Google has long been using subtle tricks to suggest that web users switch to its browser, and now it has adopted less than subtle techniques to get Firefox users to switch their default search engine.
If you've used a recent vintage of Firefox then you might have noticed that it now defaults to Yahoo as its search engine, and not Google. Mozilla made the change in November as part of a 5 year strategic partnership between Mozilla and Yahoo, and this week Google returned fire.
If someone uses Firefox to search for something in Google, they just might see this prompt before the search results:
The gray box suggests that users switch, and it offers a blue button with links to instructions on how to make the change, plus a gray opt out button.
Call it outright vindictive or extremely competitive, that is Google's
blatant helpful suggestion that users would be happier with its services than with whichever search engine is set as a default.
This isn't the first time that Google has put its interests ahead of its users. They've long blighted its search results page with so many ads that for some terms the actual organic search results have been pushed off the screen.
Google also briefly marred its home page with an advert for the Nexus 7, and for as long as I can recall they've pitched the built-in translation features of Chrome whenever I used Google Translate in Firefox.
So while this latest move could annoy some users, it's not a surprise. And it's probably also an unnecessary move for Google.
While Google's share of the search engine market has dipped since the Mozilla-Yahoo deal, Google has only lost a single percentage point in the past three months. According to Statcounter, Google still lays claim to 87.8% of the global search engine market. Yahoo and Bing each account for under 5% of the market, so I wouldn't say that they are real threats to Google's dominance, but it's worth noting that Google share of the search engine market is the lowest it's been since Statcounter first started tracking this market in 2008.
We could be seeing the beginning of Yahoo and Bing nibbling away at Google, a trend which could intensify later this year when Google's deal with Apple to be the default search engine in Safari comes up for renewal. Things could get even more interesting should Google lose out on this deal, especially if Yahoo manages to land it.