Apple may be preparing a search engine to take on Google

Changes in Spotlight Search on iOS and iPadOS 14 beta, a significant update to its Applebot support page, and an increase in crawling from AppleBot signify that Apple may be launching a search engine soon, Jon Henshaw writes for for Coywolf.

Apple's Spotlight on the Mac
Apple’s Spotlight search on the Mac

It’s common knowledge that Google pays billions of dollars annually to Apple to remain the default search engine on Safari for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, where the world’s best customers – those with disposable income and the proven will to spend it – reside. But, that arrangement may be coming to an end soon as the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority takes aim at the deal.

Apple's Search on iPhone
Apple’s Search on iPhone

Regulatory pressure, a fractious relationship with privacy-trampling Google, and the growth of Apple’s capabilities are presenting an opportunity for Apple to create and launch a search engine. There are several signs right now that indicate Apple may be doing just that.

Jon Henshaw for Coywolf:

Apple is investing heavily in search, as shown in their
job postings for search engineers. The job listings reveal they incorporate AI, ML, NLP, and more into all of their services and apps…

It’s not clear if Apple uses Bing anymore, as results are labeled only as Siri Suggestions. It is clear that Apple has started to return search results within Spotlight Search and is completely bypassing Google altogether…

In July 2020, Apple published a significant update to its About Applebot support page. The additions are very similar to the details Google provides to webmasters and SEOs…

At this point, everything is based on observation and conjecture. They may never release a search engine. It’s also possible that iOS, iPadOS, and macOS users will be using it and not even be aware of it. It could be so tightly integrated into the operating system and native apps that alerts and Spotlight Searches slowly steal away queries that would have otherwise been made on Google.

DuckDuckGoMacDailyNews Take: As we wrote over six years ago, referring to Steve Jobs’ vow to go nuclear on Google over the stolen product of Android, about the idea that Apple should buy DuckDuckGo:

“If you really want to wage thermonuclear war, wage thermonuclear war.”

Plus, [DuckDuckGo] has a stupid name that just begs to be changed to “Apple Search.” It’s perfect for Apple!MacDailyNews, June 19, 2015

If you haven’t already, give DuckDuckGo a try today!

Apple allows users to easily switch to the privacy-respecting DuckDuckGo search engine in Safari:

1. Click Safari in the top menu bar.
2. Select Preferences.
3. Click on Search.
4. Select DuckDuckGo.

1. Open Settings.
2. Navigate and tap on Safari.
3. Tap on Search Engine.
4. Select DuckDuckGo.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. DuckDuckGo is a great search engine with shitty results. Every search engine pales in comparison to Google. Their move to incorporate Gmail and YouTube just cements their lead, as they have so many users that they have the best search raw data on the planet.

    However, leapfrogging as always been Apple’s way. Traditional search is slowly going away as people use apps and virtual assistants to get information.

    Hopefully Apple will lead the way in this new Search paradigm. I’m no Google fan. I prefer privacy by far.

    1. Indeed, that is DDG’s problem (results are horrible). I have it as default, but need to go use Google about 50% of the time…

      Here’s the deal with search: .0000001% of users are willing to do what I do to stay away from Google as much as one can. Thus, whatever Apple does it simply must be better, that’s right, better than Google results.

      Google has a few major advantages over everyone:

      A. They absolutely know that is where they make all their zillions and invest heavily in it.

      B. Every business on the planet must advertise or has advertised with Google at some point. Thus, G knows where every single business is. This makes their search efficient, their maps the best, and searching relevant.

      C. They’ve put so much into ensuring your search results allow the user to not even have to click on a result, just like at the curated data on the results page which google has provided. Google dwarfs everyone with this by a thousand miles…

      There is so much more Google has advantages with in search it’s sick. However, if anyone has the resources and patience to take on Google, it would be Apple.

      I would warn Apple, their sea h cannot be an Apple Maps effort, which has become a solid maps app over time. Rather, Apple Search must be impressive from the get go and simple deliver great search results for users right off the bat… if not, it will damage Apples reputation, and people won’t give it a second chance – rarely so…

  2. Great, but what I would really like is for APPLE to offer the world an alternative to FACEBOOK!

    APPLE’s philosophy about privacy and confidentiality of personal data is what would make an APPLE facebook-alternative appealing. I would use it in an instant and tell all my family and friends to abandon facebook and switch to APPLE’s SAFEFACE (lol) or whatever they choose to call it. Give it the same functionality as facebook, but make it safe and private to use.

    APPLE does most everything right, and I’m sure they also would do facebook right.

    1. No they don’t need to do Facebook, or Google, but Apple does need to kick them out of the App store, let their only interface to iOS be by a website. The other big tech companies are hurting other smaller developers by taking up space in the store. That is where antitrust focus needs to be.

  3. It’s highly unlikely that Apple would do this. If they really wanted to, they could buy DuckGoGo, which is seriously in need of improvement, and the only way that will happen is with a large infusion of cash that Apple could supply.

    But there is no reason why Apple would do this. I agree with the opinions that Apple is doing this to improve Siri.

    1. Long term Apple needs to do search (doesn’t need to be like the rest), but they can take their time behind the scenes, like Apple Silicon (10-12 years in the making) which by the way is causing the Tech Geeks on the other platforms to loose their minds…

      1. Oh, I wouldn’t say that they “need” to do search. Why do they need it? You didn’t give a reason. You know, Apple was behind AOL before it became AOL. Apple’s still here, and AOL is a nothing part of Verizon these days.

        Apple also gets paid at least $9 billion this year from Google. Estimates up to $11 billion. That’s pretty much pure profit. That’s because they’re paid to have Google as the default search engine. Each year that payment gets larger. It’s a very large part of Apple’s net. If Apple does search, I would imagine it would become the new default. What then? What can Apple do in search that would earn them anything near the same amount of profit? They do almost nothing for it.

        1. The type of search Apple needs to do isn’t forward facing to the public, only a small part is, and that will always be less than to tech and the public at large. Apple Maps is the same a lot of what Apple needs to do with Maps is for the future.

          1. Well, they’d better have a good enough replacement otherwise Siri will be even dumber than it is now. Though Google does pay Apple to be default on Safari, they made the choice to make Google the backend search engine for a bunch of other services, Siri being one of the most prominent. The best that could happen is that Siri would deflect questions a lot more. Fun but not useful.

  4. I switched to DDG on all my devices quite a while ago and either things are working well or I am blissfully ignorant of what I am missing. Its been at least a year and I don’t even think about it anymore. There was a time when I tested DDG that I found myself going back to Google for serious searches but not anymore. Pleasantly surprised by DDG.

    If Apple were to buy them, that would be fine by me.

  5. Wouldn’t that be a gobsmacker of a “One more thing”? (“And we’re going live in 60 seconds, so let me perform the very first Apple Search and demo it for you now.”)

  6. Just another public service announcement:
    Change your default to DDG, and when you want another search engine just add the following characters in your search:
    yt! for YouTube
    g! for Google
    b! for Bing

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