What is Info.com? The mysterious search engine that’s coming to every Android phone

From March 1 onwards, anyone setting up an Android device in the EU will be given the option to set one of four search engines as their handset’s default selection. Google has quietly revealed that, for Android users based in the UK, for the period spanning March 1 to June 30, these four options will be Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and… Info.com.

Info.com? What is Info.com?

Info.com is a search engine. But beyond that it’s hard to tell.

To reiterate, from March 1, new Android users will be presented with a choice of four search providers, as a consequence of an antitrust ruling from the European Union last year. As Google explains in this new Help Center article:

“The effect of a user selecting a search provider from the choice screen will be to (i) set the search provider in a home screen search box to the selected provider, (ii) set the default search provider in Chrome (if installed) to the selected provider, and (iii) install the search app of the selected provider (if not already installed).”

Back to Info.com. Clicking the ‘About’ button on the Info.com website leads you to the website of Infospace Holdings LLC, an apparently California-based company that describes itself as “a leader in search and discovery” that “[helps] companies connect to customers through high intent advertising” and also dabbles in machine learning.

In that regard, it sounds much like Google. But InfoSpace runs two other search engines, both of which pre-date Google’s own.

These are WebCrawler, which launched in April 1994 and is credited with being the oldest search engine in the world, and Dogpile, a metasearch engine that launched in November 1996.

Though WebCrawler and Dogpile still exist, a quick glance at each of them should be enough to steer you back to the familiar company of Google.

Far more worrying, however, is the fact that one of the results that surfaced when I searched Google for more information on InfoSpace was this less than complimentary piece of research that was published in Nasdaq in 2014, and shines a light on some extremely disturbing sounding Dogpile and WebCrawler search trends at the time.

Info.com’s origins, though, are less clear. There’s an Info.com app on Google Play, but at the time of publication it has fewer than 100 downloads and zero reviews.

I’d like to think that, with figures like those, any phone user would think twice before downloading any app.

Yet, between March 1 and June 30 − and possibly beyond − Google will make it extremely easy for new Android users to install the Info.com app. All you’ll need to do is tap Info.com when it appears on-screen during the startup process:

Trusted Reviews asked Google for more information about Info.com, but we were told to contact Info.com directly. That, however, is easier said than done. If we do manage to get through to Infospace Holdings LLC and subsequently receive a response from the company, this article will be updated.

Google has, however, explained why Info.com is one of the four options, and better-known alternatives like Bing aren’t.

“Google will use a fourth-price auction to select the other general search providers that appear in the choice screen … In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. The three highest bidders will appear in the choice screen for that country. The provider that is selected by the user will pay the amount of the fourth-highest bid.”

In other words, it appears that InfoSpace was more willing to essentially pay for new users than other search providers were.

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