Google Wants Microsoft to Build a Better Browser

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) are at one another's throats in a very public way right now. This quarrel might contain clues on what's next for Google's YouTube service.

Microsoft baked up a premium Windows Phone app for the popular YouTube video service, but Big G blocked it because Microsoft didn't include ad functions. The app could also download YouTube videos and play content that wasn't supposed to work on mobile devices.

So it was back to the drawing board. Microsoft and Google announced that they're working together to get a full-featured YouTube app into the Windows app store; Meanwhile, Windows Phone users had to fall back on the original YouTube app for that platform, which is widely seen as far inferior to the banned one.

Problem solved, right? The warring parties are smoking a peace pipe in the coding room, probably over a half-eaten pizza and some laser chicken.

Will Microsoft's mobile platform ever get a proper YouTube app? Only if Redmond plays ball with Mountain View. Image source: YouTube.

It's never that easy
But that partnership hit a new snag this week. Redmond introduced a new YouTube app for its mobile platform, and it looked like the banned one with a sprinkle of advertising support on top. It also allowed video uploads from the phone, which is a new feature for Windows Phone YouTube apps.

Aaaand ... that version got the cold shoulder from Google's side of the fence, too. This was clearly not the app that the joint development team was working on, but a rewarmed take on the forbidden fruit.

YouTube blames the disconnect on limitations in Microsoft's mobile browser code. These technical headwinds made it impossible to work up a browser-based HTML5 app to access YouTube videos, which was a firm requirement for access to YouTube's programming interfaces. So the Microsoft guys fell back on the old code instead, over Google's protests.

The other side of the story
Microsoft doesn't feel responsible for the controversy at all. In a long blog post, general counsel David Howard fought back against the very idea that Redmond was doing something wrong.

"At the end of the day, experts from both companies recognized that building a YouTube app based on HTML5 would be technically difficult and time-consuming, which is why we assume YouTube has not yet made the conversion for its iPhone and Android apps," Howard said. And that's why the rereleased app was built on the old code base rather than on the newfangled HTML5 programming platform. "The roadblocks Google has set up are impossible to overcome, and they know it."

What's really going on here?
Here's what I think is happening. Google and YouTube are legitimately interested in making HTML5 the gold standard for YouTube viewing. So it's a bad idea to introduce brand new apps on a deprecated, obsolete coding platform.

Microsoft objects that Android and iOS apps still don't use the HTML5 standard. But I fully expect them to, and soon. The old apps built on native Android and iOS code is just grandfathered in until their replacements are ready for prime time.

Here's one fact to support this view: The browser-based YouTube site is slowly making the transition as we speak.

HTML5 viewing has long been available as an experimental add-on. But it wasn't fully compatible with video ads. Even if you signed up for that experiment, you'd still often get kicked out to the standard model using the Flash browser plugin.

Now, YouTube has quietly implemented a fresh HTML5 framework if you're using Google's Chrome browser to view the site. The new model loads the next video faster and ad features seem to work across the board now. This is no longer an opt-in lab feature but the new standard. It's not everywhere yet but that's just temporary.

What's next?
So I expect this model to saturate the entire YouTube ecosystem in short order, starting with a deeper cross-platform browser experience and then followed by mobile apps that take advantage of the basic website's code. Microsoft may have to make fundamental changes to its mobile Internet Explorer browser to keep up. I think it's about supporting Google's WebM and VP8 digital video technologies, which are kind of a big deal for Google and not supported at all by Microsoft.

In other words, this boils down to Google wanting to simplify the entire YouTube ecosystem, leveraging its preferred video technologies in the process. If Microsoft wants a fully featured Windows Phone app for the new paradigm, the company will eventually have to play ball with Google's fundamental technology demands.

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Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (6)

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  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 4:04 PM, spinod wrote:

    How about Microsoft stops ticking off the company they need? THEY (Microsoft) need YouTube and are too desperate to wait for it, so they try to get it by breaking rules.

    Could you imagine what Microsoft would do if Google released a "free" Microsoft Office package on Android? They already hate Open Office, now imagine Google literally ripping off Office and offering it for free.

    Microsoft is doing just that. Taking a Google product and offering it to their customers without Google's consent. How do you honestly try to play the good guy in that? If Google doesn't want it on your crap phones, then too bad.....

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 6:11 PM, jayintheatl wrote:

    Absolutely absurd comment, spinod.

    I know it's hard for many people to fathom, but this is a clear case of Microsoft being right. Every word in its response to Google is correct.

    Microsoft wrote an application to connect to a supposedly open service. Google objected, I believe for very good reasons. Microsoft rewrote it to address every one of those reasons and obey every line of YouTube's TOS.

    But Google apparently said it had to be written in a specific code base.

    That makes zero sense. If you're an iPhone developer, you want to develop natively, rather than building a bad hybrid app which is essentially a wrapper for a web page (HTML5, HTML4, doesn't matter). Had Google insisted on Apple building its own YouTube app -- which it did not, it built one for iPhone -- then it certainly wouldn't have demanded that Apple build a browser-based app.

    You're clearly biased against Windows Phone ("crap phones"), but I'd point out to you that Windows Phone has a very specific UI. Some of the differentiators include: panorama-style, horizontal scrolling with implied content expanding off both edges of the screen, live tiles, and so forth. Of course Microsoft is going to want to deliver an experience on its phones that matches its own UI (currently in use on Windows Phone, Xbox 360, and Windows 8).

    Google seems intent on Microsoft not being able to build an app which serves YouTube content in a UI that Windows Phone (Windows/Xbox) users expect. I could get severely cynical here on the reasons why Google would prefer YouTube to look more like a web page and less like a fluid Windows Phone application, but I won't.

    Add to this that there are numerous other YouTube applications on Windows Phone which violate Google's TOS and which Google does not block, and you've got a seriously dick move. You'd think Google had much better things to do than tell Microsoft which languages to use in developing tools to connect to free services that it offers.

    Now, moving on to the points of the actual article: Microsoft has an HTML5 capable browser on its phones, as well as its tablets, PCs, and the Xbox 360. Every author -- including the one behind this piece -- ignores that. Microsoft is fully capable of implementing an HTML5 solution that will work on its phones. However, as it correctly points out, and as I've specifically stated above, without a significant amount of work that Google itself isn't willing to do on iPhone or Android, that'd "break" the unique UI standard that Microsoft is allowed to expect from any native app on its phone.

    The author is flat wrong about HTML5, but actually close to the mark on the fact that Google would like every browser to be a Webkit browser (a very specific browser engine used in Chrome). It doesn't and shouldn't have that right, and developers should be skeptical of the consequences.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 6:57 PM, ogauger wrote:

    Not difficult to see the writer's bias here....

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 7:59 PM, joeuser23 wrote:

    Who is this Microsoft character and why do they care?...

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2013, at 10:13 PM, hawkhell wrote:

    Microsoft's browser is bad because it does not allow ads... I think that is enough internet for the day.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 12:40 AM, joverclock wrote:

    i think you nailed it on the head. I finally agree with one of the fools.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 12:41 AM, joverclock wrote:

    im talking about the author .. not the comments..Just wanted to clarify.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 8:05 AM, alanchrishughes wrote:

    The idea of intentionally making some videos not play on mobile devices is the most idiotic idea possible.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 3:32 PM, CharlesClarke3rd wrote:

    Google is the lame duck in the room. Microsoft should pull the plug on Android. Adios to Android. Only available through Microsoft licensing.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 4:03 PM, chilero wrote:

    Google refused to give Microsoft the same access to the Youtube API's that it was giving to Apple ever since WP7 was introduced.

    Now they want an HTML 5 app that neither Android, nor Apple use.

    Why not just let this app be used by their customers on Windows Phone while they continue working on an HTML 5 app?

    Google has always been very hostile towards Windows Phone users. They act like Microsoft of the 90's.

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2013, at 7:47 AM, flybywire54 wrote:

    Google is handing a loaded gun to Microsoft

    Can't wait for Microsoft to shoot , meaning , if Google continues , block their crappy search engine from anything Windows (win XP, win7 , Windows8) .

    When that happens Larry boy can look for another job , while Google shares collapses . Frankly I have stopped using anything Google for a long time now , except You Tube , never felt better . Who needs a data mining company spying on you . .

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2013, at 1:14 PM, FuzzySquirrel wrote:

    Wow! I really get tired of reading these inaccurate and incredibly biased “articles” (I guess that’s what this is, but seriously, anything on TMF should just be labeled as an opinion piece). I know that you get what you pay for with the Internet, but this is absolutely ridiculous. The “writer” holds an interest in Google, but what it doesn’t say is who he works for…based on how this was written it almost has to be Google. If he doesn’t work for Google, he must have a large portion of his retirement tied to their success – even though it would be ludicrous to believe anything written here could affect a stock price. Isn’t the Internet already filled with enough crap - how does this drivel even get posted!? For the record, I hold positions in both companies and work for neither.

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2013, at 1:21 PM, CharlesClarke3rd wrote:

    Stop using Google. End of Message.

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