Undocumented YouTube: Why Microsoft is more credible than Google

Undocumented YouTube: Why Microsoft is more credible than Google

Summary: Google is once more refusing to let Microsoft run their native Windows Phone app for YouTube. Microsoft's explanations and complaints make sense.


As my colleague Mary Jo Foley explains, Microsoft has, for some time, been attempting to get a YouTube app out for Windows Phone that provides a first class experience. Google has been blocking them all along the way.

Some of Google's complaints in the past have sounded reasonable to a degree. For instance, the fact that Microsoft's app allowed video downloading might have been great for users, but Google is reasonable to protect video copyright holders. Microsoft caved on that feature pretty quickly, but there's something not quite right about Google's other complaints.


Google's behavior sounds a lot like Microsoft's behavior from the 80's with MS-DOS. Microsoft was notorious for relying on undocumented features of DOS in their own software, putting them at an advantage over competitors. This was widely known in the business, but was demystified by Andrew Schulman with his 1990 book Undocumented DOS (ironically, this is a Google Books link). In fact, Google's behavior is more problematic since they are actually preventing Microsoft from making the app they want.

I'd like to assert up top here that I take it as a given that Microsoft actually wants to have a YouTube app for Windows Phone that has all the same features and capabilities as the native YouTube apps written by Google for iOS and Android. Microsoft says that Google now tells them to write it in HTML5. There are several 3rd party YouTube apps for Windows Phone; most are simple HTML shims to the YouTube mobile site. This works well enough, but Google defines the entire experience, and that may not be the best way to do it for Windows Phone.

Google also complained, according to Microsoft, about their ad serving:

Google claims that one problem with our new app is that it doesn’t always serve ads based on conditions imposed by content creators. Our app serves Google’s advertisements using all the metadata available to us. 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. So far at least, Google has refused to give this information to us. We are quite confident that we can solve this issue if Google cooperates, but fixing Google’s concern here is entirely within Google’s control. If Google stops blocking our app, we are happy to work with them on this, entirely at Microsoft’s expense.
Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone can't get through to YouTube

Google hasn't spoken up publicly about this yet, but if it's true then they are obviously stonewalling.

Perhaps Microsoft is just whining about targeted persecution. Surely Google enforces these rules against all the programs that access the YouTube service, right?

Well, no. Metrotube for Windows Phone 8 goes a lot further than an HTML shim and customizes the experience.  In fact, Metrotube, by Lazyworm Apps of New Zealand, appears to be everything that Google won't allow Microsoft to do: It's obviously a native app, it doesn't serve ads and it allows video downloads.  I've asked Lazyworm if Google has ever hassled them, but haven't heard back yet (it is night in New Zealand). Metrotube is also in beta as a Windows 8 app. 

In fact, Metrotube (a video of which is embedded below) is a pretty cool looking app! I'd suggest that Microsoft buy these guys out, but that would probably guarantee that the app would be blocked by Google.

It all adds up to Google's arguments not making sense. Considering various governments are investigating Google for antitrust violations in other markets it's rather bold of Google to restrain trade in mobile apps this brazenly. 

Topics: Apps, Google, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Windows Phone

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  • Do not be evil!!!

    This behavior from Google is one of the reasons I have pulled out from most of their services, all hail MetroTube!!!
    • $croogle = Born Evil

      The company is full of hypocrites.
    • Then you have also pulled out of Windows???

      They have done the same and worse.
      • Have they? You are quick to make excuses

        for Google by saying "Well, MS did this 20 years ago".

        Quit living in the past - this is 2013, and guess what? I don't care what MS or Apple did 20 years ago, I'm only worried about what is happening today in 2013, since that's the year I'm currently living in.

        What Google is doing today affects me today in 2013, but it's not affecting me in 1993 since that time is long past.

        Quit making excuses for Google being totally in the wrong.
        William Farrel
        • re: Have they? You are quick to make excuses

          > What Google is doing today affects me today in 2013

          If you really need YouTube on your phone, get a phone with enough market share for Google to support. No one is making you use a Windows phone.
          none none
          • Cart meet Horse

            This has nothing to do with Google supporting Windows phone - it has to do with Google actively blocking an app that would otherwise be allowed, if not from MS.

            What you suggest is that I allow Google to dictate which phone I use - see any irony there?
      • stop living in the past

        what decade are you referring to?
  • Agree

    Google is in the wrong on this one.
    • now Google is Evil

      i thought Google is always a company which is not evil like other tech titans...
      But now it is more and more clear that this company is also becoming an Evil..........what a shame...Eric Schmidt..You talk big like a open transparent genius and the company you are the chairman is showing this crooked behavior ..shame on you and on google
      • Google doesn't care about your privacy

        Repeatedly taken to court, investigated, and publicly called out by industry professionals and advocacy groups for violations of privacy. They continue to conduct business as unethically as they can in order to get a much advertising money as they can. In fact they only reason they exist is to find ways to get more advertising money. They don't care about any of their products if they do not generate enough ad revenue. Invading your privacy (what you do online; sites you go to, links you click, where you do business) is the data they are after so they can shovel more ads in your face so they can make money.
    • Yep

      Google is being evil.

      I get they view Microsoft as a competitor. But once you have total dominance in essential industries, the rules on how you behave have to change.

      Besides, since Microsoft is willing to do all the work, what's the big problem? Google is inscrutable on this.
  • Google's done in my book.

    I'm getting rid of my gmail account this weekend and doing nothing Google anymore. If I could stop using wifi I would. (Wifi patents being owned by Google since th Motorola acquisition). They even tried to get 4 billion from Microsoft for wifi in the XBox... How lame. Luckily the courts sided with Microsoft and reduced the bill to 240 million. Google is lame. Lets get some LTE routers and blow off wifi.
    • Same here

      Posting this from Internet Explorer.

      Up until yesterday my favorite browser was Chrome. Yesterday, I cancelled all of my Google accounts and stop using Chrome.

      I have not uninstalled Chrome (yet) but I have removed it from my taskbar and do not plan to start it except for extracting passwords it may have remembered for sites (gee, maybe that cleartext password will come in handy now?).

      I am now Google free. I am now exploring my options for blocking Googles ad Network.

      I am sure Google couldn't care less about me, but *I* care. They have grown too creepy, too evil and too arrogant. Good riddance.
      • welcome in the team ;)

        I'm google free for almost to years and I'm happy like never before.

        """I am now exploring my options for blocking Googles ad Network.""""

        Start from adding this to your url filter:
        • edit

          should be "almost two years...".
        • Thanks!

          appreciate it. I will add these to my filter asap. :-)
        • Ha, thats a handy list.

          I am going to add those to the filter.
          thank you
          Ram U
        • Microsoft= evil, not Google who gives everything for free

          Hello idi*t....do you see that you have a choice not to use Google?
          While you HAVE TO use Microsoft ;)
          Read more to understand more :)

          Microsoft has bribed almost every gov in the world and has a NSA back doors in Windows do you can never trust what is Microsoft saying...

          In Slovakia you are even not able to pay taxes without Windows due to corruption

          Google's products are free while you HAVE TO pay for Microsoft's products
          • Hey smarty!

            Why do you think the products are free? Have you not heard what Google themselves said about Gmail? Let me jog your memory "You shouldn't expect privacy from us" They sell your info for money in advertising! Google makes the most money from GoogleAds, Keep saying the NSA has a backdoor to Windows, at least it's only the NSA not Google and the NSA thanks to ChromeOS, Google Search, Gmail, Google Drive, ect. I got 25Gb skydive storage for FREE, I got Outlook.com for FREE, I can use Bing for FREE. No one has to use Microsoft, I use Linux and Google and Outlook.
          • re: Hey smarty!

            > Let me jog your memory "You shouldn't expect privacy from us"

            That's kind of idiotic. Google's "invasion of Gmail privacy" for keying ad displays is no more an invasion than your ISP scanning your email for virii or spam.
            none none