Google suffered a noticeable defeat in November 2014. Mozilla, the company behind web browser Firefox, decided not to renew its relationship with the search giant — instead signing a five-year deal to make Yahoo the default search engine on the browser.
Since then, Yahoo’s share of the search market has grown healthily, from 8.6% in November to 10.6% today. And Google has correspondingly declined: In February 2015, its share dropped below 75% for the first time since 2008.
While Google is still the clear market leader, it’s still embarrassing for the company: Search is Google’s bread-and-butter — so much that its name has become synonymous with finding information online. Google’s displeasure is now becoming clear, Search Engine Land reports, with the search engine now prominently asking Firefox users who don’t have Google set as their default search to change when they visit the site.
It’s a big message at the top of search results, taking up prime advertising space and pushing the actual information down the page. Here’s how it looks:
After clicking “Learn how,” the following pop-up appears:
This message isn’t shown at all Internet users who aren’t using Google as their default search — it’s exclusively targeted at Firefox users, suggesting it’s an direct response to the decline. We also tried on Safari with default search set to Yahoo, and the message was nowhere to be seen:
Google’s dropping search share is painful, but given that Firefox is used by only 12% of Americans, the long-term effects will be limited. But this may just be the start for Google.
There are reports that Apple is considering dropping Google as its default search engine on the iPhone’s Safari web browser. It’s not clear what Apple might replace the search giant with — but whether it’s Yahoo, Bing, or an in-house search, it’d be a big loss for Google. The Wall Street Journal reports that in December, more than half of all U.S. mobile traffic came from Safari.
There’s a precedent for this: Back in 2012, Apple replaced Google Maps with its own in-house Apple Maps app. The software was terribly received and plagued with bugs — but Apple seems to have learned from its mistakes. The map data has been gradually improving, and Apple CEO Tim Cook eventually released an apology over the new app.
Tim Cook was so angry over the Maps controversy that he reportedly fired a top Apple executive over the company’s failures. If Apple is planning on ditching Google again, it’s going to make sure that whatever alternative it comes up with is fit for purpose.
A recent UBS research note claimed that losing the Safari deal wouldn’t be as damaging to Google’s bottom line as some are predicting — even if it would be embarrassing. Either way, this new plea to Firefox users proves that Google is concerned.