Google and Microsoft make Windows Phone YouTube app worse while they write a new one

Windows Phone logoAfter Google initially complained about Microsoft's Windows Phone YouTube app, it appears that the two companies are now working together to provide some kind of a solution. In the meantime, however, Microsoft's actually rather good YouTube app has been replaced with its feature deficient predecessor.

Google had two significant problems with Microsoft's app: it allowed videos to be downloaded so that they could be watched offline, and it didn't display any ads. After Google's initial complaint, Microsoft publicly replied that it would love to show YouTube's ads but for one small problem: Google doesn't offer any (public) API by which they can do so.

Microsoft updated the app a few days ago to remove the contentious download ability, but the shortage of ads remained. That's apparently not enough to keep Google happy, so even that updated application has now been pulled.

It's been replaced by the original barebones YouTube for Windows Phone application. This app simply takes you to YouTube's mobile site, plays videos full-screen, adds information about recently watched videos in the Music and Videos hub and, well, that's about the extent of it.

All the features that the new app had—Google account support, subscriptions, history, comments, portrait and landscape playback, scrubbing—are gone. Strikingly, this old app also doesn't include ads, because YouTube's mobile site is ad-free.

There is—possibly—good news in the pipeline. Microsoft and Google issued a joint statement about the app, saying:

Microsoft and YouTube are working together to update the new YouTube for Windows Phone app to enable compliance with YouTube’s API terms of service, including enabling ads, in the coming weeks. Microsoft will replace the existing YouTube app in Windows Phone Store with the previous version during this time.

But this may not be such good news after all. The Verge is reporting that the compliant version of the app will merely use YouTube's iframe API, and as such won't provide a user experience that's as rich or capable as the now-removed program.

We were told that the engineering teams haven't yet decided on how they'll update the app yet, so there's still some room for optimism. Nonetheless, the chance of a feature regression relative to the pulled application seems high.

What makes this particularly frustrating as a Windows Phone user is that Google's position appears to be disingenuous. The complaint about downloading is well taken; though software to download videos from YouTube is widespread, the platform is at least notionally one that's for streaming, not downloading, and it's understandable that content owners might not be happy with such a feature.

But when it comes to advertising, Google's position seems less valid. The old/reinstated Windows Phone YouTube app, which Google never complained about, doesn't appear to show pre-roll video ads either. Nor does the mobile site, m.youtube.com, itself when browsed using Internet Explorer on Windows Phone. This seems to be browser-specific; Safari in iOS does seem to support pre-rolls on the mobile website. Some versions of the mobile site do include banner/tile ads, but others don't. Some videos that block mobile usage (such as many VEVO music videos) work on one mobile device but not others. It seems hard to argue that Microsoft's application harmed YouTube's content creators as Google claimed when Google is apparently willing to inflict that very same harm through the inconsistent behaviour of its mobile site.

As such, we would strongly advise anyone who installed the new, good YouTube app to refuse any updates offered through the Windows Phone Store, because they'll almost certainly come at the cost of lost features.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, Microsoft, Windows Phone 7, YouTube

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