Updated, October 21, 2019
About the choice screen
On August 2, 2019, following the European Commission’s July 2018 Android decision, Google announced that it would implement a choice screen for general search providers on all new Android phones and tablets shipped into the European Economic Area (EEA) where the Google Search app is pre-installed. This updated Help Center article describes a modified choice screen design that was developed in consultation with the European Commission.
The choice screen will appear during initial device setup and will feature multiple search providers, including Google. An illustrative version of the choice screen follows. Providers may vary by country.
The user will be required to choose one search provider from the choice screen during setup. The effect of a user selecting a search provider from the choice screen will be to (i) set the search provider in a home screen search box to the selected provider, (ii) set the default search provider in Chrome (if installed) to the selected provider, and (iii) install the search app of the selected provider (if not already installed). Note that in the case where a user takes an action to remove the search box (including by restoring a previous device configuration where the search box had been removed), the search box will not be shown.
The choice screen will begin appearing on new devices distributed in the EEA on or after March 1, 2020.
Eligible search providers will need to fill out an application form and can bid for inclusion based on an auction. The auction process is explained in greater detail below.
The choice screen auction
Google will use a fourth-price auction to select the other general search providers that appear in the choice screen. Google will conduct auctions on a per-country basis. The search providers selected in the first auction cycle will be displayed during the 4 months following the launch of the choice screen on March 1, 2020. Future auction cycles will occur on a quarterly basis.
In each country auction, search providers will state the price that they are willing to pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen in the given country. The three highest bidders will appear in the choice screen for that country. The provider that is selected by the user will pay the amount of the fourth-highest bid.
The auction winners, and Google, will be ordered randomly in the choice screen. In the event of a tie, Google will allocate the slots randomly among the tied bidders on a per device basis. In the event that fewer than three eligible search providers bid, Google will fill any remaining slots randomly from the pool of eligible search providers on a per device basis. The pool of eligible providers will include those that applied to participate in the choice screen but did not submit bids.
Eligibility criteria for participating in the choice screen
To ensure a good user experience, search providers that wish to participate in the choice screen must satisfy the following requirements.
- General search provider: The search provider must operate a “general search service.” For purposes of the choice screen, a general search service is one that allows users to search for information across the entire Internet. Specialized or “vertical” search providers -- those that only index content from a particular subject -- are not eligible to participate in the choice screen. Search providers that are owned by or affiliated with the same company are eligible to appear on the choice screen only once. Companies that have a syndication agreement with Google are not currently eligible to participate.
- Localization: Search providers must provide local language support in the countries where they apply to participate. Local language support in this context means that the user interface of both the search app (e.g., settings menu) and the search results page (e.g., navigation buttons) must be provided in one of the required local languages. For a list of languages that must be supported by country, click here. For best practices for localizing apps, visit: https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/resources/localization/.
- App in Google Play. The search provider must have an app that is available for free in Google Play.
- Delivery of technical assets. The search provider will be required to ensure that Google has all of the necessary technical assets for the implementation. The specific requirements will be provided with the application form.
The eligibility assessment is closed for 2020. Eligibility will be reopened for 2021.
Submitting bids and technical assets
The deadline for eligible providers to submit final bids and an updated technical requirements form, and sign the terms of service, is 6pm CET on November 15, 2019. Eligible providers will be informed of the providers selected to appear and the “clearing price” in each EEA country during the first auction cycle on November 22, 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why does Google use an auction to determine the search providers that appear in the choice screen?
- An auction is a fair and objective method to determine which search providers are included in the choice screen. It allows search providers to decide what value they place on appearing in the choice screen and to bid accordingly.
- The auction revenues help us to continue to invest in developing and maintaining the Android platform.
- Will Google disclose the auction results?
- Google will provide eligible search providers with the names of the providers who will appear in the choice screen in each EEA country, as well as the bid of the fourth-highest bidder (the “Clearing Price”), if applicable.
- How will Google gather payments if a user selects my search service? How often?
- Google will send a monthly invoice to search providers and charge only when the provider is selected by the user. Your monthly invoice will indicate how many selections came via the choice screen per country and the total amount owed to Google.
- Can search providers still do pre-installation deals with OEMs?
- Yes. Participation in the choice screen does not affect your ability to enter into pre-installation deals with OEMs.
- Will the choice screen appear on devices where search rivals have done a pre-installation deal with a rival?
- The choice screen will only be displayed on devices where the OEM has elected to pre-install the Google Search app. On devices where rival search providers are exclusively pre-installed, the choice screen will not be displayed.
- Can a user change the search provider after it is selected?
- Users will be able to customize their search services following the completion of the choice screen. For example, users may delete the search app that was selected through the choice screen, download additional search apps, change Chrome’s search default, or move, remove or replace the home screen search box.
- When will a user see the choice screen?
- During the initial setup of their new Android device, if the Google Search app is pre-installed.
- Will a user see the choice screen more than once?
- A user will see the choice screen once per device, at setup. If the user performs a factory reset on the device, however, the user will see the choice screen again during setup.
- Are there any other costs or fees for the search providers?
- Beyond the price that winning bidders will pay each time a user selects them from the choice screen, there are no costs associated with the auction or the choice screen. In particular, there are no upfront fees for participation in the choice screen, and no fees for search providers appearing in the choice screen without being selected by a user.
- Can metasearch engines (aggregators) and search services that syndicate results from other providers participate in the choice screen?
- Yes, so long as the service otherwise qualifies as a bona fide “general search service,” as defined above. Note that companies that have a syndication agreement with Google are not currently eligible to participate.
- Where will the selected search provider’s app icon be placed upon installation?
- The selected search provider’s icon will be placed according to the OEM’s device launcher logic, as if the user had downloaded the app from Google Play themselves.
- Why do you require signing an NDA?
- Google is using a standard form NDA to designate certain information as confidential. Google uses an NDA when it enters into commercial arrangements which, for example, involve the sharing of financial information, technical assets or other non-public information related to our products. Here, it would allow us to keep confidential bid amounts and any technical information that we receive from search providers. Google will, however, provide eligible search providers with the Clearing Price. To ensure consistency among all eligible providers, we cannot negotiate terms of this agreement.
- The NDA is not intended to stop you from discussing the choice screen terms and auction with the European Commission and Google will not prevent such discussions.
- What if I no longer want my search service to appear in the choice screen for a country?
- You may notify Google if you wish to remove your search service from the choice screen for a particular country and Google will remove it within a reasonable time. Such notification and removal will have no effect on other countries.
- Can I participate in the choice screen without submitting a bid?
- Yes. You may be eligible to participate in the choice screen without submitting a bid. The screen will show up to four eligible search providers (including Google) in each market irrespective of whether any providers choose to bid. In the case where fewer than three participants bid, the remaining slots will be filled randomly and at no cost to the participant. In these cases an eligible provider, without placing a bid, can power the home-screen search box, become the default in Chrome, and have its app installed. In every country where you support any of the required local languages, you may be eligible to be shown without placing any bids.
- Do "progressive web apps" (PWAs) qualify as a search app under the guidelines?
- No. In order to ensure optimal implementation, we will only accept Android-based apps. Progressive web apps, which are a hybrid of regular web pages (or websites) and a mobile app, will not be eligible to participate.
- What functionality does my search app need to provide?
- Your app must provide your full “general search service” without requiring or prompting the user to move or upgrade to another app or website. In addition, your search app must be available in the Play Store and comply with all applicable Play Store policies.
- What functionality does my web search experience need to provide?
- Your web search experience must be accessible from a top-level domain (not from subdomains or non-top-level paths), be compatible with the requirements to become a default search provider in Google Chrome, and operate over HTTPS.
- What branding requirements apply to my search engine?
- You must operate a search service as a distinct service and brand, not as a sub-feature and/or sub-brand of another product.
- Will Google feed in to Google Search the data it might be able to gather from rival search providers’ default status on Chrome or the search box?
- Google will not be collecting search queries that are entered into the search box. As to Chrome, Google will not receive information about queries sent to rival search engines unless the user enables Chrome features that store their browsing history with their Google Account. Any data recorded in relation to the choice screen will be used for billing, maintenance, and improvement of the user interface and auction.
- Will Google sell any data that it collects from the choice screen?
- Can OEMs prevent the display of the choice screen or override a user’s choice screen selection?
- Google will include a provision in its contracts with OEMs that prevents circumventing the choice screen.
- Can search providers monitor search traffic coming from Chrome as a result of the user’s selection in the choice screen?
- Yes. If Google Chrome’s search engine was set by the choice screen, then a Chrome-specific URL parameter will be added to the URLs of all searches issued to that search engine.
- Can search providers monitor installations triggered through the choice screen?
- Search providers can use the Google Play Store’s Install Referrer API to securely retrieve referral content from Google Play and to identify and differentiate installations triggered through the Play Store and the choice screen during device setup.