Russia tells Google to open up Android search to Yandex

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Yandex likely to gain market share after Russian competition authority wins case against Google

Yandex and other search engine companies have won a major victory against Google to have their services included on Android phones sold in Russia.

Google’s owner, Alphabet, has agreed to open up the Russian market within days and to lift the exclusive position that Google search has on Android phones.

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) says the voluntary settlement, in the Moscow District Court of Arbitration, follows two years of negotiations since the FAS said Google was abusing its market dominance.

But the software changes that Google has been forced to implement because of the FAS’s action may also give the lead to other competition authorities. Once developed and rolled out in Russia, the changes could be adopted elsewhere.

“We managed to find a balance between the necessity to develop the Android ecosystem and interests of third-party developers for promoting their mobile applications and services on Android-based devices,” said Igor Artemiev, head of the FAS.

He said the settlement “will have a positive effect on the market as a whole, while giving developers additional options for promoting their products”.

FAS fined Google 438 million roubles ($7.8 million) but, more significantly, told it to move fast to allow rivals onto the home page of Android devices.

Google is no longer about to tell suppliers of Android phones to the Russia market to restrict pre-installation of competing search engines and apps. Until now, suppliers have had to pre-install Google as the only permitted search engine.

The next update of the Chrome browser will give current users a choice window that will give them an option to select a different search engine.

New devices “within a few months” will have a Chrome widget, replacing the current Google search widget on the home screen, offering a choice of search.

And Google must begin talks within 60 days with any rival Russian search engine that wants to be included on the choice screen next year. Google said it was already talking to Yandex, the largest Russian search engine company.

The selection will not be once-only, said the FAS. “Users will be able to change settings at any time and choose the default search engine which suits their needs.”

The ruling applies to apps as well as search. “Google will by no means limit or impede pre-installation of other developers’ applications on the users’ devices,” said the FAS.