Will the DMA address Gatekeeper Self-Preferencing and Collusion in Search?
Independent European search engine, Mojeek, has teamed up with with over 50 other technology companies challenging the status quo. They
call for the EU to legislate effectively in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to address self-preferencing behaviour by “gatekeeper” firms. These 50+ businesses which are challenging the business models and practices of GAFAM have come together as the Coalition for Competitive Digital Markets (#CompDM).
In the 1990s Microsoft used its dominant position to impose Internet Explorer on Windows. Anti-trust action, on that behaviour in particular, opened up the market for innovators like Google, and the resurrection of Apple. Ironically Google and Apple have now joined Microsoft with a three now operating with similar tactics and as an oligopolists in web search. Amazon are getting in on the act too.
Regarding web search, these four gatekeepers co-operate to keep search challengers out. They actively suppress choice and continue to practice self-preferencing, and of each other. Microsoft’s Edge browser preferences Bing, their own search engine, and offers choices only from Google and Bing syndication partners (Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia). In Windows the Edge browser is preferenced, and even overrides a users different choice of search engine, when searching via the Windows search box. Google’s Chrome OS and Android are preloaded with its Chrome browser, which has Google as its default search engine; and with other choices only from Microsoft via Bing and its syndication partners. Apple preferences Safari on iOS and MacOS allowing choices of search services only from Google or Microsoft. Amazon is playing a similar game with the Silk browser which provides no choice at all, enforcing search with Bing.
None of these gatekeepers enable search across multiple search engines and services. Their search and combined address/search bars, are deliberately designed to direct you straight to only one search service. Sadly only a small percentage of users get such search choice and diversity by using Mozilla’s Firefox. The Firefox search bar enables a multitude of user chosen search options to be selected from, with just one click.
Users should be free to choose what they use for search. The imposition of defaults and single choice lists leads to an unhealthy information economy. Multiple choice in search, and a prohibition of enforced defaults and choices would also encourage innovation and competition.
The coalition full open letter, published Monday 6th December 2021, can be read on the Coalition for Competitive Digital Markets website. It calls for effective amendments to the DMA on interoperability and self-preferencing. Specifically a call is made to prohibit gatekeepers’ harmful self-preferencing by introducing an explicit pre-installation and default setting ban for core platform services, which include browsers and search engines.