Microsoft Weighs In on YouTube App Row

Selective enforcement? Tech titans wage a war of words over Google's HTML5 requirement affecting the YouTube app for Windows Phone 8.

Google has blocked Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone 8, and Microsoft is once again crying foul. This is the second time the app has come under fire, but now the companies are clashing over making the app HTML5-compliant.

"Microsoft has not made the browser upgrades necessary to enable a fully-featured YouTube experience, and has instead re-released a YouTube app that violates our Terms of Service," a Google spokesperson is quoted as saying in an Aug. 15 report in The Verge. "It has been disabled. We value our broad developer community and therefore ask everyone to adhere to the same guidelines."

The companies first locked horns in May when Google's YouTube division demanded that Microsoft pull its YouTube app for Windows Phone 8 and remotely disable copies of the app that were already in circulation. In a May 15 cease and desist letter sent to Todd Brix, general manager of Windows Phone Apps and Store, YouTube's director of Global Platform Partnerships, Francisco Varela, asserted that the app plays "videos that our partners have restricted from playback on certain platforms (e.g., mobile devices with limited feature sets)."

YouTube also took issue with the app's video download capabilities and its lack of ads during playback, in violation of Google's terms. The features, argued YouTube, "directly harm our content creators and clearly violate our Terms of Service."

A Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK on May 16, "YouTube is consistently one of the top apps downloaded by smartphone users on all platforms, but Google has refused to work with us to develop an app on par with other platforms." On the topic of ad delivery, the spokesperson added, "We'd be more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs."

In a Microsoft on the Issues blog post titled "The limits of Google's openness," Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said that his company made the requested changes. The latest impasse, he alleges, is proof that Google is being selective in its enforcement of the HTML5 requirement for apps.

"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 (both of which use Google as the default search engine, of course)," he wrote.

Rather than wait until it completed the switch to an HTML5-based app, Microsoft rereleased a non-HTML5 app. Howard informed, "We made a decision this week to publish our non-HTML5 app while committing to work with Google long-term on an app based on HTML5."

YouTube apps for iPhone and Android are not HTML5-based, he observed. "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," wrote Howard.

"The roadblocks Google has set up are impossible to overcome, and they know it," he added.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...