The Impact of Google’s Deals on DuckDuckGo’s Potential Contract with Apple
The CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, recently testified in a landmark antitrust trial against Google, revealing that talks between DuckDuckGo and Apple for a potential contract failed due to Google’s multibillion-dollar deals with the smartphone maker. The trial transcripts shed light on the effect of Google’s annual payments of $10 billion to smartphone makers, including Apple, to keep its search engine as the default on devices.
According to a redacted transcript unsealed during the trial, DuckDuckGo had struck a deal with Apple in 2014 to be shown as an option on Apple devices. However, DuckDuckGo began pressing Apple to make it the default choice for users who wanted to work in privacy mode, which limited data collection. Being the default option in search, maps, or any other area is crucial for app makers, as users are often hesitant to change defaults.
Weinberg testified that Apple seemed interested in 2016, and meetings between the executives of both companies took place in 2017 and 2018 to discuss the possibility of DuckDuckGo becoming the default search engine in privacy mode. DuckDuckGo currently holds about 2.5% of the search market, according to Weinberg’s testimony.
During these meetings, Apple executives expressed concerns that their distribution agreements with Google might prevent them from making the change. The Justice Department has previously stated that Google pays around $10 billion annually to Apple and other smartphone makers to secure its position as the default search engine. This dominance in the search market has made Google a major player in the lucrative advertising industry, boosting its profits significantly.
In 2019, Apple ultimately decided not to proceed with the change, leading to the potential deal with DuckDuckGo falling through. Weinberg also mentioned that similar proposals were made to Samsung and other companies, but they were also rejected due to their existing contracts with Google.
The impact of Google’s deals on potential competitors like DuckDuckGo highlights the challenges faced by privacy-oriented search engines in gaining market share. Despite the growing demand for privacy-focused services, the dominance of major players like Google, backed by their significant financial agreements, presents a significant barrier to entry for smaller competitors.
As the antitrust trial continues, it raises important questions about the influence of such deals on competition and consumer choice in the search engine market. The outcome of the trial may have far-reaching implications for the future of privacy-oriented search engines and the overall landscape of the search industry.