Google Search Choice Screen to be free for rival search engines

Google might be the most popular search engine in the world but it is hardly the only one. There are several of those around, some trying to survive in their local markets against the might of Google's resources. In Europe, the tech giant was legally forced to present Android users with a Choice Screen, letting them select the browser and search app of their choice. That choice didn't come without cost for those search engines, however, but now Google is removing the hurdle that forced those search engines to pay to be even on that Choice Screen list.

An antitrust ruling by the European Commission in 2019 stopped Google from bundling Chrome and Search in its Android phones. Instead of just leaving users to scramble for what to use, Google implemented a Choice Screen that will let them select what to use from a list. While that satisfied the letter of the law, the requirement to even be on that list might not have been in the spirit of fair competition.

To be eligible to be on that list, search engines will have to win an auction, which means spending money. This naturally favors bigger companies like Microsoft and Yahoo but is a huge barrier to entry for local search engines and non-profits. Google says that, after discussing with the European Commission, it is finally removing that system.

That doesn't mean that just anyone and everyone can be on that Choice Screen, though. Google will implement certain criteria for who gets to be at the top of the list, particularly the five most popular search engines in a particular country based on figures from StatCounter. There will also be seven other options for general search services and all twelve will be ordered randomly.

Google says that this change will be implemented starting September for Android devices sold within the European Union. Although that change has been mandated in the region, it hasn't caught on in other major markets like the US where Google also faces antitrust scrutiny.