August 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Apple’s Decision to Drop YouTube from iOS Is a Big Deal for Music, Apps

YouTube Preview Image

When the very first iPhone shipped, literally changing the world as we knew it, it carried a little Trojan horse inside of it called YouTube. The app for Google’s video sharing site comes standard with every single iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, but all of that ends with the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 6, as noted by The Verge and just about every other tech blog.

It’s big news whenever tech titans Apple and Google butt heads, or at least appear to do so, but it’s also a big deal from a music perspective specifically. In the first five versions of Apple iOS, YouTube functioned as a free, unlimited, on-demand music service, sitting right there where any user could use it to call up almost any song, for free, in seconds. Not only that, but Apple’s devices defaulted to uploading mobile-recorded videos to YouTube — something that is also going away in iOS 6.

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

Apple’s decision not to renew that license –whatever its reasons might be (see update below) — carries at least three major implications for the music app scene:

1. Big Chance for Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody

If you want to summon a song and play it on the iPhone in your pocket right now, you simply need to tap the YouTube app and search for the song, and you’ll hear it almost instantaneously. (You can even play the song via AirPlay on your nice speakers.) Starting in iOS 6, you won’t have that option anymore, so you’ll have to install something. Tell me, what will it be?

Sure, it could be the YouTube app Google is said to be working on, but at least you’ll have to think about it this time around. If you’ve been building up playlists in the free desktop version of Spotify or MOG, you could find yourself deciding to take the leap and subscribe, the way millions of other people already have done, rather than relying on YouTube’s piecemeal, song-by-song approach.

2. Shot in the Arm for HTML5

As mentioned above, Google is hard at work on a YouTube app, which it will submit to Apple’s iTunes app store alongside all the others. However, as the New York Times (which recently linked to as a source) noted in June, Google’s new mobile website already “makes the iPhone YouTube app obsolete.”  Sure, some folks will track down whatever iOS app YouTube releases in the coming weeks. Others will simply direct our browsers to YouTube, as Apple suggests we do, bookmark it, and add that bookmark to our iPhone home screens, where it will look exactly like an app.

youtube ios 6 upload

Today, iOS encourages users to upload videos (including all those millions of concert videos) to YouTube. In iOS 6, those videos will go to Vimeo.

If millions of users suddenly realize how easy it is to load HTML5 apps within their iPhone’s Safari browser — even adding those HTML5 apps to their home screens alongside their iOS apps — it could be a major turning point for HTML5. After all, it can do most of what iOS apps need to do.

If you think about it, platform-specific apps are like DRM-ed music, in the sense that they tie you to your device platform. If you’ve spent $50 on iOS apps, you’re probably not going to turn around and buy an Android. However, if if you purchased $50-worth of HTML5 apps (which is possible, if they sell accounts that require a log-in), suddenly, you’d be able to hop between iOS and Android and bring those apps with you.

That world is still far off, but at the very least, the lack of a native, bundled YouTube app on iOS will  cause more people to realize that HTML5 apps such as YouTube’s can be a viable replacement for platform-specific apps — especially because the HTML5 version of YouTube can do more than the iOS version can (see video above).

3. Vimeo: The New Online Concert Destination?

When I shot this concert footage of my brother’s band, my iPhone encouraged me to upload that video to YouTube, as it still does today. In iOS 6, Apple’s default video destination of uploads will be Vimeo instead, as Mashable points out.

Have you been to a concert lately? There are a lot of iPhones there, many of them shooting audio and video footage. It won’t happen overnight, but gradually, Vimeo will replace YouTube as the place to see concert videos uploaded from iPhones.

Update: A little bird hints that YouTube may have tried to get Apple to pay a significant chunk of change to renew its contract to include YouTube in iOS:

“I’m guessing the reason for this decision came down to money. I used to do PR for <snip>. They used to have a loose licensing deal with YouTube to stream video to their users. However, when that license came up for renewal, YouTube suddenly changed the terms, to the point that what used to be basically free would now cost <snip> a LOT of money. I believe YouTube’s decision to change these licensing deals is to better monetize their site. I mean, someone has to pay for all of YouTube’s hard drives and servers that keep growing exponentially.”

(Front page image courtesy of Flickr/Claudio Montes)

  • Barry Braksick

    There are many other questions this raises, such as where will links to YT videos coming from third-party apps go: to Mobile Safari, or to the YT app? Will third party app developers have any control over that? And what happens to embedding? Will *every* video in an app now have to kick out to Safari or Google’s app? Yuck.

  • Harry

    This is such a none story. All that is happening is that Google are
    going to write there own youtube app for IOS rather than the APPLE
    authored one coming as standard with the operating system. This means
    sweet FA for musicians.
    With IOS 6 you will still be able to open Safari and (without
    downloading any additional apps) visit and watch videos for
    free to your hearts content!

    The only thing that is likely to change with the new YouTube App is
    that it is probably going to include some form of advertising.

    I can’t see this change inspiring anyone to move to a pay service like spotify.

    People like paying nothing to listen to music. I think you are more
    likely to see people moving to free apps like jango and bandcamper than

  • Milestrane

    you tube turning from the biggest music service that is also free into the biggest music service that has a fee?