Google pulls YouTube off the Amazon Echo Show

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Amazon and Google are in a not-so-fun fight. Google has apparently decided to stop allowing the Amazon Echo Show to access YouTube. If you ask the smart speaker to show you a YouTube video, it fails and Alexa just say this: “Currently, Google is not supporting Youtube on Echo Show.”

That seems like a pretty strong thing for a computer to say, so I asked Amazon about it, and the company issued this (excuse the pun) fire statement:

Google made a change today at around 3 pm. YouTube used to be available to our shared customers on Echo Show. As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.

The Echo Show, if you’re not familiar, is the Alexa-enabled smart speaker that has a screen on it so you can do stuff like... watch video. And YouTube is the internet’s largest source of said video. One of the core use cases of the Echo Show for some people might be watching cooking lessons or music videos — on YouTube.

Amazon’s strident statement makes clear that it doesn’t believe this is a technical mistake, but a conscious choice by Google. Google, however, very much begs to differ on the reason it blocked YouTube on the Echo Show:

We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. 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.

Reading between the lines, I’d guess Google very much wants features that it thinks are essential for YouTube’s future growth included, stuff like subscriptions, next video recommendations, autoplay, and so on. But who knows! Only the negotiators at the table.

Google has a history of being particular about how YouTube gets displayed on apps made by other companies, citing the terms of service on its API. Way back in 2013, it got in a tiff with Microsoft over the YouTube app on Windows Phone, blocking the app and leading Microsoft to just revert to a web player for YouTube.

If you wanted to spin a darker story, there’s certainly plenty of fodder for you to do that. Google, as you’re no doubt aware, has its own smart speaker that communicates via the Google Assistant. Google Home doesn’t have a screen, but you can ask it for YouTube videos by streaming it to a Chromecast. Google Home also allows you to listen to music sourced from YouTube.

This sort of push and pull between companies that compete on multiple fronts is nothing new. But seeing an intelligent assistant like Alexa lose the ability to display video from YouTube feels a little ominous. Way back in January 2016, I wrote about how intelligent assistants usually only give one answer to questions and who controls that answer can be just as much the result of deals as it is the result of algorithms figuring out the right answer.

If nothing else, it’s clear that Google and Amazon are not doing a very good job working out that deal. (And hey look, the Google Chromecast still isn’t officially available to buy on Amazon.)

If you were thinking that the time when you could sort of trust a search engine to not give you results that are limited by inter-company agreements was a golden age that’s ending, I wouldn’t say you were wrong.

Or maybe not! Now that they’ve issued dueling public statements about this kerfuffle, maybe the two companies will work it out, and everything will end up being fine. Totally fine... until the next time the information you want to access is comes via an API with Terms of Service instead of a free and open link on the web.

(Update: And now, a brief definition of the web.)

Comments

Why can’t we all just get along! Imagine buying a Chromecast from Amazon and then watching Amazon Prime video on said Chromecast. What a future that would be!

yeah imagine downloading the amazon video app from the google play store, and then casting the video to a chromecast…

to be clear , it’s my limited understanding that the ball has been in amazon’s court to make that happen.

Instead android users have to install a different app store on their phone! just to get amazon video, which doesn’t even cast to chromecast.

The Amazon Prime Video app is live on the Play Store from a few weeks now.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.avod.thirdpartyclient

With no Chromecast support.

And the Apple TV is being sold again by Amazon because now Apple TV supports Amazon Prime Video. So it seems like Amazon and Apple can’t play together. Which points to Google being the problem.

What? Amazon had blocked Apple for a very long time. They just now made a deal. Yet you blame Google?

Google…the company that literally wants its services anywhere and everywhere. On any device and every device. Google would put YouTube on toilet seat covers if they could. It’s not them. This is Amazon being dicks. I had to buy a damn Amazon fire stick to watch Amazon Prime videos. That sucks. Why doesn’t Amazon work on my Chromecast device?

In this case, Google definitely does not want it services everywhere.

No it doesn’t want Amazon picking Google Youtube apart and not offering the full service that you’ve provides.

I’m sure it must of had something to do with the Ad’s!!!

Google weaponizes YouTube in these instance to stifle a competitor.

Same they did when Microsoft tried to get a native YouTube app.

Microsoft had no problem showing YouTube adverts. I am not sure about Amazon though (I have not read enough to comment on that)

Google…the company that literally wants its services anywhere and everywhere. On any device and every device.

An interesting sentiment in the comments section of an article that details Google pulling their services from a competing 3rd party platform.

If Amazon wanted to support Chromecast they would. They don’t, so you can’t. This all on them.

I can’t blame Google for retaliating.

Any public facing website should be accessible from any device requesting it. These big companies are doing their best to break the internet.

I’m pretty sure that’s the problem. I’m not super familiar with the Echo Show, but I don’t believe what is displayed on the Show is just the YouTube page that you would get in any mobile browser. I’m pretty sure it’s a specific application, probably developed by Amazon and using the YouTube API. If that’s the case, and Amazon isn’t following the Terms of Service for the API, they can yank it. They’re blocking the use of their API, not their web page.

you nailed it…amazon isn’t showing the "free and open link" in a browser, they are stripping out Google’s monetization in an app. Google’s saying, "eff that bs"

How are they stripping out Google’s monitization? The Youtube adds still play on the Echo Show.

That is fine if the ads are included. Otherwise you are stealing from YouTubers that make content which is what Amazon is doing.

The adds have always shown on the Echo show.

Are you able to sign into your YouTube (Google) account on the show?

Amazon is free to point to the mobile YouTube website if they want, just like Microsoft ended up doing. The issue is Amazon using an API to display YouTube in a way that violates the ToS. No public website is being hidden.

The Echo Show has a limited web browser app, but it’s hidden, and accessing it is convoluted. It doesn’t work with most video sites and even in developer mode lacks authority to sideload apps. There’s no USB port, so you’re not importing anything that way, either. As a result of that and the design of Alexa, for playing YouTube videos, you’re at the mercy of Amazon and Google being on good terms.

Tell that to sites with paywalls.
Google isn’t a charity or even a content provider, they are an advertising company and this is stopping them making their money

I would have given Google the benefit of the doubt, had they not pulled exactly the same thing with Windows Phone back in the day.

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