Apple’s Dance with Alternate Search Engines: Inside the Rejections and Considerations

Discussions with DuckDuckGo

In a surprising turn of events, it was revealed that Apple Inc. had entered into discussions with DuckDuckGo about replacing Alphabet Inc.’s Google as the default search engine for private mode on Apple’s Safari browser. These talks, however, did not lead to a switch.

Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo’s CEO, detailed interactions with Apple’s executives. He recalled about 20 meetings and phone calls with them in 2018 and 2019 to discuss the possibility of DuckDuckGo becoming the default search engine for Safari’s private browsing mode, where users’ browsing activities are not tracked or recorded. “We were talking about it, I thought they would launch it,” Weinberg said. “Multiple times, we’ve gotten integrations all the way through the finish line. Really, almost everything we’ve pitched except for search.”

Apple’s Exploration Beyond Google

These newly unsealed testimonies shed light on Apple’s exploration of alternatives to Google for its browser’s search functionalities. Apple’s consistent preference for Google appears to be driven, at least in part, by a financially lucrative revenue-sharing agreement between the two tech giants. The ongoing antitrust trial against Google has underscored Google’s dominance in the search engine market, with a staggering 90% market share.

The U.S. Justice Department’s stance is that Google’s massive payouts to firms like Apple to remain the default search option has suppressed potential competitors, such as Microsoft’s Bing and DuckDuckGo.

John Giannandrea, who took over as Apple’s head of search in 2018, expressed skepticism about a shift to DuckDuckGo. “The motivating factor for setting DuckDuckGo as the default for private browsing was an assumption” of greater privacy, Giannandrea testified. However, since DuckDuckGo sources its search results from Bing, this might share user data with Microsoft. This made Giannandrea question DuckDuckGo’s claims of privacy.

Apple’s Gaze at Microsoft’s Bing

Separate from the DuckDuckGo discussions, Giannandrea revealed that Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, had initiated talks with Microsoft regarding Bing becoming Safari’s default search engine. Following a series of meetings in 2018 and 2020, the potential for a joint venture or even a sale of Bing to Apple was considered.

Interestingly, a 2021 study conducted by Apple found that, in general, Google’s search results were superior, except for English language searches on desktops where Bing matched Google’s efficacy.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, testified about Microsoft’s willingness to make significant financial sacrifices for Bing to replace Google as Safari’s default search engine.

Judicial Intervention and Public Disclosure

US District Judge Amit Mehta played a crucial role in making these testimonies public. “The testimony by Weinberg and Giannandrea “goes to the heart of the case” and should be released,” Mehta declared. He further emphasized that discussions regarding potential partnerships were “critical to the case.”

Despite Apple and Google’s preference to keep these testimonies private, Judge Mehta painstakingly reviewed the transcripts, ensuring trade secrets and precise financial details were kept confidential.

This revelation casts a new light on the intricate dance of major tech companies behind closed doors, showcasing how business decisions are influenced by myriad considerations, ranging from financial incentives to product efficacy and user privacy. The antitrust trial against Google promises to uncover more insights into the tech world’s operations and decision-making processes.

Is Apple Stock Halal?

Muslim investors are curious about whether Apple stock is halal (Shariah-compliant). To determine this, three criteria were applied:

  1. Business activity.
  2. Interest-bearing debt relative to the company’s market capitalization.
  3. Interest-bearing securities relative to the company’s market capitalization.

Apple’s primary business is designing, developing, and selling consumer electronics, software, and online services. They’re known for products like the iPhone, iPad and services like AppleCare, Apple Store, iTunes, and iCloud. Only 0.93% of Apple’s revenue comes from impermissible activities, and 3.69% from questionable ones. As this non-compliant revenue doesn’t exceed 5% of the total revenue, it is deemed within Shariah-compliant criteria.

Financially, Apple’s interest-bearing debt is 4.61% of its market cap, which is below the 30% threshold. Additionally, its interest-bearing securities and assets are 7.02% of its market cap, again below the 30% limit. Thus, Apple meets both financial screening criteria to be considered as Shariah-compliant stock.

In conclusion, Apple is considered a halal stock. However, on the Musaffa platform, it scores a 1, making it one of the least compliant stocks there.


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