The DuckDuckGo CEO
a privacy-focused search engine, has revealed that discussions with Apple regarding a potential partnership fell through due to Apple’s reluctance to forego the substantial payments it receives from Google. These revelations came to light during the landmark antitrust trial involving Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo CEO, testified on September 21st about how Google’s annual payments of $10 billion to smartphone manufacturers and other entities to maintain its search engine as the default option on devices had an impact on his company. Some portions of his testimony were initially undisclosed but have since been made public through a redacted transcript.
According to the unsealed transcript, DuckDuckGo ceo had initially struck a deal with Apple in 2014 to be offered as an option on Apple devices. Subsequently, DuckDuckGo pushed for Apple to make it the default choice for users seeking privacy mode, which restricts data collection on users. Many app developers aspire to become the default option in their respective domains, such as search or maps, as changing default settings can be challenging for users.
Weinberg mentioned that Apple appeared quite interested in the idea in 2016, and discussions between the two companies continued in 2017 and 2018 to explore the possibility of making DuckDuckGo the default search engine for privacy mode. Despite DuckDuckGo holding a modest 2.5% share of the search market, Apple seemed keen to explore this partnership.
However, during these discussions, Apple executives expressed concerns that their existing distribution agreements with Google might prevent such a transition. Weinberg argued that the potential deal ultimately fell through in 2019 due to the substantial payments Google was making to Apple.
Additionally, John Giannandrea, responsible for machine learning and AI strategy at Apple, testified in closed-door sessions that were also revealed in the transcript. Giannandrea discussed Apple’s contemplation of alternatives to Google, including the possibility of purchasing or using Bing as the default search engine. Ultimately, this idea was rejected due to concerns about Bing’s lower-quality search results.
The U.S. Department of Justice has previously stated that Google, which dominates about 90% of the search market, pays approximately $10 billion annually to Apple, among other smartphone manufacturers and partners, to secure its position as the default search engine. This significant influence in the search industry has bolstered Google’s profitability and its role in the lucrative advertising market.