Amazon has just responded to Google's decision to remove YouTube from all Fire TV and Echo Show products. "Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website," said a spokesperson The Verge by email. "We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible." YouTube will be removed from the Show immediately, and Fire TV owners will lose the popular essential video streaming application on January 1.
Google says it is taking this extreme step due to Amazon's recent exclusion of the new Nest products (such as Nest Secure and the E thermostat) and the company's prolonged refusal to sell Chromecast or to support Google Cast in any capacity.
But regardless of the public position that each company adopts in the coming days, it is its mutual customers that are unfairly affected. YouTube is the cornerstone of any living room transmission device, and for Google to suddenly decide to remove it from millions of existing fire TV owners, assuming no agreement is reached before January 1, it's embarrassing. YouTube is video on the Internet. Period. It is also home to its beloved creators, and Google's decision will soon strip them of viewers.
Kicking the Echo Show up the sidewalk does not affect almost as many people, but still annoying from watching YouTube cooking videos on the screen of Alexa in Your kitchen seemed to be one of the perfect uses for the thing! But since Google is being pedantic and unnecessarily obsessive with every detail of how the application works on Amazon's device, that is no longer possible. This is the second time that YouTube has disappeared from the Show. Google said the first iteration had a "broken user experience," which resulted in a revised version that was basically the full-blown desktop website. That still was not good enough, apparently. "Echo Show and Fire TV now show a standard web view of YouTube.com and point customers directly to the existing YouTube website," said the Amazon spokesperson.
Google is hurting Amazon devices by removing YouTube, and it could reasonably be argued that it has the advantage here. There are people who simply will not buy a Fire TV as a result of this change, and many existing owners will not be satisfied in January. In fact, they are already quite upset because YouTube shows a cold and practical warning about cutting from today and pushes users towards other devices. If you follow that link, there is no explanation given as to why a device for which you paid money will suddenly worsen when the calendar reaches 2018.
Amazon is not without fault either. The company stood firm for years when launching a suitable Prime Video app for Android in the Google Play Store. That only happened at the beginning of this year. Previously, I had to install Amazon's own independent application store and only then could I install Prime Video. It was a sad and convoluted attempt to attract users to Amazon Appstore. Even now, Prime Video is not yet compatible with Chromecast, as Google points out.
And that is directly related to the absence of Chromecast on Amazon.com. As there is no easy way to see Prime Video, Amazon will not sell it. But it is the fault of Amazon that Prime Video does not work with Chromecast. Amazon has the power to make it happen. What is Google supposed to do in this scenario?
Even for casual observers, Amazon's decision to remove popular and popular products from this store, or not sell them to begin with, is an ugly example of how the company threw its weight and power around. Nobody should be surprised that Google is crying. Is the company under obligation to sell Google Home, the main rival of its own Echo? Of course, no. They are the breaks. But the situation of Chromecast is worrisome, and the recent breakdown of Amazon's sales for a certain hardware Nest (without a real explanation) seems youthful. Priority shipping remains a very powerful incentive, and Amazon knows it very well.
What frustrates me the most is that none of these companies has bothered to apologize to customers for their disputes. There is no "sorry for all those affected". At the end of YouTube, it's an abrupt and indifferent message "Hey, you're losing YouTube!" For the owners of Fire TV. Google says "we hope we can reach an agreement to solve these problems soon". Commercial terms take precedence and customers rank second. There is no other way to see this or frame it. Nobody is fighting for a greater good.
We are witnessing the worst kind of petty squabbles between two technological giants, and consumers take the brunt of this growing dispute. If that is not embarrassing enough, companies are already being mocked by industry groups in favor of dismantling the neutrality of the network. USTelecom lost little time in accumulating. "Broadband ISPs are committed to providing an open internet for their customers, including protections like content blocking or limitation," said general manager Jonathan Spalter. "It seems like some of the biggest Internet companies can not say the same thing, ironic, right?" This stubborn conflict is turning into fodder for supporters of FCC chair Ajit Pai.
I should never have reached this. Amazon and Google, your options are to do this well, take your complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or go to court. But do not take it out with people who just want to enjoy their devices. Let people have their YouTube. 2017 has already been quite difficult to endure.