Australian antitrust regulator examines Apple, Google web browser dominance

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 10
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week targeted both Apple and Google in a probe into choice and competition issues related to internet search and preinstalled web browsers.

iPhone with Google


The ACCC on Thursday published a Digital Platform Services Inquiry (PDF link) seeking input on platform default search engines and web browsers, reports ZDNet.

At issue are browsers and search tools that are presented as preinstalled options, a strategy that potentially suppresses consumer choice. As noted in the document, offering a default option on a platform like iOS substantially increases the likelihood that a user will select that product -- and likewise disregard others.

According to Statcounter estimates from cited by the ACCC, Safari is the most used browser on smartphones and tablets in Australia with a 51% share. Google's Chrome follows with 39%, Samsung Internet at 7%, and Mozilla Firefox at less than 1%. Those figures are somewhat flipped on desktop, with Chrome seeing an estimated 62% usage rate, followed by Safari at 18%, Edge with 9%, and Firefox at 6%.

Notably, Google's search services are the default option on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Samsung Internet, while Microsoft's Bing is the default search engine on Edge.

Tech companies are keenly aware of the effects default apps and services can have on customer engagement. For example, the ACCC points to Google's arrangement with Apple to maintain its standing as Safari and Siri's default search engine. That deal was rumored to be worth $100 million a year in 2010, but has since ballooned to an estimated $9 billion in 2018 and as much as $12 billion in 2019.

"We know that, in general, setting a default option substantially increases the likelihood that consumers and businesses will stick with that option. This can have the effect of reducing competition and consumer choice in the supply of these services," ACCC chair Rod Sims said in statement.

The ACCC is also investigating the effectiveness of Google's Android choice screen interface, which presents European users the option of downloading alternative search engines and browsers. Choice screens were implemented after the European Commission in 2018 found Google breached European Union antitrust rules.

Though not as conspicuous as Google's UI, Apple implements a feature similar to choice screens in iOS 14. Users are able to change the system default browser and search engine in the Settings app.

Other areas of inquiry in the ACCC's discussion paper include widgets, search bars, user interface elements and methods of changing default search services and web browsers.

A report based on responses gathered by the inquiry is expected in September.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,466member
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    edited March 10 rob53williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 16
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,512member
    Apple should do what it did with the Apple Watch, which prohibits clock apps. In keeping with that principle of non-duplication of apps, all apps on iOS that compete with Safari, or Mail, or Messages should just be banned from the iOS App Store. If Apple did that, there's no need for Apple to provide options for these programs.

    Apple has no obligation to provide consumer choice in these areas, just like it doesn't have an obligation to allow apps that duplicate the watch feature in watchOS.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    lkrupp said:
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    This is what happens when people who know nothing about tech get involved in making laws about tech. 

    Thanks to the EU, I have to answer a question  before I access every web page, because the EU thought it was smarter than the IT industry. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Apple should do what it did with the Apple Watch, which prohibits clock apps. In keeping with that principle of non-duplication of apps, all apps on iOS that compete with Safari, or Mail, or Messages should just be banned from the iOS App Store. If Apple did that, there's no need for Apple to provide options for these programs.

    Apple has no obligation to provide consumer choice in these areas, just like it doesn't have an obligation to allow apps that duplicate the watch feature in watchOS.
    That would just result in one type of investigation being replaced by another. 
    "Apple has no obligation" is what some Governments and entitled developers think is incorrect.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    cjcoopscjcoops Posts: 99member
    Rayz2016 said:

    This is what happens when people who know nothing about tech get involved in making laws about tech. 

    Thanks to the EU, I have to answer a question  before I access every web page, because the EU thought it was smarter than the IT industry. 
    Which then means you have to go out of your way to install an ad-blocker that stops that pointless crap from showing up (and ads as a bonus).

    I've setup my Asus router with Merlin-Wrt and Diversion to deal with all that at source for any connected device at home.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/diversion/comments/f0sum6/everyone_should_own_an_asus_router/


    Meanwhile, I do have Brave and Tor Browser installed on my laptop because I choose to have them available when needed.
    edited March 11
  • Reply 6 of 16
    croprcropr Posts: 1,051member
    lkrupp said:
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    Don't assume that people don't know what they want.   I am using Firefox on all platforms (Windows, Max, Linux, iOS, Android), because it is fast, secure and it syncs  bookmarks, history and plugins.  No need to test numerous browsers. Just download Firefox (on Ubuntu it is pre-installed).

    But making Firefox the default browser on some platforms (e.g on iOS) is a different story.  And that is what need to be addressed
    williamlondoncloudguy
  • Reply 7 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,466member
    cropr said:
    lkrupp said:
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    Don't assume that people don't know what they want.   I am using Firefox on all platforms (Windows, Max, Linux, iOS, Android), because it is fast, secure and it syncs  bookmarks, history and plugins.  No need to test numerous browsers. Just download Firefox (on Ubuntu it is pre-installed).

    But making Firefox the default browser on some platforms (e.g on iOS) is a different story.  And that is what need to be addressed
    Nonsense. It IS safe to assume most (90%) of users don’t know what they want. And if default browsers/apps are banned the common user WILL be forced to download something, anything, in order to get going. And that will be confusing to say the least. Imagine a new iPhone user who has just purchased the device. They turn it on and discover it does not have a browser, an email client, a messaging app, a photo app, etc. They have to go to the App Store to find and install these things on their own... because fairness. Heck, the user may have to find a third party App Store if these bozos get their way. Having default access to Apple’s App Store would be anti-competitive would it not?

    And here you are touting Firefox as the be-all-end-all of Browsers. Get over yourself.
    watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 8 of 16
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,671member
    cropr said:
    lkrupp said:
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    Don't assume that people don't know what they want.   I am using Firefox on all platforms (Windows, Max, Linux, iOS, Android), because it is fast, secure and it syncs  bookmarks, history and plugins.  No need to test numerous browsers. Just download Firefox (on Ubuntu it is pre-installed).

    But making Firefox the default browser on some platforms (e.g on iOS) is a different story.  And that is what need to be addressed

    No it doesn't.  Default apps are nothing new.  The consumer is more likely to choose the default app?  No sh*t!  It's the default app because it works.  If people don't want the default for whatever reason, they can easily change it.  I switched to DuckDuckGo a few months ago.  Never looked back.  But if Google wants to pay Apple billions to make it the default search engine, let them do it.  It's a legitimate business arrangement.  Despite Google's dominance, there are plenty of choices in the market.  
    watto_cobraAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,466member
    sdw2001 said:
    cropr said:
    lkrupp said:
    So if these motherhumpers have their way a user setting up their new device will have to download and install a browser ‘of their choice’ so as to appear to be ‘fair’? The user will have to download and test numerous browsers so they can make an ‘informed’ choice. No default apps allowed? And they’ll call it consumer friendly and promoting ‘competition’? What planet do these assholes live on. They want the user to slog through app after app and to decide which ones they ‘prefer’? Yeah, that’ll make setting up a new phone or computer an adventure in futility. What browser shall I use? What email client shall I use? What photo storage app should I select. PLEASE HELP ME!!!
    Don't assume that people don't know what they want.   I am using Firefox on all platforms (Windows, Max, Linux, iOS, Android), because it is fast, secure and it syncs  bookmarks, history and plugins.  No need to test numerous browsers. Just download Firefox (on Ubuntu it is pre-installed).

    But making Firefox the default browser on some platforms (e.g on iOS) is a different story.  And that is what need to be addressed

    No it doesn't.  Default apps are nothing new.  The consumer is more likely to choose the default app?  No sh*t!  It's the default app because it works.  If people don't want the default for whatever reason, they can easily change it.  I switched to DuckDuckGo a few months ago.  Never looked back.  But if Google wants to pay Apple billions to make it the default search engine, let them do it.  It's a legitimate business arrangement.  Despite Google's dominance, there are plenty of choices in the market.  
    Once again it’s some government bureaucrat thinking thinking people are too stupid to know they have choices other than the default. So the government must intervene to protect the its stupid public from choosing the default.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,670member
    Anyone remember the MS IE debacle? Who'd a thunk we'd be at a point where the dominant browser to the point that it warrants scrutiny is an Apple browser? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,745member
    Pfft, just stick a prominent banner on Safari the first time it opens that says Other Browsers Are Available..., with a link to an App Store page.

    No one will tap on it, but Apple have made people aware of alternatives.  Hell, have the banner reappear with every update, still no one will tap on it, but Apple have been more than fair.  I doubt Apple even care if users use Safari or another web browser, as long as they're on an iOS device.  So give users a heads up that they can continue to use Safari, or download another browser app from the store.  Whatever the user does, it's all fine with Apple.


    Surprised that Safari is now the second most popular browser on desktop.  When did that happen?
    edited March 11 Alex1N
  • Reply 12 of 16
    z3r0z3r0 Posts: 236member
    Wait... Wait... You mean to tell me that Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge (with FireFox being the hold out) all use Webkit as their engine?  ;)
  • Reply 13 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,171member
    z3r0 said:
    Wait... Wait... You mean to tell me that Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge (with FireFox being the hold out) all use Webkit as their engine?  ;)
    No. Current browser engines in use include:
     -Blink, used by Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
     -Gecko, used by Mozilla Firefox
     -WebKit, used by Apple’s Safari
     -Trident, used by Internet Explorer

    Fun Fact: The Google developed Chromium, now open-sourced, is the basis for more than 20 current browsers including Chrome (of course), Edge, Brave, and Opera.
    https://www.computerworld.com/article/3261009/googles-chromium-browser-explained.html
    edited March 11 muthuk_vanalingamAlex1N
  • Reply 14 of 16
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,745member
    gatorguy said:
    z3r0 said:
    Wait... Wait... You mean to tell me that Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge (with FireFox being the hold out) all use Webkit as their engine?  ;)
    No. Current browser engines in use include:
     -Blink, used by Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
     -Gecko, used by Mozilla Firefox
     -WebKit, used by Apple’s Safari
     -Trident, used by Internet Explorer

    Fun Fact: The Google developed Chromium, now open-sourced, is the basis for more than 20 current browsers including Chrome (of course), Edge, Brave, and Opera.
    https://www.computerworld.com/article/3261009/googles-chromium-browser-explained.html
    Internet Explorer?  A "current" browser?
  • Reply 15 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,171member
    crowley said:
    gatorguy said:
    z3r0 said:
    Wait... Wait... You mean to tell me that Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge (with FireFox being the hold out) all use Webkit as their engine?  ;)
    No. Current browser engines in use include:
     -Blink, used by Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
     -Gecko, used by Mozilla Firefox
     -WebKit, used by Apple’s Safari
     -Trident, used by Internet Explorer

    Fun Fact: The Google developed Chromium, now open-sourced, is the basis for more than 20 current browsers including Chrome (of course), Edge, Brave, and Opera.
    https://www.computerworld.com/article/3261009/googles-chromium-browser-explained.html
    Internet Explorer?  A "current" browser?
    LOL... Yeah, believe it or not Microsoft will continue supporting it WRT their 365 apps until August this year. There's a lot of legacy systems out there.
    thumbnail image 1 of blog post titled  Microsoft 365 apps say farewell to Internet Explorer 11 and Windows 10 sunsets Microsoft Edge Legacy
    edited March 11
  • Reply 16 of 16
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,329member
    gatorguy said:
    crowley said:
    gatorguy said:
    z3r0 said:
    Wait... Wait... You mean to tell me that Safari, Google Chrome, Opera and Microsoft Edge (with FireFox being the hold out) all use Webkit as their engine?  ;)
    No. Current browser engines in use include:
     -Blink, used by Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
     -Gecko, used by Mozilla Firefox
     -WebKit, used by Apple’s Safari
     -Trident, used by Internet Explorer

    Fun Fact: The Google developed Chromium, now open-sourced, is the basis for more than 20 current browsers including Chrome (of course), Edge, Brave, and Opera.
    https://www.computerworld.com/article/3261009/googles-chromium-browser-explained.html
    Internet Explorer?  A "current" browser?
    LOL... Yeah, believe it or not Microsoft will continue supporting it WRT their 365 apps until August this year. There's a lot of legacy systems out there.
    Supporting legacy systems is pretty much Microsoft's bread and butter.
    watto_cobra
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