Microsoft publishes its Windows Phone YouTube app (again)

It appears that Microsoft has surrendered in its ongoing battle with Google over its YouTube app. While the app is now available, it's pretty bare bones.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
The earlier newfangled version of Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone. Microsoft

Microsoft officially released its updated YouTube app for Windows Phone on Monday -- the only problem is it's not that fetching. The app appears to be nothing more than a place where users get redirected to YouTube's mobile Web site.

Before people lay the blame on Microsoft, the problem actually stems from an ongoing back-and-forth the company has been engaging in with Google.

The skirmish between the two companies began last May when Microsoft fielded a YouTube app that it built itself for Windows Phone 8. While users were quite happy with the app, it violated Google's terms of service by not serving ads and allowing video downloads. Google promptly sent Microsoft a cease-and-desist letter.

In turn, Microsoft updated its app, ceasing video downloads but still not serving ads. Finally, the two companies found common ground and agreed to build a version of a native YouTube app together. This app was unveiled in August. However, after users complained the app didn't work, Google revealed that it was blocking access to YouTube content.

The search giant's complaint centered on its requirement that the YouTube app be built using HTML5 and as such the new app violated its terms of service. In response, Microsoft lashed out at Google, protesting that an HTML5 app for YouTube "would be technically difficult and time consuming" to develop. The non-HTML5 app was seen as a stopgap measure while Microsoft continued to work on an HTML5 version for the longer term.

Microsoft has confirmed that the newest release of the app is actually a very old version of the app. And people who have downloaded and used the app today don't seem too pleased. In the reviews of the YouTube app in the Windows Phone app store, customers are overwhelmingly underwhelmed.

"This isn't even an app. It's just a link to the YouTube homepage through Internet Explorer (something I can do without this so-called app)," one user wrote. "Just when I thought google [sic] and windows were becoming friends," another said.

While it appears most users are disappointed with the new release, it doesn't mean that Microsoft has given up on an HTML5 version. It's possible that Microsoft is using the current dud as a placeholder until the HTML5 version is done.

Correction, October 10 at 5:45 p.m. PT: This story incorrectly stated the release date of the app. The app was released Monday, October 7.