Choosing Your Search Engine on Android: How Auctions Matter

Choice Screen Auctions

In Europe, you can now choose your search engine on Android instead of using Google’s automatically. However, a small change in how these choices are made, either based on how often they appear or how often they are installed, can affect which search engines win and how much of the market they get. This can also change the incentives for search engines. In 2020, real-world data supported these findings.

The quality and popularity of search engines don’t seem to have a big impact on how often they win in these choice-screen auctions. It’s surprising that some of the top winners in these auctions, who get to be an option for over 100 million people, have very few installations or user reviews compared to other search engines. In fact, some of them have lower user ratings. Even though they win big in these auctions, they don’t seem to have a significant presence when you look at how many people actually use them as their search engine on mobile devices in Europe.

Ostrovsky, Michael. 2023. “Choice Screen Auctions.” American Economic Review, 113 (9): 2486-2505.

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