any reason to consider viable in the long run.

What those attempting to compete with Google are saying is that this is designed and done on purpose to discourage users from opting for anything other than the behemoth’s own search product.

Defend free speech and individual liberty online. 

Push back against big tech and media gatekeepers.

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