Sundar Pichai didn’t like the “optics” of Google being the only search engine in the Apple Safari browser years before he became the CEO at Alphabet and Google.
While overseeing Google’s Chrome browser business in 2007, Pichai wrote an email to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, among other executives. It explained the company’s insistence on being the default, but added: “I think we should also encourage them to have Yahoo as a choice in a pull down or some easy option.”
He didn’t think it would produce a “good user experience.” Nor did he like the optics for Google to be the only provider in the browser, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The antitrust case against Google that began on September 12, hit a milestone this week when Pichai, the Justice Department’s last scheduled witness, concluded his testimony on Tuesday. He is expected to be called as a witness by Google’s lawyers later in the trial.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva founder and a former head of Google’s ad business, answered questions on the stand about why his search engine shut down and failed to take on Google, and why Google pays billions of dollars annually to maintain its default status on smartphones.
Google, per the WSJ, is likely to highlight testimony in its closing arguments that shows competitors don’t need a large share of the market to deliver useful search results and compete with Google.
Ramaswamy told U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta that most users just use the default settings on a device. He also testified that Neeva would have been able to profitably deliver high-quality search results if it only had a 2.5% market share in search.
Microsoft really wanted to become the default search engine. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, testified it would be willing to incur losses of $15 billion a year to make Bing a default search engine on Apple devices.
Mikhail Parakhin, CEO of advertising and web services at Microsoft, testified that he thought Apple used Microsoft as a “bargaining chip because the threat of them switching allows them to extract better conditions from Google."
The United States may require Google to go the way of Europe, where users choose a search engine from a screen on a new device.
This is called a choice screen. It designates a search engine and a browser when consumers power up a new phone, computer, laptop and tablet.
Europe announced the process in April 2019, based on a mandate to comply with the European Commission's ruling the year prior. The European Union (EU) fined Google, saying it had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.
It was adopted in Europe the following year. A “first-price sealed-bid auction" helped to select the other general search providers that appeared in the choice screen.
It ran on a per-country basis from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
Following the initial round of auctions, any subsequent rounds occurred once per year. That was the plan for Europe and may become the plan for the United States.