Google Prepares Default Chrome Search Engine “Choice Window” to Comply with Russian Lawsuit
In the past few months, Google has suffered a series of setbacks due to litigation. Most recently, the company was hit with a whopping €2.42 billion fine after the European Commission ruled that Google was violating EU anti-trust regulations by inflating their own shopping service results in Google search pages. Back in mid-April, Google suffered another blow when the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) ruled that the company was violating its market dominance by essentially forcing OEMs to pre-install Google services on their devices. Part of the company’s settlement with the FAS involved creating a new Google Chrome search widget that can replace the default Google search widget.
In doing so, users can then change their default search provider in Chrome’s settings so that this new widget can quickly access any third-party search engine provider. Users first started to notice this new search widget in early May as it rolled out to the Chrome Dev and Canary channels, but per the settlement with FAS this widget only fulfills part of the agreement with the Russian government.
According to the FAS:
For the devices that are currently circulating on the Russian market, Google will develop an active “choice window” for the Chrome browser which at the time of the next update will provide the user with the opportunity to choose their default search engine.
Within a few months, Google will develop for new devices a new Chrome widget that will replace the standard Google search widget on the home screen. This will allow end users of the devices based on the Android OS with the GMS package to see the new “choice screen” at the first launch of the new Chrome widget. This choice screen enables users to choose Yandex search or Google search or any other search engine of those developers who will sign a commercial agreement on their inclusion to the choice screen.
Changing the device’s locale to Russian, wiping Chrome Canary’s data, and adding the search widget has not yet yielded the promised search engine “choice screen” that Russia requires from Google. But according to a recent commit to the Chromium open source project, that may soon change.
The commit enables the “search engine promo” by default – a flag which will show a promotion dialog about enabling other search engines depending on your locale. Chrome’s LocaleManager details what Chrome will do when the device is determined to be in a “special locale” (though interestingly enough, I haven’t been able to find exactly which locales are deemed to be “special”).
There are 4 different states that Chrome determines the user to be in – “don’t show”, “new”, “existing”, and “sogou.” “Don’t show” clearly means that the user should not be shown a search engine promotion dialog as they are not located within a special locale. The “new” state means that user is setting up Chrome for the first time, so the browser will show the DefaultSearchEngineFirstRunFragment that provides a layout of available search engines to choose from on first launch. “Existing” refers to users already using Chrome, which will call the DefaultSearchEnginePromoDialog method to force users to choose a default search engine from a provided list. The dialog is not cancellable and cannot be bypassed. Finally, and what I believe to be the most interesting, is the “sogou” state. Presumably if installed in China, Google Chrome will set the default search engine provider to be Sogou – China’s second largest search provider.
The SpecialLocaleHandler determines whether or not to set Google search as the default search provider based on Locale. The DefaultSearchEngineDialogHelper method handles listing which search providers will be listed once called. Interestingly, there’s a routine within this method that quite literally shuffles the search engine list in random order, presumably so that which provider is listed at the top of the list is totally random.
Although this search engine promotion dialog will currently only be shown in China and Russia, we wouldn’t be surprised if users in the European Union will start to see this in the future. Especially since the EU and Google are embroiled in ongoing litigation about Google applications being pre-installed on Android devices – a practice which the Russian FAS already ruled to be anti-competitive. If Google were to lose the Android case in the EU, then this search engine promotion dialog may become the rule rather than the exception.