Microsoft and Google are at odds over the YouTube native app for Windows Phone. (Credit: Microsoft)

AUGUST 22, 2013 (CNET) by Daniel Terdiman - The dustup over a YouTube app for Windows Phone serves as a reminder: consumers always wind up as collateral damage in the skirmishing between big tech companies.

When tech companies battle over interoperability, users usually end up as collateral damage.
(Credit: Illustration by Daniel Terdiman[(nset on top]/CNET)

If there's a technology out there that users love, there's probably a company that doesn't want it integrated with their own services.

This week, Google admitted that it had deliberately blocked some of the functionality of Microsoft's latest attempt at a native YouTube app for Windows Phone.

Google chalked up its decision to a determination that Microsoft had violated YouTube's terms of service, even after the two companies tried working together on a version of the app based on HTML5.

Sounds familiar? It should.

The history of the technology industry is littered with examples of one or more company making unilateral decisions to block others' features or applications from working with their own, often to the detriment of the very users they are claiming to serve.

IM Wars

These days, there's no shortage of tools that centralize multiple instant message services, allowing users to read and send messages to and from any number of competing services in one place. But those old enough to remember the early days of instant message will recall that such happy and easy interoperability was once anything but.

In the mid-2000s, many of the major Internet giants, including Yahoo, battled over the interoperability of instant message.

In the mid-2000s, AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft all had built massive IM user bases, but each had erected a wall around their own service, making it nearly impossible for users of one to communicate with those on another.

Exactly why those companies, as well as Google, made such interoperability so hard is unclear. For one thing, each Internet giant wanted exclusive control over its users, particularly the ability to direct advertising at them.

"The more Yahoo services people use, the more loyal they are, the more likely they are to come back and the more likely they are to tell friends," Lisa Mann, Yahoo's senior director for messaging products, told the Associated Press in 2004.

By 2008, though, there was a definite thaw in the IM wars. An ad deal that year between Google and Yahoo enabled IM interoperability between the two companies' respective IM services. Still, even then, not every major player was on board.

As AOL told CNET at the time, "We have no evidence that interoperating with other consumer IM services is of great interest to AIM users."

Flash on iOS? Not!

In more recent years, one of the ugliest -- and most painful to users -- battles over technology interoperability has been Apple's longstanding refusal to allow Adobe's Flash to work on iOS devices.

Although there are countless iOS users who would no doubt enjoy being able to use Flash-based tools on the iPhone or iPad, the late Steve Jobs felt that Flash was a relic, a technology that looked to the past rather than the future, and held firm to the ban, even in the face of pressure from regulators and users to reverse course.

Adobe's reaction was to scoff, noting in 2010 that there were more than 100 tools available to translate Flash-based applications into native iOS apps.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen also told the "Wall Street Journal" that Jobs' objections were a "smokescreen" and that Apple's own operating systems were to blame for any performance problems.

Though Jobs died in 2011, Apple still bans Flash from iOS devices. Apple did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Scorched earth between Twitter and Instagram

Once upon a time, Twitter and Instagram were the closest of friends. One could argue that the ease of posting Instagram photos to Twitter was a big reason for the photo service's rapid growth -- though Facebook, too, can obviously lay claim to that credit.

But last year, relations between the two companies cooled considerably. Though Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey had famously championed buying Instagram, the microblogging service lost out on that interest when Facebook acquired Instagram in April, 2012 for what at the time was a billion-dollar purchase price.

Regardless of whether Facebook's ownership had anything to do with it, Instagram soon upped the ante in the battle over control of its own users by cutting off Twitter Card integration, a move which meant that Instagram photos could no longer automatically be posted to Twitter.

Once again, users were the losers in a move that seems to have been made with the main goal of building a wall around a service's users. Twitter has since fought back by releasing its own set of photo-filtering tools in a bid to give its own users a reason to skip Instagram altogether.

In a statement, Instagram said that, "In the past, we supported Twitter cards because we had a minimal web presence. We've since launched several improvements to our website that allow users to directly engage with Instagram content and believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives.

We'll continue to evaluate how to improve the experience with Twitter and Instagram photos. Instagram users will continue to be able to share to Twitter as they originally did before the Twitter Cards implementation."

Twitter no angel

Of course, Twitter is hardly innocent when it comes to making decisions about interoperability that seem to have been based largely on control over users, or the revenue that users can bring.

Though Twitter is a service that grew in part on the backs of third-party services, as well as user innovations like the @ symbol and the hashtag, the company knows that its path to profitability is dependent on its ability to maximize ad revenues.

As a result, Twitter last year severely restricted the number of API calls that most third-party clients could make, essentially cutting off those clients at the knees. Later, Twitter said that it wanted developers focusing on ways to add value to the platform.

Twitter did not respond to a CNET request for comment.

In the latest tech company dust-up, over the YouTube Windows Phone app, Microsoft said it had tried meeting Google's requirements, but had ended up concluding that it couldn't successfully build the app using HTML5 -- which neither the native Android nor iPhone YouTube apps are based on.

In other words, what's good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander.

"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," Microsoft wrote in a blog post Thursday.

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

What the technology industry's long history of interoperability skirmishes makes abundantly clear is that things never change, no matter how much the industry's giants pay lip service to putting users first.

When profits and control over users' data and loyalty are at issue, more often than not, it's the users themselves who end up as collateral damage.

Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.

[NOTES FROM PHNO: Bottom line is today's technology has become like a 'democracy and the commerce of politicians'. Greed and power has tainted this beautiful new planet. Internet pioneer once said, "We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before." - Barlow (A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace   by John Perry Barlow <>) Thus, today under the powers of these giant technologies, the people (users) are the helpless and the oppressed ]



But Microsoft has a track record of dumbing down competitors products in order to prop up their own offerings. They did this with Novell and their Netware product. Microsoft actually broke Netware with each new release of Windows. Microsoft does these things and if one does not put their foot down, they will be run over by Microsoft. If you were such a wimp as not to put your foot down I would be embarrassed to have you as my father. Google is doing the right thing in protecting their product. You know, Youtube was not cheap!


Of course Apple has a ban on Adobe Flash. They've been making QuickTime for YEARS (even before OS X), and it has been marketed as a "viable" alternative. Honestly, on that front, it's the Windows and Linux users who suffer on the most, because that means flip-flopping between two different media platforms, sometimes because they only need it for one or two pieces of software or promotional discs. 


@unanamuschicken Quicktime is a terrible tech on all platforms. I run a mac and I hate it.  That said... OSX or Windows... flash is a power hog and the sooner we can replace it the better.  They even dropped support for it on Android.  



Currently facebook blocks Google translate from working and allows Microsoft bing. This type of behavior has been happening for decades, long before the internet, with high tech companies. None of these players are all that ethical, just legal, that's business.

These companies have more money than god so we are going to fix this how?




"[Microsoft] ended up concluding that it couldn't successfully build the app using HTML5."  Is there any specific reason why?!?  Lots of talk about Google shutting the door on Microsoft, but no real information presented as to technical limitations that made it impossible for Microsoft to build a Youtube application.  Without this information this article is totally irrelevant..

The premise that "When tech firms fight, you lose either way" is totally false as well.  Generally when tech firms fight, everyone wins;  This is sometimes not the case when it comes to software (as you demonstrated in your terrible article), but is most certainly true when it comes to hardware.  More competition will always drive down prices and will benefit the consumer.

This article stinks.


@loueradun What about the fact that neither the iOS or Android app are HTML5?


@johntp89 @loueradun Terms of Service only apply to 3rd party companies so Google isn't cheating by offering non HTML5 apps themselves. It stands to reason that the originator of the service is going to have much better access to the product it than 3rd parties.

Trane Francks

@loueradun"Generally when tech firms fight, everyone wins;"

You confuse compete and fight. They are not the same thing. When companies arbitrarily block other companies from using APIs, the end user can only come out on the losing end. 


Instead of just talking about what Google did wrong they have to mitigate it with old examples from other tech companies so it doesn't seem as bad.


@jfoulk1981 It doesn't seem the author clearly demonstrated what Google did to make it impossible for Microsoft to build a Youtube application.  Simply requiring them to use HTML5 does not make building an application impossible, especially since the Youtube site fully supports being displayed with HTML5...


@loueradun You should take the extra minute to read the blog post from Microsoft... even Google can't write an HTML5 app for iOS and Android



@johntp89 @loueradun 

Microsoft's blog post is full of crap. The reason that Google didn't write a HTML5 app wasn't because it was too hard for them. Google writes it's YouTube app in native code because native code apps are faster and all around better.

According to the Youtube TOS, the only API's available to 3rd party developers are the HTML5 ones. Google has it's reasons for doing this. Mainly to guarantee that when they make changes to YouTube, all of the 3rd party apps don't break and reflect poorly on the YouTube brand. Secondly to guarantee that the content stays secure. Thirdly so that the ads that pay content creators and pay for the site are displayed properly and not blocked.

Rather than using the HTML5 API's like every other 3rd party, Microsoft decided to reverse engineer Google's 1st party APIs which Microsoft is not allowed to use. They did this not once but twice. Then they whined about it when they were caught.


@jfoulk1981 Looks like CNET lost my previous comment...

To sum it up...   The author does not clearly demonstrate what Google did wrong at all.  What makes it impossible for Microsoft to build a YouTube application using HTML5?  The fact that Google is requiring them to build the application in HTML5 is not equivalent to Google preventing them from building an application.


@loueradun @jfoulk1981 Microsoft doesn't go into the specifics as to what is making it essentially impossible, but what we do know is that neither Apple nor Google are capable of creating a HTML5 youtube app either.

Why is this insurmountable hurdle only being placed in front of Microsoft?


I have a windows phone and an iPhone 4S when it released.  Back then there was the issue of the Youtube app being removed from iPhones.  I never even noticed, I lived without the app and always viewed videos on the website because it was a richer experience.  This is just whiny stuff that doesn't matter to anyone as much as they want to make it out it does.  

On another note, it gave me a chuckle to learn Microsoft on the other side of the fence of the antitrust case for once.


Yes, yes, and more yes.  This article finally paints a picture of what really stifles innovation and progress in the tech industry - greed.

"It's my sandbox, and you can't play in it!"


I see google playing this same game with Roku and the youtube much is too much Schmidty..Google does do evil things


Wait a sec!  Are you trying to say that tech companies, like all other companies, are inherently selfish entities that only care about profit?  That despite attempts to convince me that they are my best friends, that they actually view me as just a walking dollar sign and likely wouldn't piss on me if I were on fire unless they could see the potential for profit?  That they don't actually have the consumers' best interest at heart?  No way!  I don't believe it. 


When Apple replaced Google Maps with Maps and excised Youtube from IOS6, Google eventually caved in and released their own updated Maps app (with turn-by-turn finally) and a much better youtube app.

So consumers actually ended up being better off in the end, though they had to suffer a few months of inconvenience. Sometimes, 2 wrongs do make a right. :D


For balance, and since this seems to be a paid story sponsored by Microsoft, here is just a small timeline of evil things Microsoft has done:

Note: That's not specific to Microsoft but since 90 percent of it is done by Microsoft and they are the experts, it might as well be.

Here's an internal Microsoft document where one of the folks they hire to make posts to sites like Cnet and negotiate to get pro-microsoft stories like this one published is talking to a "new guy".

And here's information about the fake "Consumer Watchdog" group that Cnet regularly publishes garbage from:

They are a paid Microsoft astroturfing firm.

Hope this helps


@Scott_Wilson AstroTurfing sure... but that second link does not imply what you are saying. please stop lying to us. when reading the second link (this document is from 13 years ago...) it mentions nothing about MS employees posting on any site like Cnet or ZDnet. it only provides a link to a ZDnet article where consumers were saying things, not MS employees. the article mentions evangelism and the creation of a new evangelism team. no where does it say that these evangelists post on any sites at all.


@fomol_620 The second document is a court document. It's a Microsoft internal memo. It's a matter of court record. That's Microsoft. It's perfect in illustrating how Microsoft behaves in their own words. 


@Scott_Wilson ok its a court document, but it doe snot show that MS employees comment on internet articles. only that they are aware of the comments made in the articles, which is good business practice.


@Scott_Wilson Microsoft and Google both need to play nice. I don't think anyone is suggesting that Microsoft hasn't done horrible things in the past but that doesn't excuse Google either. What if Google wanted Skype for ChromeOS and Microsoft blocked it?


@amirami Nobody is suggesting Microsoft ever stopped doing horrible things. This story is yet another one. 


@Scott_Wilson @amirami I agree. Microsoft never stopped. By no means am I suggesting they (or anyone else) are the good guys.

But I don't see in this specific instance of YouTube how MS is the bad guy here? In Mobile, Android and iOS are the duopoly and WP8 is a bit player. Its not ok to buy an extremely popular world wide service like YouTube and only let the big guys play in the sandbox.

That's what Microsoft was doing with IE preferences, etc, on Windows back in the day, and they were of course wrong. the difference is the gov't intervened and stopped them. In this case all the corporations are just acting like children and the only ones that are being hurt by it are the consumers. 


@amirami Simple: Show me ONE instance of Microsoft doing anything cool for Google. Take your time. Show them opening something up for Google. Show them supporting a Google standard. Show them working or playing nice with Google on anything. 

Then, find examples of Microsoft ATTACKING Google. Them costing them billions of dollars. The fake letter writing campaigns of Fairsearch Europe. THESE series of fake stories sponsored by the fake Consumer Watchdog. The fake astroturfing campaign that lead to the questionable FCC and FTC charges because of Microsoft lobby groups in washington. The WAR on Google with the failed Scroogled campaign. Hiring a political hitman Mark Penn and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to slander and defame Google.

Now, Exactly WHAT motivation does Google have to do any favors for Microsoft?


@Scott_Wilson @amirami They had to because they were sued many times by the US Justice Dept and EU to stop their anti-competitive practices. That's why MSFT has a special sub-committee on the Board of Directors to ensure that MSFT conducts best business practices and all MSFT managers are reviewed for this in their annual performance evaluations....Apple and Google are now acting like the MSFT of the 1990s and they are paying a price judging by their recent run-ins with the US Justice Dept and EU....Bratty Teenagers (Apple/Google) vs Elder Statesman (MSFT) 

What about Google's astroturfing?


@Scott_Wilson meanwhile...Judge states Google is also not so transparent in its astroturfing efforts...


@FunGuy313 Meanwhile the judge said NO SUCH THING. That's just more SPIN. What the judge ACTUALLY SHOWED was that CNET CONTRIBUTOR FLORIAN MUELLER is a PAID ORACLE AND MICROSOFT SHILL!

Oh, the irony. Thanks for bringing up ANOTHER thing.


@Scott_Wilson @FunGuy313 Did you read my link? It pertains to Google and Oracle's astroturfing and this was recent as last year, not a 13 years ago link you provided...Quoting from my link "Judge Alsup's ruling suggests that others receiving money from Oracle or Google have been less clear about the potential conflict of interest inherent in their coverage." Basically everyone does it and I suspect until recently, Apple was the king of this, but Google is having their turn in the spotlight, so I'm sure they have taken Apple's spot on this payola scam...


@FunGuy313 Yeah. That was a biased interpretation and not what he actually said. So you linked me what some guy thought. Not what the Judge actually said. What the judge actually did was expose Oracle actually doing it. The only thing Google said was "we don't do that". That's the extent of the Google involvement in astroturfing. Them saying they don't do it, and dooshbags like your author attempting to claim they all do it without actually say, having any evidence. 


What's amusing is Cnet still uses a lot of flash. Half the Internet still uses flash. You can still download and install Flash from Adobe and install it on Android. I think people just want Flash to be dead because Steve Jobs said so. The irony here being Flash outlived Steve Jobs and is still alive. 


@Scott_Wilson That is funny. It's also funny that you can run defacto Flash apps on iOS using AIR. Jobs wanted the power to pick singular winning & losing technologies for ALL of us, and the zombies fell right in line with it.


How could you have even written this story without mentioning the thousands of evil things Microsoft has done? Does Microsoft just own Cnet now? Is Cnet like Nokia?


@Scott_Wilson Because none of those issues were germane to the topic at hand which specifically deals with the interoperability of internet applications/services. Also, careful reading would show that they *do* mention Microsoft in terms of IM interoperability. Lastly, while your personal preference might be to have every article be a bash fest fortunately not everyone agrees with you. So in conclusion, get over it. 


@rapier1 "When tech companies can't resist screwing with each other" Are we reading the same story? Please check the title. NOBODY ON EARTH screws people as often or more childishly than Microsoft. They are the poster children for not playing fair. 


@Scott_Wilson @rapier1 You mean the above story about how Microsoft is unable to implement a native You Tube player because Google is purposefully blocking them? Yes. I read that story. Seriously, we get that you don't like Microsoft. We get that you feel like this is a just comeuppance. We also get that you think that every story *must* spend as much time as possible bashing Microsoft. We get it. We really do. A lot of us just don't share in your obsessive hate of a company or product. 


@rapier1 I get that you are mental and are attempting to defend Microsoft for some reason. That seems pretty obvious. I'll just do a big post with links to the lobby groups they pay and the fake astroturfing firms they hire at the top of the comments. One of them is probably your employer. 



@Scott_Wilson its obvious that you live in a delusional world where MS is the worst company in the world. MS is most definitely not the worst offender in screwing with people.

one could post a "big post" with links to lobby groups for any of the companies that you consider incapable of screwing with people.

look...we all understand that you unfairly hate on MS. we really do. we understand your mental capacity, we really do.


@Scott_Wilson See, this is where you seem to be falling down the rabbit hole. First off, I'm typing this on a MBP. I do most of my development work (which is what I do for a living) under various flavors of Unix. My phone is an HTC One. I do have an XBox and a Windows system at home as a media server. Computers are *tools* that you use to accomplish a task. They are not religious icons. The companies that create operating systems and hardware are *companies*. They are not your friend. They are not temples of worship.

Lastly, and this is the most important thing, just because someone has a different opinion than you doesn't make them a shill. I know, trust me, I know how shocking this revelation must be. The very idea that someone might have freely come to a different view on the world must be blowing your mind. It's easier to believe that I (and others who don't share your view) *must* be paid to have those opinions. It's easier to believe that than imagine someone, anyone, can disagree with you. I'm thinking in your world everyone must be getting a paycheck to disagree with your personally. Oh how I wish that were true. I really do. I could use the extra money. 


@fomol_620 You're an idiot. Microsoft has treated unfairly and screwed over so many companies in the past. They are the dirtiest players in the tech game, without a doubt. It is not so true anymore, but they used to copy literally everything they did, ripping off everybody in the software industry. Netscape (IE), WordPerfect (MS Office) and The Windows GUI are all prime examples of Microsoft playing dirty.


@Rory_Linehan the same could be said of Apple/IBM/ take your pick... Apple used to rip off everyone as well...the GUI, Mouse, etc...

so now that i have applied logic to your argument, it is moot.


@Scott_Wilson  MS did alot of evil in the past but it was nowhere capable to do the damage that google can now. Looking to the future google has too much data (and market control) on everyone not to do evil.  If it  is not guided properly it will crash and burn just like the invincible MS empire.  "be careful out there"


@loop6719 Well I guess we'll just have to wait for Google to actually do something evil huh. But I mean, you'd have expected it to happen by now right? Meanwhile you can find thousands of evil things Microsoft has actually done. 

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