Apple Considered Switching to DuckDuckGo for Search
While Google’s search engine has been the default on Apple devices for years, newly unsealed court testimony reveals that Apple held discussions with both Microsoft and DuckDuckGo about using their search engines across Apple devices, and in Microsoft’s case, potentially buying Bing, according to The Washington Post and Bloomberg. When negotiating its lucrative search arrangement with Google, Apple used the possibility of a Microsoft partnership as a useful bargaining tool.
The information was revealed as part of the Department of Justice’s unprecedented antitrust action against Google, which accuses the search giant of abusing its market dominance. A crucial component of this trial is an agreement in which Google pays Apple billions of dollars each year in revenue sharing in exchange for making Google search the default on all Apple devices. Apple defended the agreement, claiming that there was no credible alternative search engine accessible.
Bloomberg reported last week that Apple was considering purchasing Bing, but recently unsealed testimony from Apple senior vice president John Giannandrea gives more information on the conversations. According to Bloomberg, Apple met with Microsoft in 2018 and again in 2020 to discuss a potential Bing acquisition or joint venture. The company even investigated the quality of Bing’s search results in comparison to Google, but discovered that Bing generally performed worse, with the exception of desktop searches in English.
Apple previously used Bing as the default search service for some of its products (between 2013 and 2017, Microsoft’s search engine provided answers for Siri and Spotlight searches), but it ultimately decided to stick with Google in a deal valued at around $19 billion per year. Additionally, you can also read about- Apple Considered Replacing Google with Bing as Default Search Engine
Although Apple appeared to be pursuing a deal with Microsoft, one internal Apple email revealed as part of the trial reveals the corporation was – at least partially — using Bing as a bargaining chip with Google. “We build them [Microsoft] up, create incremental negotiating leverage to keep the take rate from Google, and further our optionality to replace Google down the line,” Apple vice president Adrian Perica wrote, according to The Washington Post. Microsoft, for its part, was aware that it was being utilized for leverage. “It is no secret that Apple makes more money on Bing’s existence than Bing does,” said Mikhail Parakhin, Microsoft’s chief of advertising and digital services, during a court hearing.
According to newly revealed testimony from DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg, Apple allegedly held roughly 20 meetings and phone calls with DuckDuckGo to discuss making the search engine the default for Safari’s private browsing mode. DuckDuckGo positions itself as a more private search engine alternative to the main search engines. Although Weinberg stated that he “thought [Apple] would launch it,” Apple’s Giannandrea stated that he was unaware that the firm was considering a switch, and even questioned DuckDuckGo’s privacy assurances, according to Bloomberg.
According to Giannandrea, DuckDuckGo’s reliance on Bing for search information puts user information at risk of being shared with Microsoft. “I would probably insisted on doing a lot more due diligence with DuckDuckGo” if Apple truly considered switching, Giannandrea added.