back to article What Brit watchdog redacted: Google gives Apple cut of Chrome iOS search revenue

Google has been paying Apple a portion of search revenue generated by people using Google Chrome on iOS, according to a source familiar with the matter. This is one of the aspects of the relationship between the two tech goliaths that currently concerns the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Though everyone knows …

  1. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I know on Windows the joke is about how people only use Edge to download Chrome but I would be interested as to tow many people on iOS actually download Chrome compared to using Safari?

    As for Apple not putting much effort in to updating Safari to better support some web technologies, I think this has less to do with Google paying them a cut for Chrome searches, but more about the fact Apple would rather their users purchase apps from the app store and not use web apps, so they keep safari behind other browser engines to make apps from the app store a better user experience.

    1. cookieMonster Silver badge

      I’m a iPhone user for the past 4 years or so, and always used the default browser. Last week I downloaded Firefox for the first time.

      The reason I did that was because when I clicked on an article link here in the reg, it was blocked by Adblock.

      I downloaded Firefox and tried the link, it opened normally.

      I’m still using Firefox.

      1. iron Silver badge

        You are still using Safari. That it has a Firefox skin makes not difference.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          No they are using Apple's WebKit back-end, Safari is essentially a skin on it as well.

          You might prefer Firefox for other reasons, but better web support or comparable features to non-iOS Firefox due to the web engine is lacking as you say.

        2. cookieMonster Silver badge

          I know that.

          I was answering this -> “ tow many people on iOS actually download Chrome compared to using Safari?”

    2. big_D Silver badge

      I never download Chrome. I removed deactivated it on my old Android phone - I used Firefox or Brave.

      Likewise on my iPhone, I use Safari and on Windows I use Firefox with Edge for managing our M365 instance. On Mac, I use Firefox with Safari as a fallback and on Linux I use Firefox.

      I also haven't used Google Search for years.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Brave, Edge and Safari are all, to a greater or lesser extents, Chrome

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Kind of...but not really.

          Safari and Chrome on MacOS both use Webkit (as far as I can tell) whereas Chrome on other platforms uses Blink. So on MacOS Chrome and Safari are very similar, but compared to other platforms Chrome and Safari are very different.

          This may have changed since I last cared, it's possible Chrome on MacOS now uses blink.

          Either way, Safari definitely benchmarks faster than other browsers on MacOS...but it doesn't behave the same way. To me it feels a bit like the old Internet Explorer / Netscape days where everything would render perfectly on third party browsers, but for some reason would be shit on IE...or it worked perfectly on IE but not anything else.

          There is also the system fonts to take into account, Apple has some system fonts that are stubbornly different from other systems. For example Windows and Linux have interchangeable system fonts with basically the same widths etc...which means if you design something with those system fonts, your design will appear more or less the same across both platforms. Whereas with Apple, it can put your whole layout out of whack if it's a tight design.

          I'm not sure if this is still the case, but Safari used to use a different Javascript compiler which could cause problems to occur. I think Chrome uses a compiler called V8 and Firefox uses SpiderMonkey whereas Safari (as far as I can recall) uses something called LLVM.

          To give you an idea of which Javascript compiler is probably the best, SpiderMonkey is used in various database technologies such as MongoDB and CouchDB. V8 is used with NodeJS and LLVM is used nowhere other than in Safari.

          Which browser is the best? Well that is subjective, but objectively it isn't Safari.

          1. FIA Silver badge

            Chrome on macOS uses Blink.

            LLVM is used in many places, but no-longer in Safari.

          2. big_D Silver badge

            I think you mean iOS and iPadOS. On macOS, Chrome uses Google's Blink engine.

            The fonts, or typefaces, come down to licensing. Apple licensed the use of the fonts a long time ago (1980s) and Microsoft didn't, instead, they came up with a lot of their own fonts, which are similar, but not exactly the same as the licensed fonts. These were then semi-opensourced - in the early days, Linux didn't include them as standard, but you could download the MSFonts package for your distribution, at some point the licensing became compatible and they were included as standard. Naturally, because the typfaces Apple uses need licensing, they are also not available on Linux as standard, users would need to go and license them themselves.

            It is funny, that Apple is the one that actually uses the "correct" fonts and Windows and Linux use "compatible" fonts, but, because of Microsoft's market share, everybody these days assumes it is the other way round.

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Safari uses WebKit, Chrome uses their own Blink engine, which was branched off from WebKit over a decade ago. They don't currently share any rendering code.

          Brave uses the Chromium project as a base, which excludes all the tracking and monitoring Googliness and includes Brave's own anti-tracking and ad-blocking technologies. They share the Blink engine code and some of the other base code, but the finished products are very different.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Why use Safari to download more Safari? What would be the point?

      1. cookieMonster Silver badge

        To try and figure out why a link to an article in the reg was blocked. Would it work using another browser??

        The answer appears to be yes.

      2. Dinanziame Silver badge
        Linux

        I haven't tried either, but I assume there are still different features despite the fact the rendering engine is the same? Things like bookmark synchronization, autofill, settings options...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To be honest, I've ditched Chrome for Edge, even in the cases where it doesn't matter which I use. Yes, I have mildly surprised myself by doing that. Go figure.

      For anyone with a (work/school or personal) Microsoft account using Edge over Chrome is arguably a no-brainer these days, although I guess it's the other way around for people relying on Google accounts to 'get stuff done'.

      Of course, I'm only comparing my usage of Chrome and Edge there. Other browsers are most definitely available... ;-)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not enough. It really pisses me.off how many people insist on using Safari. It's not as bad as it used to be, bit man it's still bad.

      The sheer amount of stuff that just breaks on Safari is infuriating.

      Weirdly, I don't mind people using Edge as much as I do Safari.

      What I do notice is that people who tend to prefer Safari are the same people that will fight hard with MacOS insisting that it is a perfectly usable "work" system. It clearly sucks for Enterprise level stuff. Especially since people insist on using the MacOS calendaring and email packages which have, as long as I've been aware of them, sucked the big one.

      Sync errors, duplication, email not sending. Stop me if you've heard these problems before with Macs.

      I've had customers rip out and completely replace an entire CRM system because it didn't render properly in Safari. It would have cost 75% less to just buy everyone a high end Windows laptop...but the CEO enjoyed the fine flavour of Steve Jobs dick in his throat, he made everyone else suffer and pussed money down the drain. His business is now fucking dead. It went under about a year after the CRM swap.

      I've seen similar scenarios play out elsewhere...for a lot of businesses, swapping to Apple gear for the "aesthetic" is the kiss of death.

      Anyone here working for a firm that picks Apple gear for no technical reason and just for the "clean look"...start job hunting, you're fucked.

      I'm seeing similar patterns with C suite execs struggling to work on iPad Pro devices now instead of just getting a solid laptop. Even if you tell them up front "you can try, but remotely supporting one when you're on a business trip can be either really fucking annoying or basically impossible, you'll be fucked". To which the reply is usually "yeah but Apple kit is solid, once it's been configured it'll keep working" to which my response is "fair enough, it's your decision".

      That said, some people get it. I've worked with absolute legends of CEOs before that have stepped in and just outright scrapped any trace of Apple kit at the drop of a hat.

      CEO: "right, I've been here a week and I notice that you're constantly pissed off, what is it?"

      Me: It's the Apple kit. It's shit for business, costs you a fortune in my time l, wastes my time, I'd rather be billing other clients for more lucrative work.

      CEO: Fair enough. Scrap it, bring me a quote to replace it all.

      CEOs that recognise IT as a partner not a service are fucking amazing.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        What I do notice is that people who tend to prefer Safari are the same people that will fight hard with MacOS insisting that it is a perfectly usable "work" system. It clearly sucks for Enterprise level stuff. Especially since people insist on using the MacOS calendaring and email packages which have, as long as I've been aware of them, sucked the big one.

        Sync errors, duplication, email not sending. Stop me if you've heard these problems before with Macs.

        I am currently using a MacBook Air M1 as a replacement for my ThinkPad T480, which barfed last week, corrupting my profile and refusing to open documents, so is in the midst of being rebuilt. Everythign I need (RDP to manage server, SSH likewise, TeamViewer, Teams, Office, VOIP etc.) all works fine on the Mac - in fact, the official Microsoft RDP client on macOS is actually better than the RDP application and the RDP app on Windows, combined.

        Microsoft Outlook is the only one that sucks on Mac, it can't connect to an Exchange server (it says "coming soon", when you try), so I am using Apple Mail, Calender and Contacts at the moment. I've not experienced any real problems with that set-up so far, other than setting a tick on completed emails under tracking. A minor annoyance.

        I'm seeing similar patterns with C suite execs struggling to work on iPad Pro devices now instead of just getting a solid laptop. Even if you tell them up front "you can try, but remotely supporting one when you're on a business trip can be either really fucking annoying or basically impossible, you'll be fucked". To which the reply is usually "yeah but Apple kit is solid, once it's been configured it'll keep working" to which my response is "fair enough, it's your decision".

        We push TeamViewer onto all iDevices through our MDM solution. This makes remote support easier.

        Our IT manager is flexible, "as long as you can do your job, I don't care what OS you use." A colleague is using Linux, I picked up the spare Mac that was laying around gathering dust (was bought for MDM purposes, but we ended up not needing it), instead of ordering a new laptop.

        CEO: "right, I've been here a week and I notice that you're constantly pissed off, what is it?"

        Me: It's the Apple kit. It's shit for business, costs you a fortune in my time l, wastes my time, I'd rather be billing other clients for more lucrative work.

        It sounds like the Apple kit isn't the problem here. I've been supporting mixed Microsoft/Apple/Linux environments since the late 80s. There are some applications that work better on one or the other platform, but they can all be made to work well together without too much trouble. The best tool in the admin's toolbox for getting Apple kit to work properly with a Windows infrastructure is an open mind.

        1. skwdenyer

          Which version of Outlook on MacOS are you using? I run a rock solid Outlook on MacOS connected to an on-premise Exchange server.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            The Microsoft 365 version... We are still using on-prem exchange and are in the process of evaluating moving to the M365 hosted version.

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Flawed logic

    This perhaps explains why Apple, though hugely profitable, has not launched a rival search engine…

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There are various explanations for the deal, which is most definitely anti-competitive. Google might simply be using more native calls, including search, that other browser makers aren't because WebKit is not Safari: some important hardware acceleration functions are not available. But, whatever the reason, the deal is simply to stop Apple choosing another vendor.

    Having all that cash is not a good reason to try and compete with Google on search. Microsoft has been trying, and failing to do this for years and has poured billions into the attempt. There are times when it's not enough just to "build a better mousetrap".

    Apple is still well behind Google when it comes to mapping, but the market there is more open.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Flawed logic

      Having all that cash is not a good reason to try and compete with Google on search

      It's a pretty good reason already, because it's a lot of cash. I agree that Apple would probably not be able to beat Google on search — it's primarily a hardware company, and it would be humiliating to offer an inferior product for many years until they get it working, like they did for maps. But the cash also helps.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Flawed logic

        Also don't see the incentive for Apple to make a search engine.

        Either it makes a huge loss .. or they have to go the ads route

        Ads (with current bidding marketplace) does not really sit well with the we respect your privacy vibes Apple like to give.

        1. ThomH

          Re: Flawed logic

          It'd be about as successful as iTunes Ping, while probably consuming more than the staff levels still assigned to macOS; if anything I'm surprised that Microsoft has clung on for so long.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Flawed logic

      It is ridiculous to think that if Google wasn't paying Apple that Google Search would be Safari's default search engine. Why hand over all that user data? They'd either make something like duckduckgo the default search if they weren't allowed to accept payment, or they would develop their own search engine and realize some advertising revenue on that - search engines would work quite well if the only "personal data" they took into account was your current and past search terms.

      Maybe advertisers wouldn't pay as much for ad placement there because it doesn't take into account all the other stuff Google has amassed on you over the years but as far as the end user goes the results would likely be more useful. When I search I am looking for something specific, it doesn't need to know what kind of car I owned 15 years ago to "tailor" my search results!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Flawed logic

        Presumably what they are really paying for is Apple not to do adblock.

        Apple halved the value of Facebook by blocking tracking, if they put a piHole style block list into their OS then 1, They would have even more happy users, 2, Google would lose $$$$$bn

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Flawed logic

          Apple does have adblock, you can download a bunch of adblockers that work quite well in Safari. Just download it and enable it as your adblocker in Settings. I have "firefox focus" (which is confusing since it is ALSO a browser) installed on my iPhone and have used it for years. It works every bit as good as ublock does for me on desktop Firefox. Even works for stuff like Youtube where I never see any ads.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Flawed logic

            Yes, and I am running Brave + a vpn to my piHoled DNS on Grapheneos on a rooted Pixel

            But if Apple said "next iPhone - no ads ever" without the user having to do anything....

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Flawed logic

              "No ads" is pretty much impossible to guarantee, but if they had a built in and on by default adblocker for their browser I think the reaction would be that web devs would deliberately sabotage pages so they wouldn't work right on Safari - or even check and outright refuse to load on it.

              There's a reason why even Firefox hasn't gone with a built in on by default adblocker, though I suppose now their market share is low enough they could do it and there wouldn't be any pushback. But it is impossible for any browser with double digit share to do this, and it wouldn't be just Google on the attack.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Flawed logic

      The other thing is, the market for an Apple search engine would be pretty limited. Apple has, what? Under 10% desktop market and 25% mobile (outside the USA)? That is still a lot of people, but compared to the major search engines they have a small fraction of the market.

      Apple fans are very loyal and would probably at least give it a try, but I suspect the anti-Apple feeling in many other areas would mean that not many outside the Apple system would try it, let alone use it as their default. Firefox might be the outlier, if Apple offered them more money than Google... But that might damage Mozilla's reputation even further.

      While the general public thinks Google = search, the thoughts on Apple are often very polarising. Those actively shunning Google, like me, I've been using DDG for the last 5 years, are a very small minority. Those vocally opposing Apple are. at least, very loud.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Flawed logic

        An Apple search engine would immediately have a huge audience. 25% mobile market share is a massive audience of well over a billion people - and with higher average incomes than the 75% using Android. Even if no one used it outside of a iPhone or Mac it is guaranteed success. The fact Google is willing to pay $15 billion to be the default search in Safari shows how much they think that audience is worth.

        Google's search is crappy and gets worse every year with more spam and useless cruft clogging up the results, and Google's near monopoly on search means they have every incentive to slant the results in a way that's most profitable for them rather than most useful for the person doing the searching. It rarely searches on the terms you give it, you have to force it to use words you want lest it direct you where it is making the most money with pages that don't include the stuff you are explicitly searching for!

        Just look at Apple Maps, they were clearly inferior to Google Maps when launched but over time they fixed the issues and almost everyone with an iPhone uses that. The same would be true of Apple Search even if it started with a bit of a rocky rollout. Stuff like ChatGPT is going to disrupt the search market, that's why Google panicked and put out their own dog & pony show to compete with Microsoft's - they fear Bing might become a real competitor to them and take away their lifeblood of advertising revenue. The next few years would be the perfect time for Apple to jump in.

        That said I don't think Apple feels they have any reason to so long as they get paid 11 digit sums to make Google (or BingGPT down the road, who knows?) the default search in Safari. If governments step in and force an end to that, Apple is obviously going to do their own search engine. They have been crawling the web and indexing for years (it identifies as Applebot) and the results have long been used in limited ways for stuff like Siri and Spotlight. They probably would only need to point Safari at their search engine (after beefing up its capacity to deal with the vastly increased load) to make this happen, it isn't like they would be starting from scratch.

        1. Dinanziame Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: Flawed logic

          It bugs me a lot that Apple created a maps product that is only available on their hardware. For instance, when an Apple user shares a place with another Apple user, it links to Apple Maps, but when they share it with a non-Apple user, it links to Google maps. It just feels plain wrong. It's the same thing that they have with iMessages, and it seems that they're implying that it's a superior experience that is only available through their hardware products, and they're deliberately creating incompatibilities to try to pull users to their platform. I find it rather insufferable to be honest.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Flawed logic

            I think it is more that they don't see the point in creating and maintaining an Android Apple Maps app that would have a userbase in the thousands. If an iPhone user shares a place with you, are you going to download an entire app just to look at it? Isn't it more convenient to have it shared to the maps app you already have installed?

  3. JimmyPage
    Coffee/keyboard

    Substantial payments for doing nothing incentivize more of the same, it's argued.

    The irony that such a phrase emerges from a UK government department isn't lost on this reader.

  4. anothercynic Silver badge

    [x]

    Just a suggestion to the editors... In good old ASCII art, scissors are [8<] or [>8], although the former is generally the more acceptable form, given that >8) is a bespectacled gleeb with pointy hair. ;-)

    :-)

  5. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    The article makes it seem you can just "make a search engine", like some minor app.

    Also, I'm not sure Apple wants to be in that arena. One of their main selling points is privacy, and the search engine model for making money is by harvesting data on its users. Google is getting more and more intrusive and annoying day by day, just like Amazon with it's "I'm a moron, ask me anything Alexa".

    1. matjaggard

      They also attempted to copy Google Maps and learned their lesson on how hard it is to start copying these types of products.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect Apple have cracked the code.

    Search engines are of limited - if not no - us in a world where people can pay to be in the results that people are paying to see.

    Ask ChatGPT if you can trust search results from Google. I did.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Happy

      Go on then...

      ...what was the result?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Go on then...

        Not "Yes"

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I suspect Apple have cracked the code.

      You're trusting ChatGPT"s answer though?

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