In context: Google is known to pay substantial amounts of money to various browser makers and smartphone manufacturers to be the default search engine on their products, but the exact numbers remained under wraps until now. A recent development, however, has revealed exactly how much the company spends to retain its dominant market share across desktops, laptops, and smartphones.
According to a testimony by a senior Google executive, the company paid $26.3 billion to a number of companies in 2021 to be the default search engine on various mobile phones and web browsers. The testimony came from senior Google executive Prabhakar Raghavan during the Justice Department’s antitrust trial against the search giant.
According to Raghavan, the amount has been on the rise in recent years and has nearly quadrupled since 2014, when the company paid just $7.1 billion to have the default search status on various devices and apps. During this time, the overall search revenues for the company also increased astronomically, growing from $47 billion to more than $146 billion.
The admission came after the DOJ accused Google of using its financial clout to illegally retain its search market share by paying billions of dollars to a host of companies. Some of the beneficiaries are said to include device manufacturers like Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung, carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and browser developers like Mozilla, Opera, and UCWeb. The agency also accused Google of specifically prohibiting its aforementioned partners from dealing with its competitors in violation of U.S. antitrust laws.
While the exact numbers aren’t available, asset management and brokerage firm Bernstein estimates that Google could pay Apple $19 billion this year to remain the default search engine on the Safari browser on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. On its part, Google claims that the payments do not prevent anyone from changing the default search option on any device or app, and users can easily set their own preferred search provider with just a few clicks or taps.
Despite admitting to paying large sums of money to device makers and browser developers, Raghavan argued that the company’s actions have not violated U.S. antitrust regulations. According to him, the emergence of new technologies and social media platforms means that the company is at the risk of losing market share to popular apps like TikTok and ChatGPT, which could potentially dislodge “grandpa Google” as the chosen search provider in the coming years.