In an update to the chromium engine, which underpins Google’s popular Chrome browser, the search giant has quietly updated the lists of default search engines it offers per market — expanding the choice of search product users can pick from in markets around the world.
Most notably it has expanded search engine lists to include pro-privacy rivals in more than 60 markets globally.
The changes, which appear to have been pushed out with the Chromium 73 stable release yesterday, come at a time when Google is facing rising privacy and antitrust scrutiny and accusations of market distorting behavior at home and abroad.
Many governments are now actively questioning how competition policy needs to be updated to rein in platform power and help smaller technology innovators get out from under the tech giant shadow.
But in a note about the changes to chromium’s default search engine lists on an GitHub instance, Google software engineer Orin Jaworski merely writes that the list of search engine references per country is being “completely replaced based on new usage statistics” from “recently collected data.”
The per country search engine choices appear to loosely line up with top-four market share.
The greatest beneficiary of the update appears to be pro-privacy Google rival, DuckDuckGo, which is now being offered as an option in more than 60 markets, per the GitHub instance.
Previously DDG was not offered as an option at all.
Another pro-privacy search rivals, French search engine Qwant, has also been added as a new option — though only in its home market, France.
DDG has been added in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Bolivia, Brazil, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Germany, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Moldova, Macedonia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Paraguay, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Switzerland, U.K., Uruguay, U.S. and Venezuela.
“We’re glad that Google has recognized the importance of offering consumers a private search option,” DuckDuckGo founder Gabe Weinberg told us when approached for comment about the change.
DDG has been growing steadily for years, and has also recently taken outside investment to scale its efforts to capitalize on growing international appetite for pro-privacy products.
Interestingly, the chromium GitHub instance is dated December 2018 — which appears to be around the time when Google (finally) passed the Duck.com domain to DuckDuckGo, after holding onto the domain and pointing it to Google.com for years.
We asked Google for comment on the timing of its changes to search engine options in chromium. At the time of writing the search giant had not responded.
Reached for comment on being added as an option in its home market, Qwant co-founder Eric Leandri said “thank you” to Google for adding the search engine as an option in France, claiming “certainly it’s because of the number of users of Qwant” in its home market.
But he added that Qwant still recommends to its users that they use Mozilla’s Firefox browser or the pro-privacy Brave browser.
He also said it would have been nicer if Google had also added Qwant in Germany and Italy where he said the search engine also has a following.
Asked whether he believes expanded search engine options in Chrome will be enough to stave off further regulatory intervention related to Google’s market dominance, Leandri said no — pointing out that Android OEMs still have to pay Google to install a non-Google search engine by default, following the European Commission’s Android antitrust ruling last year, as we’ve reported previously.
“It’s a joke,” he added. “But thank you again for Chrome 73, I really and sincerely appreciate [it]. I still recommend Firefox and Brave.”
This report was updated with comment from Qwant