In 2021, Google paid $26 billion to remain the default search engine on browsers and smartphones
According to a slide released during a federal antitrust trial against Google, the company paid $26.3 billion in 2021 to become the default search engine on smartphones and web browsers. This is reported by CNBC.
The U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of attorneys general argued in the case that Google illegally maintained its monopoly in general search by using its dominance to block competitors from accessing key distribution channels, such as Apple’s Safari web browser. The released figure is a more detailed look at how much Google pays partners, including Apple, to be the default search engine for their products.
$26.3 billion is the total amount of payments, but Apple is likely to be the biggest beneficiary. Earlier, Bernstein estimated that in 2023 Google could pay Apple $19 billion to remain the default search engine on their devices.
“Google pays billions of dollars each year to distributors—including popular-device manufacturers such as Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung; major U.S. wireless carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon; and browser developers such as Mozilla, Opera, and UCWeb—to secure default status for its general search engine and, in many cases, to specifically prohibit Google’s counterparties from dealing with Google’s competitors,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in its complaint.
To this, Google claims that users can still change the default search engine with a few clicks.
According to the slide titled “Google Search+ Margins” shown in court, which mainly refers to Google’s search business, this division’s revenue in 2021 was over $146 billion, while the share of traffic acquisition costs was over $26 billion.
The slide also included figures for other years, starting in 2014, when Google credited revenue of approximately $47 billion for the search division and paid about $7.1 billion for its default search engine status. This means that from 2014 to 2021, Search+ revenue roughly tripled, and the traffic acquisition portion of the cost almost quadrupled.