Update, September 29th 2020: Ecosia won in one small market in the most recent Google led Android auction. We’ve long asserted that this pay-for-play model would force out purpose-driven businesses from the Android platform, and here is the proof of that. Ecosia is the biggest Europe-based search engine, yet users can barely access us in Android via the auction screen.
Update, Jul 28th 2020: We still believe Android users deserve the option to freely choose their search engine. However, due to the negative impacts of COVID-19 on our revenues, combined with no foreseeable regulation changes from the European Commission, we are left with no choice but to participate. We must protect our brand visibility and our ability to fund our tree planting projects.
Google’s so-called “choice screen” for Android just went live in Europe. This means that new Android devices will let their users choose their default search engine during the set-up process. This would be great if there wasn’t a catch. Only search engines that pay Google will be displayed.
Android users deserve to choose their favorite search engine. Google’s decision to sell that choice to the highest bidders is unethical and anti-competitive. Therefore, I announced that Ecosia would boycott this auction.
We didn’t participate in the paid auction (and still don’t) for various reasons.
Ecosia is a not-for-profit search engine. Taking part in Google's auction would force us to spend our income on an unnecessary bidding war with other (profit-oriented) search engines. We'd rather use it to plant trees on our endangered planet.
We also believe that it is unethical for a company with a dominant market position like Google to discriminate access to that market by artificially limiting user options, thereby creating scarcity where there is none.
In short, this “choice screen” is not a choice screen at all and is harmful for competition. So what should Google be doing instead?
Google should show a fair and open list, which ranks search engines based on their relevance to users, not on their willingness to pay to be seen. To be completely fair, this list should be unlimited and not preselected. Each search engine would have a description so users could make an informed decision based on their own preferences.
We, along with other alternative search engines, will continue to talk to the European Commission to advocate for fair competition in the search market. More news to come - watch this space!