Back in April, Google and its main Russian rival, Yandex, settled a long-running antitrust battle. Part of that agreement – that Russian Android users get an easier choice of search engines on their phones – has now come into effect.
With the rollout a few days ago of the latest version of Chrome for mobile, Android users in Russia now get a new prompt when they launch Google's browser app, urging them to select their default search engine. The options are Yandex, Google and Mail.ru.
"As consumers are ever more dependent on their mobile devices for finding information about the world around them, we are excited that Russian users now can now easily choose the search provider best suited to their needs," Yandex said in a statement.
The latest figures from StatCounter show that Yandex has an overall Russian search engine market share of around 50 percent, a handful of percentage points above Google. However, things are very different on mobile, where Google has around two-thirds of the search market, to Yandex's 32.6 percent. Android has a smartphone operating system market share of around 70 percent in Russia.
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Yandex has long been challenging Google's market dominance in the mobile arena, and is a main beneficiary of the Russian antitrust authority's crackdown on the U.S. firm. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) ordered Google to allow Android phone manufacturers to preinstall rival companies' core apps – such as those for mapping or email – and to let them make other search engines the default.
"In line with the agreement with Yandex and the settlement with FAS, we have instituted a new opportunity for search providers to promote their search services within the Chrome app on Android devices," Google spokesperson Meghan Casserly said.
It has always been possible for users to change their search engine by diving into menus, but few people change default settings. The new search engine choice screen has echoes of the famous "browser ballot" that EU regulators forced Microsoft to institute in 2009, in order to stop the operating system monopolist steering people into using its Internet Explorer browser.
EU regulators are currently conducting a probe into the way Google leverages Android to boost its own services, covering similar ground to the Russian investigation.