DuckDuckGo, a privacy-centric search engine founded about 15 years ago, has languished with a small market share as consumers face difficulties switching from Google when the behemoth is the default option on computer screens, the upstart’s founder said in an antitrust trial.
“Switching is way harder than it needs to be,” Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Weinberg said in federal court on Thursday. “There’s just too many steps.”
Weinberg testified Thursday in the government’s antitrust trial against Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc. The Department of Justice claims Google pays more than $10 billion a year to tech rivals, smartphone makers and wireless providers to be the preselected option, or default, on PCs and mobile phones.
By illegally maintaining this monopoly, the government alleges Google has kept rival search engines such as Microsoft Corp. ‘s Bing and DuckDuckGo from gaining the scale needed to compete. Google says it has won its market share, which the government has pegged at almost 90%, because it has the best search engine.
Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo claims to offer better security from online tracking and more transparency about how personal data is used. DuckDuckGo says ads it displays are based on the search results a user has evoked, instead of being based on tracking algorithms that are commonly used by other search engines.
It currently has about a 2.5% share of the market for search, Weinberg said, and conducts about 100 million searches a day. Weinberg said about 30% to 40% of DuckDuckGo’s users have a “strong preference” for privacy and that most of the company’s users switch over from Google. The company considers Google to be “far and away” its biggest competitor.
But the default settings that favor Google pose a barrier to users switching to DuckDuckGo, even if they value privacy, Weinberg said. The company has said consumers should be able to choose their default search engine in one click, in contrast to complicated steps that involve at least 15 on Android systems.
Google executives have insisted that people have more search options than ever and that switching away from a default is super simple.
John Schmidtlein, a lawyer representing Google, said in opening remarks last week that Microsoft pre-selects its own search engine, Bing, on Windows PCs, yet most PC users switch to Google “because it’s a better product.”
“It is literally four taps on the phone,” Schmidtlein said, describing the ease of changing a default search engine on Apple Inc. ‘s Safari web browser. “Go to settings, tap Safari, then search engine, then make a selection. It takes a matter of seconds.”