Apple considered switching private default search engine to DuckDuckGo from Google


Apple considered switching private default search engine to DuckDuckGo from Google

Apple held talks with DuckDuckGo to replace Alphabet’s Google as the default search engine for the private mode on Apple’s Safari browser, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The details of those talks are expected to be released later this week after the judge overseeing a federal antitrust suit against Google ruled Wednesday that he would unseal the testimony of DuckDuckGo chief executive officer Gabriel Weinberg and Apple executive John Giannandrea.

Judge Amit Mehta initially let Weinberg and Giannandrea testify about the negotiations in closed court. But the judge ruled Wednesday that the testimony “goes to the heart of the case” and should be released. Some testimony about similar discussions between Microsoft and Apple also had not been made public.

Talks about “partnership deals – I’m talking about the testimony concerning potential deals between Microsoft and Apple and DuckDuckGo and Apple – that will be unsealed”, Mehta said in an order from the bench, adding that he viewed it as “critical to the case”.

The private browsing mode does not track websites that a user visits or keep a history of what websites a person has accessed.

DuckDuckGo founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg walks from the US Federal Courthouse in Washington. Photo: AP Photo

Apple and Google requested that the testimony remain private. Mehta said he went through the transcripts “line by line” and will release the executives’ comments with the exception of trade secrets, such as the project names within Apple, and the exact financial figures under discussion.

DuckDuckGo declined to comment on the judge’s ruling. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department alleges that Google has paid billions of dollars to Apple and others to be the default search engine on web browsers and smartphones. Those deals kept other search engines, like Microsoft’s Bing and DuckDuckGo, from building up users and becoming rivals to Google, according to federal and state antitrust enforcers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella testified Monday about his company’s negotiations to persuade Apple to make Microsoft’s Bing the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser rather than Google. Nadella said Microsoft was willing to lose billions of dollars if Apple made the switch.


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