FT: With Google's payments at risk, Apple is building its own search engine

From the Financial Times' "Apple develops alternative to Google search" posted overnight:

Apple is stepping up efforts to develop its own search technology as US antitrust authorities threaten multibillion-dollar payments that Google makes to secure prime placement of its engine on the iPhone.

In a little-noticed change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple has begun to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen. That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.

The Silicon Valley company is notoriously secretive about its internal projects, but the move adds to growing evidence that it is working to build a rival to Google’s search engine. Two and a half years ago, Apple poached Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea. The hire was ostensibly to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities and its Siri virtual assistant, but also brought eight years of experience running the world’s most popular search engine...

Search marketing experts also point to increased activity from Applebot, the iPhone maker’s once-obscure web crawler, which is used to build the vast database of online material that forms the foundation of any search engine.

Suganthan Mohanadasan, a digital marketing consultant, said Applebot has shown up “a ridiculous number of times” on his clients’ websites in recent weeks. “When the crawl rate increases, that tells us they are trying to gather more information.”

My take: I see that AppleInsider is skeptical...

The new report repeats the claim that AppleBot — Apple's own web crawler service — has seen increased activity. AppleInsider testing didn't back that up, nor has our research confirmed the Financial Times assertion that Apple has been recruiting more search engineers.


  1. Alan Levy said:
    I think the question is less whether or not—Apple is well known for having back-up plans (probably including back-up plans for the back-up plans…) that never see the light of day. The question is how AAPL intends to replace the 8 B or so in payments annually from Google. Would Apple now finally enter the ad business (worth 20B annually) or would it avoid that as it has in the past to boost its privacy brand identity and simply make search a feature of its ecosystem? Or some third way where ad results are monetized but privacy is still maintained….

    October 28, 2020
  2. Rodney Avilla said:
    Apple can easily sell adds in a search engine (as Google does), and never sell our personal searching and web information (as Google does).

    October 28, 2020
  3. Brian Nakamoto said:
    Coywolf.news tried building a better case than FT that there are signs that Apple is working on a more direct competitor to Google Search back in August – https://www.coywolf.news/seo/apple-search-engine/

    I think it makes sense for Apple to have a contingency plan because Microsoft Bing is the next best (in the sense that something is better than nothing) general search engine outside of China and Russia. (Baidu and Yandex probably aren’t a risk in China and Russia, respectively, given their relationship with their states.) As with Maps, Apple doesn’t want to be beholden to Google when Glasses and Cars get real.

    Amazon could delve back into general search too. However, a huge incentive for them to do so is probably dampened by the thought of drawing more scrutiny from regulators (e.g. https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-changed-search-algorithm-in-ways-that-boost-its-own-products-11568645345).

    October 28, 2020
  4. Michael Goldfeder said:
    The Google payment to Apple is more of a bargain in exchange for Apple not building its own search engine to compete with them on iOS. Somewhat akin to a noncompete clause in a contract when an individual sells a company complete with all of its assets. Other than the key employee who walked away with the princely sum for that ongoing enterprise. The purchaser would prefer that the seller of the business go play golf, fish, learn to play the guitar, or anything in-between. So long as he or she doesn’t start a competitive business.

    I’m not seeing any drawbacks to Apple based on the DOJ investigation into Google. This aspect of concern by all of the analysts is overblown IMO. Much ado about nothing.

    October 28, 2020

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