Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why Is Apple’s YouTube App Disappearing? (Hint: Think Ads.)

So we know that Apple won’t include its homegrown YouTube app in the newest version of the iPhone software that comes out this fall.

But why? That’s a little murky right now.

I haven’t heard back from Google yet. (Update: Here’s a comment via a YouTube rep: “We are working with Apple to make sure we have the best possible YouTube experience for iOS users.”) But here’s what Apple PR rep Trudy Muller told my colleague John Paczkowski today, confirming reports that the YouTube app has disappeared in the newest beta version of the iOS6 app released to developers:

Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended. Customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.

But that’s confusing. Just about anyone can build their own YouTube app, using YouTube’s public API. So something’s broken here: Either Apple really doesn’t want to make its own version of a YouTube app, or Google really doesn’t want Apple to make one.

Neither version of that story makes a lot of sense. YouTube was one of the original apps that Apple included with the very first iPhone, back in 2007, when the only apps on the machine were the ones Apple made.

The linkup was good for both sides. This ad even highlighted the integration:

Then again, that was back in 2007, when Eric Schmidt was on the Apple board of directors, and Google hadn’t launched Android, and Steve Jobs wasn’t talking about going “thermonuclear.”

And since then, of course, things have changed. The Apple/Google rift already surfaced earlier this year, when Apple confirmed plans to replace Google Maps on the iPhone with a homegrown version.

In the meantime, the iPhone YouTube app has always been a weird bit of corporate compromise. If you’ve used the app, you might notice that it doesn’t run ads, and that some YouTube content isn’t available on it — most music videos, for instance.

If you want that stuff on your iPhone, you’ll need Google-sanctioned versions, like the HTML Web app that Google launched in 2010, or the official Vevo app, which is powered by Google. And that’s the only choice you’ll have, starting this fall.

Update: Here’s some insight from an industry executive who works with both companies, and suggests that you’ll increasingly see YouTube take control of all its apps, for the reasons discussed above: Ad dollars and user experience. “YouTube [has] decided they didn’t want third-parties building apps,” says my source. “Their strategy has changed. They want to control their destiny more.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus