Apple Rejected DuckDuckGo as the Default Search Engine for Safari

Google's antitrust case reveals documents stating that Apple rejected DuckDuckGo's offer to be the default Safari engine, in favour of Google

  • DuckDuckGo was close to being the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser.
  • Safari browser has implemented multiple privacy-based features, designed by DuckDuckGo.
  • Apple had also tried to buy Microsoft Bing, to replace Google as the default Safari search engine.

Apple’s Safari browser is the world’s second-most-used web browser, with over 850 million users on iOS and macOS. Given the large user base, Google pays over $10 billion to Apple every year, to have Google as the default search engine on the Safari browser.

Although Google is the largest search engine in the world, Apple had once considered switching to DuckDuckGo, as the default Safari Engine. As per the court documents revealed in the antitrust case against Google, over 20 meetings had happened between Apple and DukcDuckGo on changing the default search engine of the Safari Web browser.

Why Is Google the Default Search Engine in Apple’s Safari Browser?

safari default search engine google

Google has been the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser for a very long time. However, Apple does not choose Google for its search accuracy or market leadership. Instead, the two tech giants have a monetary agreement where Google pays billions of dollars each year to Apple, to have itself as the default search engine in Safari.

Because of such actions, Google is currently facing an antitrust case in the United States, where the company is accused of creating a monopoly in the internet world, using its deep pockets. Google is also charged with allegations of unethically killing its competitors.

As a part of this case, a US District Judge has unsealed some official records involving Apple, Google, and DuckDuckGo. As per the documents, Apple was considering to have DuckDuckGo as the default Safari search engine.

DuckDuckGo and Apple Have a Long History Together

The records reveal that Apple conducted over 20 meetings with DuckDuckGo on the topic. As per the testimony of DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg, Apple had implemented multiple privacy-based features from DuckDuckGo, in the Safari browser.

Considering the progress shown between the two, DuckDuckGo pitched Apple to have itself as the default search engine in Safari. However, the idea was rejected by Apple.

Apple was also pitched for having DuckDuckGo as the search engine, only for private browser mode. Yet, Apple saw switching to DuckDuckGo as a bad idea, as per Apple’s Senior Vice President, John Giannandrea.

Furthermore, Giannandrea testified that DuckDuckGo’s concept of being a privacy-focus browser was a mere assumption. This is because DuckDuckGo relies on Microsoft’s Bing to retrieve search information. Hence, it is more likely that DuckDuckGo shares some information with Microsoft, and is not as private as the company portrays.

Tim Cook Wanted Microsoft Bing as Safari’s Default Search Engine

tim cook

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook had once asked John Giannandrea to talk with Microsoft executives and have Bing as the default search engine in Safari. Adhering to the suggestion, Apple held multiple meetings with Microsoft in 2018 to explore a possible joint venture.

Things escalated to the extent that Apple was also considering buying Bing from Microsoft in 2020. However, when Apple did due diligence on Bing, it found out that Google’s search results were better than Bing’s in most cases. Bing was barely keeping up with the accuracy of Google in terms of language-based search.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella testified that the company was willing to lose billions of dollars, to convince Apple to switch to Bing as the default search engine in Safari. However, Apple did not consider Microsoft’s offer for undisclosed reasons.

The US Court Judge says more documents on this topic will be unsealed soon. It is still unclear why Apple decided to stick to Google as the default engine in Safari and rejected requests from DuckDuckGo and Bing.

The fact that Google pays billions of dollars each year to Apple for having itself as the default search engine on Safari can hurt both companies in this antitrust case. On one hand, Google can be found guilty of using its financial powers to draw an edge over its competitors. Apple could also be facing fines for helping Google in its motive, by accepting Google’s money.