Google just made it way easier to ditch Chrome on Android

Google Android will now ask users which browser they would like to use, following a ruling by the European Commission (EC) that it was using the OS to unfairly “strengthen its search engine dominance”.

Google senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker announced the move in a blog post late on Thursday (UK time). He said the move will help alert users that they have a choice of browser on Android and “support choice and competition in Europe”.

He added that the move is a direct reaction to the EC, which fined Google €4.34 billion for “illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine” in July 2018.

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“On Android phones, you’ve always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it,” read the blog post.

“Now we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones. This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.”

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This means you should be able to quickly install and set your favourite browser – we’re personally waiting with bated breath for Vivaldi on Android – as your phone or tablet’s default internet access point.

The move is the latest in a long line of policy changes by Google to comply with the EC’s ruling, which, according to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, suggested: ” Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine.”

He continued: “In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

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The move has been met with cautious optimism by the tech industry.

Cliqz GmbH Dr. Marc Al-Hames, Managing Director of Mozilla subsidiary Cliqz GmbH said that the move is positive, but that more will need to be done to break Google’s stranglehold on the search market.

“We welcome the fact that Google is giving in to pressure from the EU antitrust authorities. Whether this really will lead to fair competition depends on the configuration of the browser and search engine selection,” he said.

According to StatCounter Google accounted for over 90% of all web searches in February 2019. Bing only spoke for around 3% by comparison.

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