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Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google could lose 20% of the mobile search market that it dominates if more users had the option to choose their default search provider via a preference menu, privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo argues in new research shared exclusively with Axios.

The big picture: DuckDuckGo has met with Justice Department regulators about requiring Google to create a preference menu so Android users can easily switch to a different search provider. This study fleshes out that idea and gives DuckDuckGo ammunition it can give authorities investigating Google for anticompetitive practices in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Context: The Justice Department and states are reportedly preparing to bring antitrust cases against Google this year.

  • Google developed the Android operating system, which is used by roughly 80 percent of the global mobile market, and Google's search tools are built into Android in a variety of ways.

How it works: DuckDuckGo conducted user testing of 12,000 people in the U.S., UK and Australia, where Google market share in mobile search is 95%, 98% and 98% respectively.

  • A preference menu could reduce those market shares by 20%, 22% and 16% respectively, the testing found.
  • Testing also concluded that when given options, users scroll through to see the options before making a choice on a search engine.
  • DuckDuckGo also tested user behavior when Google was placed on the last screen of the preference menu, finding no statistically significant difference in how often users selected it.
  • E.U. Android users gained access to a similar menu earlier this year after E.U. authorities fined Google $5 billion over competition concerns involving Android.

What they're saying: "Our pitch for it is that it could be better than other things discussed [as potential remedies]," Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, told Axios. "It's very simple, its implementation is not very complicated, it can be done quickly, and move market share now."

  • DuckDuckGo met with Justice Department staffers this summer to discuss the idea of search preference menus as a remedy to search dominance.
  • "We think the data speaks for itself," Weinberg said, and that regulators were interested in the preference menu. "It's the missing piece."

The other side: "Our focus is firmly on providing free services that help people every day, lower costs for small businesses, and enable increased choice and competition," a Google spokesperson told Axios.

Go deeper

Why Facebook's cloud gaming won't be coming to your iPhone

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook on Monday launched its free cloud gaming platform on desktop and Google's Android mobile operating system but said it it couldn't offer the service on Apple's iOS because of Apple's "arbitrary" policies on applications that act like app stores.

The big picture: It's the latest example of the complex interrelationships among tech's biggest companies, which cooperate with one another in some areas while competing and fighting in others.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.