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It’s not every day when a tech company recommends you check out its rival’s product. But Google is being forced to do just that in Europe.
To comply with an EU antitrust ruling, the tech giant will show Android users alternative browser and search engine apps on Google Play. The store will serve up two pop-ups: one for search apps, the other for browsers. For each category, users will see a list of the top five apps.
Google’s blog post on the upcoming update includes an example of what the pop-ups will look like. The image shows Google search and Google Chrome at the top of each list, followed by rival products such as Mozilla’s Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and DuckDuck Go. However, the actual app recommendations will be shown in random order, and will vary depending on the country, the company said.
“Users can tap to install as many apps as they want. If an additional search app or browser is installed, the user will be shown an additional screen with instructions on how to set up the new app,” Google added. The company will also ask the user whether they want to change Chrome’s default search engine in the event they download a competing search service.
The pop-ups will begin appearing over the next few weeks for both existing and new Android phones in Europe.
Last July, the EU fined Google $5.1 billion for abusing its power in the smartphone market. Google had been requiring Android handset makers to pre-install the company’s search engine and the Chrome browser as a pre-condition to offering the Google Play store app on their phones.
The ruling brings to mind Microsoft’s global antitrust trouble in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2009, Microsoft agreed to no longer make Internet Explorer the default web browser for Windows machines in Europe, and started showing a pop-up “browser ballot” that listed the top five web browsers until 2014.
Since then, Google has become the leading browser and search engine provider in the world. But whether the company will face the same antitrust scrutiny in the US remains unclear. In February, the Federal Trade Commission launched a new task force devoted to monitoring competition in the technology industry. Meanwhile, lawmakers, Democratic presidential candidates, and President Trump have talked up the need for regulations and antitrust investigations to rein in Silicon Valley.