Apple considered ditching Google for DuckDuckGo

Apple considered ditching Google for DuckDuckGo
Apple AI executive and former Google search lead John Giannandrea. Steve Jennings/ TechCrunch/ Flickr

But Apple exec argued DuckDuckGo wasn’t as private as believed:

Apple recently improved the Safari web browser’s private browsing mode in iOS 17, making it simpler to utilize alternatives to Google search. However, the firm thought about going one step further and making DuckDuckGo, which is positioned as a more private alternative, the default option in such situation.

The information was revealed when Amit Mehta, the US District Judge overseeing the US antitrust trial over Google search, revealed transcripts of testimony given by Apple SVP of machine learning and AI strategy John Giannandrea and DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg. This was first reported by Bloomberg‘s Leah Nylen. Prior to taking on his present position at Apple, Giannandrea was the head of search at Google.

In his evidence, Weinberg stated that his organization met with Apple about the likelihood of the change approximately twenty times. He also stated that he thought the change would occur because earlier DuckDuckGo integrations had been incorporated into Safari. He went so far as to say that this integration proposal was the only one that fell short “all the way through the finish line.”

However, Giannandrea saw things differently. Having participated extensively in Apple’s conversations regarding its search strategy going forward, he rejected a move to DuckDuckGo, in part because he thought DuckDuckGo’s “marketing about privacy is somewhat incongruent with the details” given that it uses Bing in certain places. If the transition had occurred, he stated he would have wanted to conduct “a lot more due diligence with DuckDuckGo”. In a prior internal company email, he urged against moving to DuckDuckGo.

These discussions took place inside the larger framework of the Google search antitrust trial, which is estimated to account for ninety percent of the market. Apple and Google have a well-known and profitable agreement for Apple to use Google’s search engine as the default one in Safari, the web browser that comes pre-installed on iPads, Macs, and most significantly, iPhones.

Prior trial testimony showed that Microsoft and Apple discussed a broad alliance or maybe a purchase that would have made Microsoft’s Bing search engine the default on Apple devices. It has been said that Apple previously thought that creating its own search engine would be the only practical way to compete with Google. However, the Google contract was supposedly so profitable that Apple chose not to pursue this idea.

As the trial considers whether Google’s dominance in the search engine market is anti-competitive in the US, Judge Mehta is closely examining the search giant’s agreement with Apple.

According to a DuckDuckGo spokesperson, the search engine takes precautions to stop “hosting and content providers from creating a history of your searches,” which contrasts with Giannandrea’s claim that DuckDuckGo wasn’t as completely private as it claimed to be. This information was reported in Bloomberg.

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