What you need to know
- Australian competition authorities are investigating the link between consumer usage of browsers and search engines as influenced by default options.
- The ACCC is asking for submissions to a new look into the use of browsers like Safari and Google Chrome.
- The ACCC seems concerned with the impact of setting a default browser or search engine on consumer choice.
Australian competition authorities are investigating the link between which browsers and search engines consumers choose to use, and the link to default apps on operating systems like iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur.
With the News Media Bargaining Code out of the way, the Australian government has moved its tech giant battle to the browser scene, keeping Google in its crosshairs while putting Apple under the microscope.
Led by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the new battle is focused on "choice and competition in internet search and web browsers".
The consumer watchdog on Thursday put out a call for submissions, with a number of questions posed in a discussion paper [PDF], centred on internet browser defaults.
The paper says that more than 50% of users in Australia use Safari, followed by Chrome with 39% on both smartphones and tablets. On desktop, Chrome is the most popular browser with a 62% market share. The ACCC notes that setting a default browser on an operating system, as well as a default search engine, seems to play a big role in the browser consumers end up using:
In particular, the ACCC found that setting a product as a default option substantially increases the likelihood that a consumer will choose it. The value of being a default search service is evidenced by the large payments made by Google to Apple to enable Google Search to be the default search engine on Apple Safari (estimated to be US$12 billion in 2019).
The paper says Google is "insulated" from dynamic competition thanks to high barriers to entry and expansion in the world of search engines. The ACCC says it "seeks views on the impact of pre-installation and default settings in the supply of general search services and browsers." You can read the report in full here.