Google tells Microsoft to yank its new WinPhone YouTube app

Says it's deliberately ripping off content creators


No sooner has Microsoft managed to get a full-featured YouTube app running on Windows Phone 8 – something it long maintained was impossible – than an irate Google has asked it to immediately remove the app from the Windows Phone Store.

The Verge, which editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky has described as "a news site which covers the culture of now," has published the text of a cease and desist letter from Francisco Varela, YouTube's director of global platform partnerships, in which he demands Redmond nix its week-old YouTube app posthaste.

According to the letter, Google's biggest beef with the Microsoft-authored app is that it blocks the display of ads, in violation of the YouTube Terms of Service.

The letter also alleges that the app allows users to download YouTube videos to their drives – another no-no – and that it will play videos on any hardware, even when publishers have restricted their content from being viewed on devices with limited hardware capabilities, such as low-end phones.

"We were surprised and disappointed that Microsoft chose to launch an application that deliberately deprives content creators of their rightful earnings," the letter states, "especially given that Windows Phone 8 users already have access to a fully-functional YouTube application based on industry-standard HTML5 through the browser."

Microsoft would argue the "fully-functional" point, however, and so would many of its customers. Users of the earlier iteration of the YouTube app for WP8 filed numerous negative reviews, claiming the so-called app was little more than a bookmark for the mobile version of the YouTube website.

In January, Microsoft VP and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner alleged that the poor quality of the YouTube app on Windows Phone was the direct result of stonewalling by Google, which he said was blocking Redmond's app from accessing key YouTube APIs.

Here at The Reg, we must admit that we mainly took Heiner's comments for sour grapes, especially given all of the petty attack ads and childish finger-pointing Redmond has engaged in of late. When Microsoft managed to launch a completely rewritten YouTube app mere months after it said it couldn't be done, we assumed it had just moved on.

But when we contacted Microsoft on Wednesday afternoon to confirm that it had indeed received a letter from YouTube, it was back to its old refrain.

"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," the company's statement read. "We'd be more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs."

The statement went on to explain that ratings and feedback for the WP8 YouTube app have been way up since it received its redesign.

"In light of Larry Page's comments today calling for more interoperability and less negativity, we look forward to solving this matter together for our mutual customers," the statement concluded.

That last comment was a direct shot across the bow of Microsoft's Mountain View–based rival. In an impromptu Q&A session during the Google I/O keynote on Wednesday, Page claimed that Microsoft's recent decision to add support for Google Talk to Outlook.com was an example of "interoperating with us but not doing the reverse," which he said was "really sad."

"That's not the way to make progress. You need to actually have interoperation, not just people milking off one company for their own benefit," Page said. He added, "We certainly have struggled with people like Microsoft."

The Register contacted Google for its take on Microsoft's specific allegations that it has been unfairly denied access to key YouTube APIs, but we have yet to receive a response. ®


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