Google Pulls YouTube from Amazon Echo

Posted on September 27, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Hardware, Mobile, Music + Videos with 50 Comments

Amazon issued a cranky statement this week, objecting to Google’s decision to pull YouTube from its Echo Show smart appliance. But Google says it was no surprise to Amazon, which had been violating its terms of service.

And yes, those with bitter memories of the YouTube saga on Windows phone should see some similarities here. What this is clearly about is Google hampering a competitor. Which, you know, is technically both fair and legal.

“As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers,” an Amazon statement explains. “There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

Well, Amazon is right on two counts here: Google didn’t notify customers, and there are no technical reasons why YouTube videos can’t play on the Echo Show.

But Amazon is also conveniently leaving out the real reasons that this happened. That Google had warned Amazon about them violating its terms of service. And that it was Amazon, not Google, that never warned customers.

“We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms,” a Google statement retorts. “Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”

Frankly, I believe this is the first step towards the abyss for the Echo platform, which has become too popular too fast for the companies—Google, Microsoft, and Apple—that, by all rights, should be the market leaders here. Amazon can complain all it wants, but limiting a competitor’s access to a popular service actually makes sense. So I’m curious to see if there is a resolution. And whether YouTube does return to the Echo Show.

After all, we all know what happened with Windows phone.


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Comments (50)

50 responses to “Google Pulls YouTube from Amazon Echo”

  1. nwebster

    Why should Amazon not be the leader here? Considering a huge portion of the web is running on the AWS platform these days, it seems a bit naive to not consider Amazon one of the big players in this space.

    Apple, Microsoft, Google, sure. But you really need to include Amazon and Samsung in that space as well.

    Oh wait, I forgot. This blog is all about shilling for Google these days. Now it makes sense.

  2. wolters

    I remember that Microsoft YouTube app. It was actually quite good. Once it was removed, I knew the writing on the wall was coming for my beloved Windows Phone.

  3. GaryMaker

    I seldom feel this way, but it is time for government regulation on Google, Apple, and Facebook; each is clearly a new type of though monopoly and should not be able to use that influence unchecked.

  4. tbsteph

    Wow! So this is what falling into the Google abyss looks like. So much for being a user advocate. Disappointing, to say the least.

  5. Stooks

    Does Amazon allow you to "Cast" their Amazon Prime vide on a Chromecast? There answer is NO. Tit for tat basically.

  6. Michael Rivers

    If I'm not mistaken, this article has a sentence in it that seems to say that Microsoft (among others) should be ahead of Amazon in this market. I have a better chance of beating Amazon than Microsoft does in this market. So does any random company you can point to in the phone book. Microsoft is as late to this market as it was with smart phones.

  7. Nicholas Kathrein

    I'm sorry people but companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple can't offer ad free Youtube without Google's consent. That is like if Apple hijacked the apps on Apple TV from ABC, CBS, Fox, and other and made an interface like, i don't know, the Apple TV App and had their shows where all the ads were removed. What do you think these tv networks would do?

  8. MikeGalos

    "What this is clearly about is Google hampering a competitor. Which, you know, is technically both fair and legal."

    Nope. Flat out wrong.

    If Google is considered to have monopoly power in that market, and the usage share of YouTube makes this almost a certainty, then "hampering a competitor" is absolutely not fair or legal, technically or otherwise. It's abuse of monopoly power and a violation of anti-trust law.

    For those thinking, "well, the courts haven't ruled they have monopoly power yet so actions now aren't abuse of that power so it's legal" you're wrong. The monopoly power is retroactive to all the time you had the power and abuses of that power count.

    • Roger Ramjet

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Thurrott was being sarcastic in the quoted lines ..., he is sorta adopting the Machiavellian persona in the write up, rather than taking the more usual route of handing out blame based on morality of the consumer defender or something like that (probably some cognitive dissonance going on there. He already thinks Google is going to win, he himself has joined with Sauron, so why fight the power).

      But I think he goes too far when he thinks in a Machiavellian way that its the beginning of the end for Echo. For one thing Microsoft has already welcomed them to the club, and are using Echo as a crudgel (kinda how they used Facebook v. Google in search ads) vs. the other two in consumer AI space. And look how Facebook ended up impoverished.

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      This is such BS. You're not allowed to remove ads from Youtube as it breaks it's terms and is stealing content from Google. Plain and simple.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

        Sorry. It's not about ads. Or at least it isn't unless Alphabet offers an ad-free version under license to everyone who wants it at a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory price.

        That's how life works when you are a monopoly. You cannot just block competition because you don't like having competitors.

    • PincasX

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      I think arguing a monopoly would be tricky as I'm not sure exactly what Google has a monopoly of with YouTube. It is certainly ubiquitous but pinning down the monopoly could prove problematic.

  9. Roger Ramjet

    It would have been helpful if you stated or hazarded an educated guess (backed by suitable research/checks) as to what the dispute was about. Yes yes, we know it is really about market power, but what we're the alleged violations of YouTube policy? Something to do with ads?

  10. asarathy

    Amazon's support for other platforms its doesn't like isn't anything to be proud of, so Goose/Gander.

  11. MutualCore

    Google doing their anti-competitive monopolistic behavior. Time to break them up.

  12. glenn8878

    Amazon needs its own Tube service. It already has an excellent cloud service. No one should be forced to use YouTube. This is not the end of Echo.

  13. Lateef Alabi-Oki

    They probably pulled a Microsoft and reverse-engineered YouTube streams to circumvent monetization from Ads instead of using the official public YouTube APIs.

  14. hrlngrv

    hurts both of our customers

    Not much of a market to moan about.

  15. IanYates82

    The article doesn't actually say what terms were being violated... Is this publicly available?

    I wonder if it's

    * Google doesn't like third-party apps... Possibly

    * Amazon weren't showing the ads properly (or at all)... This, from memory, is what got MS in trouble with them

    * Something else?

  16. red.radar

    "creating a broken user experience"

    translation: We have no control of the platform and cannot mine data from the users of this device.

  17. mmcpher

    IDK about any Abyss. Echo is great for music, weather, news.... and for buying things on.... Amazon! I did watch a few videos on it but that is way down the list of the things I like about the Echo. I was looking for short USB-C cables and Echo was faster and more accurate via voice inquiry than I was on the desktop version of on a pc.

    YouTube is the dominant video portal but I mostly access it through searches from outside YouTube itself. I rarely search within YouTube and have less than zero brand loyalty to YouTube. I know it's to court commercial death to disdain it, but there seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction about the heavy handed way it dictates terms since it became part of the Google Gulag.

  18. Rallicat

    I'm not entirely sure why it would be the case that Echo would be heading for the 'abyss'. This seems to be based on the idea that it's somehow Google or Apple's right to dominate this market.

    Skills are going to be a big decider. Whilst Google & Amazon have good developer followings, Amazon has been able to gain attention here quite quickly, both through being 'first', and through maintaining a high profile thanks to a range of integrations on other, non-amazon hardware.

    I'm not saying Amazon are destined for a win - there's a long way to go yet- but the platform is gaining sufficient attention that it's probably a bit early days to be declaring it a dud.

  19. lvthunder

    Google better watch out. Perception is everything and in this case they look like a bully just like on Windows.

    • Jaxidian

      In reply to lvthunder:

      The fact that Amazon Prime Video doesn't work on Chromecast is not a problem but this is? I bet if Amazon were to make that happen, then this would instantly go away.

      • lvthunder

        In reply to Jaxidian:

        I never said that wasn't a problem. I don't have a Chromecast so I didn't even know that. Prime Video not being on Apple TV (yet) means I don't even think about using it even though I'm a prime customer. But also stopping something from working looks worse perception wise then it never working at all.

      • mmcpher

        Amazon Prime video works fine on my Smart TV's, side-by-side with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and lesser known video apps and services. . Prime Video is hit or miss and I continue to see the Amazon system primarily as The best for shopping and buying, Spotify the best for music and Netflix the best for the movies and shows. These companies compete against each other in all these areas and in hardware, each with their own emphasis and strengths and weaknesses.

        Choice is nice but everything is fractionalizing and atomizing formerly simple things like watching a movie or listening to music into a hectoring burden. I used to assemble my media choices from various sources and companies but increasingly its taking too much time and effort and way too many subscriptions. At some point the competitive chaos and sharp competition is sending me back to choosing 1 and leaving the others. It's bad enough for me for my own but when you add to it the burden of having to teach the rest of the household how to navigate these crowded and confusing waters (and keeping track of everyone's requirements and preferences) it is diminishing returns. A general default choice emerges but by then we are effectively left with fewer choices than when all this started. And we wind up paying subscriptions we rarely access. Eventually I will get that under control as well. We will have fewer channels, groups and authors we have access to and will wind up buying less. We will pick our poison and learn to live with it and find other things to do.

        In reply to Jaxidian:

  20. gregsedwards

    I haven't used Echo Show, but I'd guess there's a generic browser. Are they blocking opening and browsing YouTube that way or just via the integrated app?

  21. Alin Maior

    Paul is becoming completely "googlewashed" here. How does limiting a competitor's access to a service make sense? iTunes, Office and other examples say the opposite. But yeah, right, people should always be ok with scroogle's monopoly.

    • PeteB

      In reply to Alin_Maior:How does limiting a competitor's access to a service make sense?

      Because Amazon is bypassing ads, brains. Effectively giving Echo Show users YoutubeRed level subscription access without paying for it. Same thing that got MS into trouble with their knockoff YouTube app for winphone: they bypassed ads.

      Amazon would get pissed too if the roles were reversed. In fact they're very restrictive about where they allow Amazon video.

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      In reply to Alin_Maior:

      I think you are "washed". I don't know what to add before it but you are just jumping to conclusions. Why do you think Google did this? Oh they just limiting a competitor. Wow you are wrong because you are brain washed. It's something called ad revenue. This is no different than if anyone took ABC or CBS or any channels product and stripped it's commercials out of it without their approval. DUH!

  22. toph36

    Not sure why this would be any different than how it works on a Fire tablet?

  23. Skolvikings

    Limiting access to a competitor's hardware makes sense if you want to sell your own hardware, which Google certainly does. But it's a drop in the bucket compared to the advertising revenue they make from platforms like YouTube. It makes much more sense for Google to bend over backwards to put YouTube on any and every device that will have it.

  24. rameshthanikodi

    "Google, Microsoft, and Apple—that, by all rights, should be the market leaders here"

    ...who are you and what have you done to the real Paul?

  25. david.thunderbird

    Humm, is that YouBoob's nose on the Amazon floor?

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      In reply to david.thunderbird:

      No, this isn't the Cutting off the nose to spite the face. How many people have the Amazon Show? Umm like no one. How many people watch Youtube? That would be 1,300,000,000 people. Yes it's not a problem for Google.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

        And THAT is why it's almost certainly abuse of monopoly power and a violation of anti-trust law.

        • Nicholas Kathrein

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          You can call them a monopoly if you want but no one has to watch youtube. There are all the tv stations who stream content plus everything else so I don't buy that plus Amazon is stealing content from Youtube as the ads aren't being played meaning Google is paying to stream the content while Amazon gets it for free. This is stealing plain and simple.

          • MikeGalos

            In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

            Monopoly isn't defined as "something everybody has to use". It's defined as having sufficient power in a specific market that your actions can change that market for other companies.

            Microsoft wasn't ruled a monopoly because you couldn't buy Linux or Macintosh System 7 or Unix or BeOS or NeXTstep or OS|2 Warp. You could. In fact there were more choices of personal computer operating systems then than there are now.

            They were considered a monopoly because they were significantly influential that any decisions they made changed the nature of that market. For example, they were found to have abused their power by offering a discount to OEMs who shipped computers without shovelware like trial software (what's now considered a Signature PC image) because it was deemed unfair to the shovelware vendors.

            • skane2600

              In reply to MikeGalos:

              I think it was a bit more complicated than that. IMO the only valid complaint was that MS made deals with OEMs that offered discounts only if they exclusively loaded a MS OS. Thus if you wanted to get DR DOS, you had to buy it separately.

              Ironically that was the only "abuse" that didn't get a very good remedy. Instead the major competitors who lobbied for anti-trust got the big rewards (at least in the short term). IMO the fuss over Netscape, IE bundling, and Java were just BS.

              Netscape was essentially one-hit company that didn't have a second act and whose management was ready to cash in at the first sign of trouble. MS had to include a IE-less version of Windows in the EU that nobody had any interest in buying. Sun made only a minimal attempt to market Java to consumers (where were the AOL-like Java CDs?) and the lack of Java apps on Windows and the Mac made clear how insignificant it was on desktop systems.

              • MikeGalos

                In reply to skane2600:

                You can feel free to state what YOU think are the only valid reasons. The COURTS ruled that what I listed was "abuse of monopoly power". Whether you agree with the law or not, that's how the law is interpreted by the courts.

                For that matter, even the one item you think IS valid isn't actually accurate. Microsoft offered a discount that only amounted to the cost of validating and reporting the individual machine counts rather that the total machines sold. And that was done only after IBM was found to have misreported massively the percentage of machines that they sold with Windows rather than OS|2.

                Yes, I actually read all 7,000 pages of the trial transcripts. I had a lot of international travel and read it to keep from being bored on flights.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to MikeGalos:

                  Since I haven't read the trial transcripts I'll have to defer to your research, however it seems improbable that a one paragraph summary can capture the essence of 7,000 pages of trial transcripts. How does the "influential" argument apply to Java and Netscape?

                • MikeGalos

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  It doesn't summarize it. It states one finding that was held valid. And which demonstrates why Google's action would be parallel and similarly abuse.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to MikeGalos:

                  Perhaps when you are making a statement about a single finding among multiple findings you should make it clear from the beginning.

  26. MartinM

    Just once it would be nice if Google were a little more customer focused and a little less greedy.