iPhone and Mac users, brace yourself for change: Google’s tenure as the Safari default search engine for Apple’s phones, tablets and computers will expire next year, sources tell The Information. If true, the sudden opening could set off a mad scramble to lay claim to all of your Web searches.
The unnamed sources told The Information’s Amir Efrati that Yahoo and Microsoft have already started courting Apple’s Eddy Cue, its senior vice president of Internet products and services, as they vie for the much-coveted spot.
It’s all too easy to believe it’s true. There’s no love lost between bitter rivals Google and Apple, with the latter taking (sometimes painful) steps to inch further away from the services of the Mountain View, Calif.–based tech giant over the years.
Back in 2012, Apple kicked YouTube and Google Maps off the iPhone when it demoted them from default-app status. It replaced Google’s map app with its own flawed Maps iOS app—to much initial hilarity—and then ultimately allowed both Google Maps and YouTube to return via the App Store as third-party downloads.
Earlier this year, the iPhone maker crowned Microsoft’s Bing as the engine powering its mobile and desktop Spotlight search. (Prior to that, Spotlight kicked users over to Safari, which defaults to Google.) Meanwhile, Yahoo showed some signs of life this week, inking a new deal with Mozilla to install Yahoo as the default search tool in Firefox.
Efrati notes that, while Web searches on mobile devices may be waning as developers try alternative modes of search and discovery in apps, Safari searches on iPhones are still lucrative:
Searches on Apple devices are more valuable than on Android because Apple owners are wealthier and spend more money.
Some executives in the search industry estimate that Apple receives more than $1 billion annually from its undisclosed share of Google Search revenue on Safari, a sign that it is also a windfall for Google.
Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft would not comment on the story.
Given that Apple already uses Bing in other parts of its ecosystem, there’s a good chance it may partner with it again. If not, well, Microsoft could still benefit, as Bing actually powers Yahoo searches, at least on the desktop. (Apparently, Yahoo mobile searches may be another story.) Both search tools are already options in Safari’s settings, along with privacy-minded search engine DuckDuckGo.
In any case, Apple would probably love to send those dollars to anyone but Google, which makes most of its money from search. But the change could be bracing for iPhone users. Google has been a fixture in mobile Safari since the device’s launch in 2007.
Images by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite