How Google Deploys 'Dark Patterns' To Trick Users Into Abandoning Rival Products

Gabriel Weinberg
Founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo

There is no doubt that Google has encompassed the entire World Wide Web and beyond. In fact, the brand has become synonymous with the internet itself, and is so ubiquitous that the word "google" is also considered a verb.

While the tech titan has come a long way to reach its success, it has a few tricks under its sleeves to ensure that it stays the king.

And according to DuckDuckGo's CEO, among the ways, Google also achieved its success through manipulation.

Grabriel Weinberg who is also the founder of the Google competitor, may be downplaying Google.

But in an interview with he brought more than just his own subjective point of view.

He has something to prove that the tech titan is abusing browser extensions to favor its products and stifle competitors.

Gabriel Weinberg

Weinberg said that Google has used misleading notifications to lure users into disabling its rival’s browser extensions and to discourage them from switching their default search engines on its web browser, Chrome.

He said that Google has been doing that for years.

In one example, Google has included a notification that requires Chrome users to answer whether they would rather “Change back to Google Search” after adding a competitor's extension.

In this case, when users install DuckDuckGo's browser extension, Google can show users a larger, highlighted button to lure users to "Change it back" to Google.

Weinberg said that the way Google is showing the notifications is subtle. But still, it does have a major impact in the market.

First, Google Chrome is the largest web browser in terms of users. And second, Weinberg provided a number to prove his opinion.

Weinberg said that since Google introduced the notification, DuckDuckGo has since seen a significant drop - 10% - in how many new users it has been able to retain on its services on Chrome.

10% may not seem much. But for DuckDuckGo, that number translated to hundreds of thousands of new users lost.

Weinberg said that the drop in user retention via their extension on Chrome, was previously unreported. And here, Weinberg is disclosing the number is to show the public that his company has “direct" pieces of evidence to prove how Google’s practices are harming competitors.

According to Weinberg, Google's manipulative design features are known as "dark patterns," made to trick users into abandoning rival products.

Because DuckDuckGo never reported this evidence, this marks the first time the company is publicly speaking out about how Google's practice has impacted its business, including what it says are millions in potential lost revenue since Google introduced the notifications back in 2020.

"For search engines like us that are trying to actively allow consumers to switch, [or] choose an alternative, they're making it unreasonably complicated to do so and confusing consumers," Weinberg said of his company's biggest competitor.

Weinberg said that he wish lawmakers can sort these out, and stop titans like Google from using their abusive power to prioritize its own products and disadvantaging rivals.

"We definitely need momentum on real legislation," he said.

Google is no stranger to this kind of accusation.

In fact, Google is already facing mounting legal challenges from regulators globally who accuse the tech giant of maintaining an illegal monopoly over its search and digital advertising businesses.