Google to Microsoft: Blocking ads with Windows Phone YouTube app is a no-no

Google to Microsoft: Blocking ads with Windows Phone YouTube app is a no-no

Summary: Google is seeking to block Microsoft's new YouTube app for Windows Phone 8 because it blocks ads and allows downloading of videos from YouTube's site, in violation of its terms of service.

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Google has sent Microsoft a cease-and-desist letter demanding Microsoft withdraw its redesigned YouTube app for Windows Phone 8 because it violates Google's Terms of Service (TOS).

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The Verge first reported news of the letter, dated May 15, and included a copy of it on its Web site.

The TOS that the Microsoft YouTube app violates has to do with it blocking ads and allowing downloads of videos from Google's YouTube site.

From the letter:

"YouTube’s agreements with creators give them choices inhow their content is presented and distributed, and your application takes away that control.The YouTube Terms of Service and API Terms of Service, posted at http://www.youtube.com/t/terms and https://developers.google.com/youtube/terms, were written to protect content creators from this type of abuse. They clearly prohibit downloads of videos from the site and prohibit accessing any portion of YouTube videos by any means other than through the use of an authorized YouTube player. They also bar applications that modify, replace, interfere with or block advertisements placed by YouTube in videos."

Google is requesting that Microsoft immediately withdraw the app from the Windows Phone Store and disable existing downloads of it by May 22.

Microsoft built the new YouTube app itself, after complaining that Google was blocking access to required metadata. When I asked Microsoft officials recently if something had changed from a policy/API standpoint that allowed Microsoft to deliver this much more robust YouTube app, a Microsoft spokesperson sent the following statment:

"Windows Phone invested additional engineering resources against existing APIs to re-architect a Windows Phone app that delivers a great YouTube experience, including support for unique Windows Phone 8 features such Live Tiles and Kids Corner. Microsoft did not receive any additional technical support to create the Windows Phone YouTube app."

I reached out to both Microsoft and Google for comment on the letter. A Google spokesperson said the company was not offering any comment. No word from Microsoft so far.

Update: Microsoft's official statement via a spokesperson:

"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. Since we updated the YouTube app to ensure our mutual customers a similar YouTube experience, ratings and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive.  We’d be more than happy to include advertising but need Google to provide us access to the necessary APIs. 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."

Update: On Twitter, @MrRajesh28 told me that Microsoft's YouTube app for Xbox does serve up ads and does not allow video downloading. With that app, there seems to be no violation of Google's Terms of Service. That makes me wonder if Microsoft decided to build the Windows Phone 8 app as part of its "Scroogled" efforts. If not, I'm curious why Microsoft did this. I've asked. If I get more information, I'll add it.

Also the timing of The Verge's report is interesting. Just minutes before it went live, Google's CEO Larry Page, during a Q&A session at the company's annual Google I/O developer conference, criticized Microsoft for taking advantage of Google by interoperating with its Google Talk messaging service and not reciprocating by providing free access to APIs for its own messaging service (presumably Skype).

The programming interfaces Microsoft used to integrate Google Talk with Outlook.com are open, but Google is in the midst of dropping support for the XMPP messaging standard with its just-announced Hangouts, which is the successor to Google Talk and Google's new cross-platform communications service .

Topics: Google, Microsoft, Windows Phone

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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114 comments
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  • Google to Microsoft: Blocking ads with Windows Phone YouTube app is a no-no

    Loverock to Google: I'll do whatever I want with my Microsoft Windows Phone and apps thanks.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • and

      Google are free to block your app to access their services.

      Everyone wins?
      danbi
      • Google = born evil

        Sth never changes.
        LBiege
        • kkkkk

          until the logo youtube microsoft put, is the same thing as google colcoar launch a product and the Windows logo!
          process is guaranteed!
          Henrique Dourado
      • Hope This One Goes to Court

        Just because Google writes their Terms of Service does not mean it is enforceable under the law.

        Just because Google does not have the technical expertise or foresight to design in the ads so they cannot be blocked, it becomes someone else's problem?

        Google Sucks!
        Patrickgood1
        • Huh?

          Terms of Service are legally binding contracts whether Google uses technology to block it or not.

          Don't believe it? Terminate your cell phone contract early, get hit with the ETF then take them to court or arbitration and see if you win.
          tallbruva
          • What Contract?

            When I enter into a contract with my cellular provider, I agree to their TOS.

            Did Microsoft enter into a contract with Google that obligates it to do the same?
            ParrotHead_FL
        • Google does suck..

          The WP8 app is the most elegant Youtube app available for any device. Of course they'd like to block something this elegant and beautiful. Maybe they should hire some devs that take artistic expression into consideration instead of the snot they release to the masses.
          Rob.sharp
    • Loverock-Davidson...Just another typical move by Microsoft to squash anyone

      in there way. And of course Loverock Davidson is all in favor of any under handed tactics Microsoft chooses to use as being ok...

      But can you expect from Loverock Davidson as he lives and dies Microsoft.

      Any second now Owllllnet, Willie Farret, Ye and Todbottom3 should be here to second Loverock Davidson post............
      Over and Out
      • Hello, Who is this?

        Yes, this is a buffoon speaking with no self opinion. My name is 'Over and Out'
        OwlllllNet
        • OwlllllNet, you and willie farret are the local BAFOONS that always

          show up to add nothing to the disscussion but your usual BABBLE to support Loverock Davidson post which has nothing of value on any IT matter.

          Yes, this is a response from two buffoon speaking with no self opinion and their names are Willie Farret (rodent) and OwlllllNet.
          Over and Out
          • You are a sad person.

            Just saying, Over and Out.
            ForeverCookie
      • Now you get to choose

        So by releasing a WP8 app, Microsoft is going to squash Google? But I thought that no one used WP8 so how does this hurt Google?

        Uh oh. Now you get to choose whether WP8 is such a big seller that it will steal all of Google's add revenue or if WP8 is selling very poorly in which case this won't squash Google at all.

        Google certainly seems extremely worried about WP8 popularity.
        toddbottom3
        • I doubt that

          For the moment, WP8 has a Blackberry-like share, nothing Android need have any fear of.

          What I think they are more worried about is a prominent software company violating its TOS.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • "WP8 has a Blackberry-like share"

            ..MS *wishes* it has a Blackberry-like share.
            daftkey
          • more like

            RIM wishes BB was still ahead of WP...
            Throw All The Things
          • Windows Phone jumps to third place in smartphone market!

            http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57584784-94/windows-phone-jumps-to-third-place-in-smartphone-market/

            Still a long way to go, but it is very promising. More than doubling shipments is great sign. I definitely see WP’s market share making a larger jump by the end of the year and hopefully doubling shipments again.
            toph36
          • Um... It Does

            Posted on here recently: http://www.zdnet.com/android-accounts-for-75-percent-market-share-windows-phone-leapfrogs-blackberry-7000015496/
            IndifferentDisdain
          • Everyone violates the Google TOS

            Every single YouTube app I've ever seen on any platform violates the Google TOS and they've never enforced it before. Why would google all of a sudden freak out about this one? Google clams that WindowsPhone is insignificant. If that's the case then they should leave this app alone like all the rest. If not then they need to enforce the TOS on all the YouTube apps and all the ad blockers out there. Otherwise they have no legal leg to stand on.
            kinect_dev
          • Legal precedent

            This has very little to do with popularity or lack of popularity with WP8 and more to do with a major corporation violating TOS.

            When a major international corporation does this and Google doesn't respond, it sets a precedent for other companies. Then when/if Google takes another company to court in the future the question would rightly come up, "Microsoft violated your terms of service and you didn't address it. Why are you addressing it with Company B?"

            So they have to address it. Not just Google but any company whose TOS are being violated has to address it to prevent a precedent for others which puts the company in a situation where its TOS can be violated and there be nothing they can do about it.
            tallbruva