Google blocks Windows Phone’s YouTube app again, but may lose the PR battle

Daniel Bader

August 15, 2013 7:10pm

The epithet “Do No Evil” has long been a part of Google’s mantra, and the company touts it as corporate policy to this day.

But Microsoft is claiming that, despite adhering to what was asked, Google yet again cut off access to YouTube from its newly re-released Windows Phone app.

In a vitriolic post on Technet today, Microsoft’s David Howard, VP of Litigation and Antitrust, says that “Google’s reasons for blocking our app are manufactured so that we can’t give our users the same experience Android and iPhone users are getting. The roadblocks Google has set up are impossible to overcome, and they know it.”

We’ve asked Google to provide whatever information iPhone and Android. So far at least, Google has refused to give this information to us.

What’s interesting about this debacle, which doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon, is that Google’s main request — to create a YouTube app in HTML5 — is not even present on iOS or Android. Nor is it possible using the latest version of Windows Phone 8.

To Google’s credit, it appears that Microsoft jumped the gun on re-releasing the YouTube app, as Microsoft appeared to be getting frustrated with its incomplete metadata access.

It may be true that Google is preventing Microsoft from having a native YouTube experience out of corporate spite, but more probable are the technological limitations in Microsoft’s OS, something that the company is unlikely to admit in an official blog post.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been dealt a bad card here, as Google continues to treat Windows Phone, and Windows in general, as a second-class citizen, focusing instead on Android (obviously) and iOS (naturally, since it has such a huge install base).

We are committed to giving our users the experience they deserve, and are happy to work with Google to solve any legitimate concerns they may have. In the meantime, we once again request that Google stop blocking our YouTube app.

Neither side is benevolent, nor is Microsoft telling the whole story, but the onus appears to be on Google to “fix” the problem, not Redmond. At the very least, it seems like Microsoft is more intent on making this story into a wider-reaching diatribe about Google’s corporate ethics policy, pitting itself — the “good guys” — against the evil corporate entity in Mountain View.

  • John David Douglas Marshall

    As far as anticompetitiveness goes, pulling an app is one thing, but letting the app be released and then deliberately crippling it is just repulsive.

    • Guest

      They didn’t pull the app – we are talking about WinPhone. MS created a 3rd party youtube app w/o google’s permission and published it on their own app store. Google blocked it from accessing Youtube, and says that this is consistent with what they told MS all along.

    • John David Douglas Marshall

      Um, Google ASKED for the app to be pulled, and Microsoft did it so that they could make it compliant with Google’s YouTube guidelines (which Google initially didn’t inform them of). Microsoft did what they ask, they mutually agreed after months in development that the app was okay now, and then when Microsoft released it again, Google said “Oh, by the way, make it HTML5”, which is a bit like saying, after you built a car, “Oh, by the way, make it run on fairy magic”.

      Geez, in the 90s Microsoft was getting slammed with antitrust because most PCs happened to have Windows as their included operating system. Now Google is wantonly forbidding competing OSes from using their services unless they make the apps themselves (which they’ll never do)? Apparently our definition of antitrust has REALLY changed…

    • Nadefrenzy

      Well back in the 90s the services that were being controlled were a lot more mandatory than a Google-owned service like Youtube. Google has every right to restrict the app. They just complied cuz they wouldn’t hear the end of the complaints/claims about their “anti-trust”. If google doesn’t want WP to get youtube then it should be so. It’s a google product. They decide who gets to use it.

    • fraughtwith

      Right, because that’s the vibe that Google wants to give off – that amongst their customer base there are first class citizens and there are second class citizens, and they’ll decide who to love.

    • Nadefrenzy

      Of course just like how Apple chooses to provide its premium features/updates to its latest products and not “second class”ones.

    • CaptainObvious

      So should Microsoft block chrome on all iterations of Windows?

    • Nadefrenzy

      See that’s different; Google isn’t preventing its own users on Android from utilizing M$ services such as skydrive/hotmail etc. However, M$ preventing its own users from obtaining all these services would be quite the opp.

      M$ can prevent Android users all they want from accessing Skydrive.. by all means.. go right ahead, but they won’t cuz they know how profitable it is.

      Similarly, Google has every right to restrict access to YouTube to certain platforms.

    • TomsDisqusted

      Google claims they told MS all along that they would not allow the app – they claim they’ve insisted on an HTML5 solution all along. I guess this is their way to push MS to improve their HTML5 support.

    • John David Douglas Marshall

      HTML5 support that the Android and iOS versions don’t have? What, do they want Windows to try it first in case it runs like crap?

    • TomsDisqusted

      You got a lot of upvotes for something so wrong. I use youtube in the browser on Android with no problem. I also did Youtube in the browser on my playbook. And, according to techcrunch that is the recommended (and standard) way for 3rd party apps. It is just MS that refuses to do it that way, and then wants Google to change their rules to help them.

    • eatme

      You’re so wrong.

    • fraughtwith

      Everyone knows that browser-based usage is considered like leprosy compared to a native app. Part of it is stigma and part of it is that it’s hard to replicate the desktop browser experience on a small mobile screen.

      So Google doesn’t want to spend their own money on developing for WP8, but why object to a reputable 3rd party from using their API to further their viewership of YouTube? It’s just backward.

    • TomsDisqusted

      But what I was disputing as the claim that it can’t even be done in the browser. I’m saying it works on Android and keeps getting better (new version in the last few days even).

      That is the claim that the others are attacking me for.

    • eatme

      This tom guy is really asleep at the wheel.

    • Frederick Edwards

      In case you missed it, “experts from both companies recognized that building a YouTube app based on HTML5 would be technically difficult and time consuming, which is why we assume YouTube has not yet made the conversion for its iPhone and Android apps.”

      Also, Microsoft said they would transition the app to HTML5 eventually, but wanted the native app to exist until the HTML5 app can be developed.

  • TomsDisqusted

    I think it is rather Google’s policy to try to support platforms other then iOS and Android using HTML5, and they do seem to put considerable effort into this. And Google has allowed some obscure 3rd party apps, but never officially (AFAIK).

    I would also note that Google’s most important app (Chrome) is not even allowed on their competitors’ platforms (the Apple version is not the real thing at all and is artificially slowed down by Apple). Maybe they can work out a deal?

  • Charlie Gaziano

    Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way.
    Does the Windows Phone YouTube app support playback of Google’s advertisements?.
    People sometime forget that Google is in the business of advertisement.

    • TomsDisqusted

      Apparently it ‘partially’ support youtube ads.

    • Charlie Gaziano

      Then again. I wouldn’t want a 3rd party pulling things from my servers without proper agreements in place.

    • Frederick Edwards

      It supports the pre-play ads and banner ads, however it doesn’t play the ads the content creator place in their videos. Microsoft asked Google for access to the same API used by iOS and Android to serve these same ads to WP customers, but Google will not grant access. Microsoft offered to cover all development and updates. Google revoked their access and pointed them to the mobile website which only supports the mobile banner ads.

    • Charlie Gaziano

      Hmm… That’s odd.

      Remember when Apple pulled their native YouTube app from iOS and Google provided one built by them? Maybe this is the same case, just with Microsoft instead.

      It’s hard to tell when these two companies are ‘bickering’ at each other. Neither of them are going to give us a straight story.

    • Ryan

      I had it installed and it had those annoying 15-30 second ads. Some you could skip after 5 seconds.

  • ronnnyraygun1

    Until every version of Internet Exploder is removed/uninstalled/wiped from the entire planet, I have no sympathy for Microsoft on this.

    • John David Douglas Marshall

      What is this, 2002?

    • ronnnyraygun1

      I’m a web designer. Having to accommodate IE is a nightmare. Yes, IE is 2002 browser technology.

    • John David Douglas Marshall

      Because we’re all web designers, aren’t we? 😛

    • ronnnyraygun1

      Yes. You should all be. Feel OUR pain. 🙂

    • CADDMan71

      You don’t need to ‘accommodate IE’ when you build a web site, you haven’t had to do that for years. I’ve been building web sites for the better part of 15 years and the only sites one has ever had to ‘accommodate IE’ for were the old IE6 sites that corporations built for their in-house requirements. Any competent web designer would never impose those restrictions on sites that are to be visible on the open internet.

    • ronnnyraygun1

      IE 6-7 I don’t care for. IE 8 is still used by many people, believe it or not. Although IE 8 has massive security flaws, I’ve had government workers tell me they cannot upgrade their IE 8 because they’re still on XP. Compatibility issues from IE 8 to 9-10 are leaps and bounds. Especially with HTML 5 implementations. So yeah, depending on your target audience, accommodating IE is indeed a nightmare. What looks fine in FireFox and Chrome, most of the time you’ll have major problems in IE 8. Then you have to detect and provide alternates for 8’s. Then you have to detect and provide alternates for IE 9 AND 10 because even then they don’t read it properly. So yeah, again, it IS a nightmare.

    • saqrkh

      Until then, you can grow up 🙂

  • saqrkh

    I’ll go out of a limb and say the problem will be solved, not just with YouTube, but also with Google Maps, Gmail, Drive, Docs, etc. While Windows Phone won’t achieve much in relative market share, it will grow in its actual user base, there will be – at some point – a 100 million WP users. That is simply too big a market (in real numbers) to ignore.

    I’ll give it 18 months, before we see Google announce official apps for Windows Phone.

  • Brian

    Doesn’t Microsoft mess with Android by charging all OEMs a loyalty fee or something? I don’t blame Google for being asshats to Microsoft. It’s their product, their call.

    • Charlie Gaziano

      Asshats. Actually made me laugh out loud! aha

    • gwydionjhr

      MS doesn’t collect a loyalty fee, they collect Royalties on the patents Android phone manufacturers use when making their phone.

    • Brian

      Yeah, a royalty. I got the words mixed up, my bad.

    • eatme

      Ignorance is bliss with the minions today, no?

  • Josh Brown

    I cant believe we live in a world that Google is more evil than Microsoft.

    • Seppo

      Google is a very sophisticated ad agency (ultimately 97% of revenue comes from selling ads), providing ‘free’ services/ Spyware, the sole purpose of which is to invade user’s privacy in order to place ads better.

      Microsoft is an old fashioned company, selling products and charging for them upfront, and leaving the user alone afterwards.

      You get what you pay for…or in other words, follow the money…

    • Josh Brown

      Wow Microsoft is an old fashioned company? Did they not just a few days ago, try to block Open Office (the only competition to MS office) with take down notices? Did they not a few years ago try to block other Web browsers from being installed on Windows 7? Was this the company that almost made it illegal to lend games to your friends? Is not the company that tried to block other media players from being installed on windows.

      I am not saying that Google is perfect, but Microsoft has had a long history of blocking the little guy, but as soon as Google does it they go crying saying that Google is evil. I have no problem with Google giving me free services inexchange for ads that are geared toward my interests. Better that being charged $500 to upgrade my computers to Win 7 from Vista which was only 2 years old.

    • fraughtwith

      You make a good point that none of these companies are angels. But I think the point is who do you want to trust, a company that has a traditional revenue stream (utilimately software licensing) or a company that monitors your usage to learn more about you so it can more effectively advertise at you throughout their range of services.

      To boil it down to just paid versus free is being a bit too simplistic, especially when we’re seeing Google charging for auxiliary functions which could be seen as a form of bait and switch (although that’s a bit of an overstatement).

    • Josh Brown

      What services are you talking about?
      Google maps gives you free turn by turn navigation. Google Drive gives you 15GB free compared to skydrive that gives you 7GB. Google Play music lets you upload 20,000 songs for free and GV lets you have unlimited North American calling for free.

      Its not like there is a guy sitting in mountainview looking at the naked pictures you sent. It is a computer that siffs through your email to check A) is it malicious? B) is it Spam C) while I am here I will check to see what you are interested in and then I will give you an add for Cell phones instead of Diapers. I like the Ads being customized for me, I have no problem admiting it is a little invasive and if you don’t like it that is fine, dont use the services, but does that make theevil Spyware privacy denying overloads? NO

  • George 44

    If Microsoft gets sued to provide third party browsers with Windows on computers, then Google should be sued over this crap.

  • Dalex

    Man Google are asshats… How dare don’t they comply with MS on this? They should immediately give their APIs to their rival. In exchange, MS should continue running anti Google campaigns and getting paid for every Android device sold. Google should be sued from using their product however they seem fit to, because they definitely don’t own it or anything. Who cares if MS doesn’t want to follow YT’s TOS, they can do whatever they want for their immense 5% mobile OS.

    • Achan

      However, it seems like Google is pretending to be playing nice but at
      the same time providing impossible to achieve goals, like you can play
      in our playground… (if you can start breathing underwater). True, it’s
      their product and should have a right to do what they want with it. But
      it can be viewed as being anticompetitive. YouTube has become the
      dominant video sharing site, just as Windows is the main computer OS.
      While MS is required by law to allow a choice of browser (which also
      others are freely able to pick and choose or change after the fact), Google isn’t allowing the consumers this type of choice, nor is it being forced to (the latter of which I’m fine with, topic for a different discussion). Many people will argue that advertisements and data collection are it’s bread and butter, but these restrictions in fact reduce potential ads that WP users see as they either use a third party or their html5 site (which lacks more ad types than the app released by MS). Also, yes, it seems like the short end of the stick for manufacturers to have to pay MS for each Android device sold, but that’s only because MS actually have patents that these manufacturers are licensing. You state that “who cares if MS doesn’t want to follow YT’s TOS”, but it seems like they do want to (by removing the download feature and displaying ads as best they can without the APIs to do it fully), that is, unless YT’s TOS includes a clause that they must use HTML5, which google’s own iOS and Android apps don’t utilize. Anyway, just my 2 cents. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

    • Dalex

      Oh you’re correct. At the same time though, WP users do have access to YT. Is it the most ideal way? No definitively not, but it’s there so MS has no case against Google. YouTube is not the only choice for videos. Does it blow the doors off anything else? Heck yeah, but there are options, so it’s no monopoly either. MS has the solution for getting YT, by making its platform relevant. IOS gets a YT, because it makes sense for Google. Helping MS out doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.

    • gwydionjhr

      Actually, as MS learned several years ago, if you have over a certain % of marketshare, you have a monopoly, and the rules change. YouTube effectively has a monopoly on the uploading- video-to-share market

  • rabbit_ears

    You aren’t the only one. Pretty much everyone I know is sick of Google and its attitude. Most have stopped using Google products altogether.

  • SC

    Hey Google, don’t be evil.

  • Ryan

    Too bad. In the one day I was able to use it on my 520, I found it ran better than the Google made YouTube app for android (on my nexus 7).

    As much as this annoys me, I’m just getting tired of Google updating some of their services and making them worse. (Gmail compose, new maps).

  • TomsDisqusted

    I’m baffled that everyone thinks Google is obligated to support the use of their services (you mention gmail) on competing platforms.

    Let’s imagine MS and Apple doing the same when Android was at x% (whatever WinPhone is at now).

    For Gmail, Google has always supported the industry standard methods of sync’ing e-mail (IMAP & POP) but you want them to pay the license fees to support MS’s proprietary protocol to make it easier for you to buy an MS phone?

    • TomsDisqusted

      That’s why they support IMAP & POP – so people can use g-mail on any platform. The issue was that Google stopped supporting ActiveSync – MS’ proprietary protocol for which Google must pay MS – for free accounts.

    • gommer strike

      Well you’ve got Microsoft services. For everything Google has, MS has and more. Whether this situation resolves itself or not, it shouldn’t impact you. You’ve got Skydrive for storage, vimeo and dailymotion for your video needs, hotmail(Outlook) and much more.

      So really it doesn’t have to impact you at all.

    • eatme

      Dude. Stop. You seem to argue the wrong points, over and over and over again. You just don’t get it, or something else is going on with that brain of yours. Take some meds.

    • TomsDisqusted

      The nature and quality of your responses is telling.

    • Zee

      “Make them available for each and every product available on the market” — you’re joking right? So Google is obligated to support every single mobile OS out there? If Frank D’Angelo creates a mobile OS that’s used by 500 people Google should create and support apps for it as well? As others have said, Gmail has IMAP and POP support which can cover any platform, and you can access Youtube through a mobile browser…you have the access.

  • Braumin

    Daniel this is a crap comment in your article: ” but more probable are the technological limitations in Microsoft’s OS”
    HTML5 isn’t the only way to get a native app, and in fact it’s probably one of the worst ways to do it.
    Everyone thinks HTML5 is some sort of savior to the web. It’s just a markup language. It’s not native code. Yes it allows things like video and audio, but it’s not a programming language.
    There’s no technological limitation in Windows Phone which prevents a native YouTube app – I mean Microsoft already proved it by releasing a great one.

  • Nadefrenzy

    Lol BING sucks. Seriously. I’ve tried time and time again to try and get used to it, but it’s just a very piss-poor horrid search engine in comparison to Google.

  • bembol

    if you ve got nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.


    Leaving for Vegas in two days!

  • Stylinred

    Microsoft should just block youtube and google and gmail and chrome from all PC’s

    • gommer strike

      And what happens to the users who *want* to use those? That’s not good to take choice away from a user, like a certain company I shall not name.

    • Stylinred

      google would change their tune about the youtube app so fast before users would even notice

    • gommer strike

      who cares about google, we’ve got vimeo and dailymotion

    • snardos

      That would be shooting themselves in the foot. I know I would switch to Linux immediately.

    • Stylinred

      mass market wouldnt though

    • Dalex

      Ummm? Yeah please block Google services on PCs and lose marketshare in the only space they are still relevant. That would be so hilarious, you’d see millions of people return their pc, because they suddenly couldn’t use Google search, maps, Gmail, etc. Apple would be ecstatic, heck even Chromebooks would become mass sellers.

      Let’s not forget that YouTube works on Wp no problem, it just doesn’t have an official app, but yeah please go out of business for it MS. I’ll grab the popcorn. Any other awesome ideas?

    • Tony Sarju

      lol, in what world would that be an even remotely good idea?

    • hyperhyper

      That would be an interesting discussion to see the business reason why they would do this when they have to answer to to their shareholders why they are acting like spoiled brats and the media tears them a new one. Also note that this move would give every other OS (most likely OS X) a LOT of free advertising as people would want to know where they can use google services. I don’t know too many people who would willingly want to use IE and Bing and Outlook as their main services.

  • Samuel Gomez Recuero

    I read all the comments and the article. it seems to me that google is doing this unfairly. If you ask a platform developper to conform to HMTL5 then you should ask all the other platform developers to do the same. The youtube app on iPhones does not run on html5. I love google services and their broad products range, but more and more it seems that Google is becoming the monster windows was on the late 90’s early 20’s.

    So the app is not fully compliant with the ads, give them a time frame to fix it before pulling the plug. It looks they are trying to hinder the whole user experience on WP that’s all.

  • abc123

    Microsoft, you deserve what you get.

    You cry and whine about not having access to Google services, yet you turn around and sue Android hardware manufacturers with your patent portfolio.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they still make more money from patent licensing fees relating to Android than from their own windows phone division.

    “We are committed to giving our users the experience they deserve…”

    Really? Like this kind of experience:
    1. Xbox kinect and always online debacle.
    2. Office and subscription model
    3. Windows Surface RT vs. Windows Surface Pro confusion
    4. Force Metro UI with no start button and no boot to desktop.
    5. Metro and classic apps intermixed within the same OS.

    They backtracked on a few of these but the damage is done. Apparently, what we deserve is not what we want.

  • eatme

    Dombass, you weren’t being spoken to. Learn to read.