Google paid $26 billion in 2021 for default search engine status

A company executive revealed the figures in the DOJ’s antitrust trial against the search giant.

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Vice president Prabhakar Raghavan testified Friday that Google paid $26.3 billion in 2021 for the purpose of maintaining default search engine status and acquiring traffic, Bloomberg reports. It's likely the lion’s share of that sum went to Apple, which it has showered with exorbitant sums for many years in order to remain the default search option on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Raghavan, who was testifying as part of the DOJ's ongoing antitrust suit against the company, said Google’s search advertising made $146.4 billion in revenue in 2021, which puts the $26 billion it paid for default status in perspective. The executive clarified that default status was the most costly part of what it pays to acquire traffic.

Raghavan didn’t mention how much of the $26.3 billion went to Apple. But CNBC reports that an estimate from private wealth management firm Bernstein ballparked that Google could pay Apple up to $19 billion this year for the default privilege.

A slide shown in court revealed that, in 2014, Google brought in $47 billion in search revenue while paying $7.1 billion for default status. Raghavan testified that Google’s overall default search engine payments nearly quadrupled from 2014 to 2021, while its search advertising revenue (roughly) tripled.

Google objected to making the figures public, arguing it would hurt its ability to negotiate future contracts. Judge Amit Mehta, overseeing the case, disagreed.