Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Mobile // Mobile Devices
06:11 PM
Connect Directly

Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban

Google wants Microsoft to build Windows Phone YouTube app using HTML5.

Google Apps To Microsoft Office 365: 10 Lessons
Google Apps To Microsoft Office 365: 10 Lessons
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Google has once again blocked Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone, prompting Microsoft to accuse Google of having different sets of rules for itself and for its competitors.

In May, Microsoft launched a new YouTube app for Windows Phone that Google said ran afoul of YouTube's terms of service. Google demanded that Microsoft withdraw the app because it allowed users to download videos from YouTube, blocked ads and bypassed playback restrictions set by publishers.

Microsoft complied and reintroduced its app two days ago. But Google apparently considers the changes to be inadequate.

[ Is there really informed consent among Gmail users? Read Gmail Is Not A Privacy Problem. ]

In a blog post, David Howard, corporate VP and deputy counsel at Microsoft, criticizes Google's app ban as contrary to its avowed openness. "Google's objections to our app are not only inconsistent with Google's own commitment of openness, but also involve requirements for a Windows Phone app that it doesn't impose on its own platform or Apple's..." said Howard, noting that Google has repeatedly professed its commitment to openness in response to ongoing antitrust scrutiny.

Howard says Microsoft addressed Google's complaints about its app by disabling the ability to download videos, by enabling YouTube ads and by respecting video viewing limitations set by publishers. But the sticking point appears to be Microsoft's willingness to create its app using a Web technology layer rather than entirely native Windows Phone code. Howard says Google asked Microsoft to transition its app to HTML5, but engineers from both companies concluded this would be "technically difficult and time-consuming."

Perhaps that's true for Microsoft, given its particular browser technology. Other companies, however, have created YouTube apps that rely on an HTML5 layer to present video.

Microsoft, Howard says, remains committed to creating an HTML5 version with Google's cooperation eventually. But at the moment, the company believes a native Windows Phone version of its YouTube app offers the best user experience. "It seems to us 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," Howard complains. "The roadblocks Google has set up are impossible to overcome, and they know it."

Google declined to comment.

This isn't the first time technology companies have used their technology as a barrier to competitors. Apple imposes a variety of limits on ways in which apps can behave and maintains private APIs for its use alone. Microsoft withheld technical documentation from Netscape that hindered interoperability and has its own set of rules for Windows Phone developers. Google prohibited automated export of advertising campaign data until regulators put an end to that. Platforms are all about tilting the playing field to favor the owner while explaining how much that benefits the user.

Google's insistence that Microsoft use HTML5 in its YouTube app may be unfair given that it built its own YouTube apps for iOS and Android using proprietary native code. But Google isn't asking Microsoft to do anything it's not asking other third-party developers to do.

Howard also complains that Google isn't providing Microsoft with the necessary information to serve ads properly. "We've asked Google to provide whatever information iPhone and Android get so that we can mirror the way ads are served on these platforms more precisely," Howard wrote. "So far at least, Google has refused to give this information to us."

But that's because Microsoft reverse-engineered YouTube's advertising interface. If Microsoft used the required HTML5 layer, it would be able to serve ads properly because that's the way YouTube serves ads to third-party apps.

At its annual developer conference in May, Google CEO Larry Page urged more focus on the positive. "Every story I read about Google is 'us versus some other company' or some stupid thing, and I just don't find that very interesting," he said. "We should be building great things that don't exist. Being negative isn't how we make progress."

But it is how companies can make press.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
8/16/2013 | 9:37:59 PM
re: Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban
Let MSFT get the taste of their own Medicine. MSFT used their market dominant position to kill a lot of competition like Netscape, Corell Draw, Wordpad. I dont feel bad for them.
User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2013 | 7:14:01 PM
re: Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban
But none of the other platforms you mentioned are what I would think Microsoft considers competitive. *IF* they have a legitimate complaint that doing the app in HTML 5 makes their platform's YouTube experience inferior to Android and iOS, Microsoft has a legitimate beef.

We can't have this both ways folks. In the 90s lots of folks complained that Microsoft's app teams were privy to Windows insider information. To outsiders, such information was viewed as a significant competitive advantage. At that time, lots of objective folks supported the idea that this wasn't fair and condemned Microsoft's practices.

That the tables have turned might be poetic justice but we compromise our objectivity if we don't also condemn Google's practice.

Just to be clear, my statements are predicated on Microsoft's allegations that an HTML5 YouTube player experience is inferior to the Android and iOS players that allegedly do not use HTML5.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/16/2013 | 5:04:44 PM
re: Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban
Microsoft would have a stronger argument if Google imposed the HTML5 layer requirement only on Microsoft. But it's how the company asks all third-parties to implement the YouTube API. YouTube apps for Blackberry, Firefox OS, all of the TV based applications (Vizio, Sony, Panasonic, etc), and Sony Playstation 3 have implemented the HTML5 layer.
User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2013 | 4:48:51 PM
re: Microsoft Slams Google Over YouTube App Ban
My understanding is Google wants the app to be based on HTML5 and that is why they refuse to approve of Microsoft's less-than-that solution. One reason why Google might want to do this is to make the app more dynamic in terms of their ability to change how it functions (i.e. displays ads and derive revenue) without deploying an updated app to all the stores and then getting everyone to upgrade.

Microsoft claims Google doesn't have this requirement of Android or iOS. Further, Microsoft complains that an HTML 5-based app has technical challenges that might compromise the app experience for WP8 customers when compared to the Android and iOS competition.

Regardless of the who is correct, there's probably room for both sides to give.

1) If Google is hell bent on HTML5, let them deploy it on their own platform first thereby removing Microsoft's objection.
2) If Microsoft really feels YouTube is a big WP8 hole that has to be filled, I'd rather hit a small pothole that makes me frown over one that shreds a tire or perhaps even into which my car disappears. Call Google's bluff. Build it in HTML5 and then see if that was truly the reason for which they blocked WP8 customers from YouTube.
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Flash Poll