Apple is switching the default provider of its web searches from Siri, Search inside iOS (formerly called Spotlight) and Spotlight on the Mac. So, for instance, if Siri falls back to a web search on iOS when you ask it a question, you’re now going to get Google results instead of Bing. Updated below with a statement from Microsoft.
Consistency is Apple’s main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft’s Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used.
“Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari,” reads an Apple statement sent this morning. “We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible.”
This will change on iOS for the ‘I don’t know what you’re asking but here are web results’ Siri behavior as well as intentional ‘hey, Siri, search the web for…’ queries.
The search results include regular ‘web links’ as well as video results. Web image results from Siri will still come from Bing, for now. Bing has had more than solid image results for some time now so that makes some sense. If you use Siri to search your own photos, it will, of course, use your own library instead. Interestingly, video results will come directly from YouTube.
All of the search results that you see in these different cases will come directly from the search API, which means you’ll be getting the raw, ranked search results that start below all of the ads and Knowledge Graph stuff that appears on a regular Google home page. Worth noting, of course, that once you’ve clicked on a YouTube video, you’re still going to get served ads, so there is a revenue driver here for Google, even if it’s not direct.
As is expected with Apple now, searches and results are all encrypted and anonymized and cannot be attributed to any individual user. Once you click on the ‘Show Google results’ link, of course, you’re off to Google and its standard tracking will apply. Clicking directly on a website result will take you straight there, not through Google.
The timing of this rollout is interesting, coming after iOS has been released, but makes some sense given that High Sierra is releasing today. Mixing data providers like this is not unprecedented. Maps uses dozens of data providers including Yelp, Foursquare, Garmin and Tripadvisor for different locales and data types.
But, of course, this change has an additional dimension of interest given the years-long saga of Google being default on Apple devices including the iPhone. Google has famously made a bunch of money from iOS because of default search and because its apps and services are popular. At times those figures appeared to even exceed the amount of money that Google had made from Android.
One question that I do not have the answer to is whether this change comes completely from Apple wanting consistent results or whether it is a condition of the ~$3B deal that Google has in place to remain the default search provider on Apple devices. Perhaps a blend of the two.
The changes began rolling out at 9am PT and should roll out to the entire world by this afternoon.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson provided the following comment when asked about the altered shape of Bing on iOS.
We value our relationship with Apple and look forward to continuing to partner with them in many ways, including on Bing Image Search in Siri, to provide the best experience possible for our customers. Bing has grown every year since its launch, now powering over a third of all the PC search volume in the U.S., and continues to grow worldwide. It also powers the search experiences of many other partners, including Yahoo (Verizon), AOL and Amazon, as well as the multi-lingual abilities of Twitter. As we move forward, given our work to advance the field of AI, we’re confident that Bing will be at the forefront of providing a more intelligent search experience for our customers and partners.
Article updated to clarify that it’s Spotlight on the Mac, not Safari and that only Siri image results are Bing.