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Google agrees to open Android to other search engines in Russia

Google agrees to open Android to other search engines in Russia


Antitrust settlement prohibits default search engine restrictions

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Google has agreed to be less controlling about what Android phone manufacturers can do in Russia, as the result of a settlement today with the country’s antimonopoly agency.

In addition to paying a $7.8 million fine, Google has agreed to stop preventing phone manufacturers from changing the default search engine to anything but Google. Google won’t be allowed to require any app exclusivity on new phones, nor will it be allowed to prevent other companies’ apps from coming preinstalled.

This is a big win for Yandex, Russia’s top search engine

While Android is an open platform, core parts of the operating system aren’t, including Google’s app store. That’s allowed Google to set strict conditions for any phone manufacturer that wants to build a phone with access to the Play Store’s millions of apps.

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service said this counted as an abuse of Google’s dominant market position, and for the past two years, it’s been investigating and suing over the company’s restrictive terms.

The suit followed a complaint from Yandex, a major Russian search company, which is one of the biggest winners of this settlement. Yandex will now be able to reach agreements with phone manufacturers to have its search engine preinstalled on Android phones, which can slow Google’s expansion in Russia and bolster its own.

“Competition breeds innovation.”

Yandex Arkady Volozh actually put out a statement on the settlement, calling the agreement “an important day for Russian consumers.” While the message is necessarily critical of Google, Volozh takes a moment to thank his competitor “for recognizing the value of openness.”

“Competition breeds innovation,” Volozh writes. “It’s our desire to participate in a market where users can choose the best services available.”

Google has also agreed to soon offer a “Chrome widget” that will let Android users in Russia choose a default search engine aside from Google. Any developer that signs a “commercial agreement” with Google can be included — Yandex is the first to sign up.

“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service, resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.