Last year the European Commission ruled that Google had illegally used Android to dominate search. Last month the European Commission gave Google feedback that bundling Chrome with the OS was also frowned upon. This week Google is implementing actual software changes to Android. The company has created a Windows-style ballot system which will encourage users to actively pick alternative browsers and search engines.
Google outlines the new ballot system in a post on its official blog. Pictures show two new setup screens in Android, one shows the currently installed search engine (usually Google Search) and offers to install alternatives like DuckDuckGo and Qwant. The second screen shows the currently installed browser (Chrome) and offers alternatives like Firefox and Edge.
Rather than make these screens part of setup that would be shown to new users only, Google says “These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update.” The browser and search pages each show five apps total, including any apps that are already installed. Google notes that the app selection will vary by country, and that new apps “will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.” There’s also going to be a new prompt in Google Chrome, which will encourage users to pick a search engine.
These are just the latest changes Google has made to Android in response to the EU’s antitrust investigations. After a $ 5 billion fine came down last year, Google dropped its “all or nothing” policy for shipping the Android Google apps, unbundling Search, Chrome, and other apps from crucial ecosystem apps like the Play Store and Google Play Services. That option came with the caveat that those apps would no longer be free to OEMs—Google said that because apps like Search and Chrome helped fund the development of Android, manufacturers that dropped them would be charged a per-device fee as high as $ 40. Google also dropped its policy of punishing Android manufacturers that shipped forked, non-Google Android, allowing manufacturers to ignore the Google apps and Google compatibility requirements on some phones, while shipping the Google apps on others.
Google says its new browser and search ballot screens will be “rolling out over the next few weeks” to new and existing users in Europe. The company also says it will be “evolving the implementation over time.”
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