Hugely popular third-party YouTube app “ProTube” was quietly removed from the App Store by Apple last week. Apple’s decision to pull the app followed several takedown requests from Google that were received by the app’s developer.
ProTube was hailed by users during its three-year reign for several features either not available in the official YouTube app or not offered by other third-party apps, such as the ability to play videos in 4K at 60 frames per second, background playback, and an audio-only mode. Over its lifetime, the $5 app reached number 1 in the paid app charts in 11 different countries and the top 10 in 57 countries.
In a statement on his website, developer Jonas Gessner said he was “very sad to announce that ProTube was removed from the App Store by Apple on September 1, 2017”. The action reportedly came “after multiple requests and threats by YouTube which ultimately led Apple to suddenly pulling the app from the App Store”, said Gessner.
YouTube first requested Apple to remove my app well over a year ago, initially just stating that my app violates their Terms of Service. This was a generic takedown request they sent to many YouTube apps at once. They later started going into more detail, even stating that I could not sell the app as that alone violates their ToS. They basically wanted me to remove every feature that made ProTube what it is – that includes the player itself that allows you to play 60fps videos, background playback, audio only mode and more.
Without those features ProTube would not be any better than YouTube’s own app, and that is exactly what they want to achieve. YouTube wants to sell its $10/month [YouTube Red] subscription service which offers many features that ProTube also offered for a lower one time price, so they started hunting down 3rd party YouTube apps on the App Store.
Gessner said he initially considered several options to end the dispute with YouTube, including removing all the contested features and making the app free, but ultimately he decided against this because “everyone who paid for ProTube’s standout features would suddenly get an app update that removes all those features, resulting in a useless app”.
The developer also tried to negotiate with YouTube to come to some sort of agreement, but found the process “very difficult” and claimed he was unable to get a direct response to his questions. After threats of legal action, “I knew that getting sued could cost me more than I ever made with ProTube,” he said.
“While it is absolutely awful seeing ProTube getting pulled from the App Store, it was the best solution when it comes to the users that already purchased the app,” admitted Gessner. “I was getting screwed either way but I at least didn’t want to screw my users.”
Many other third-party YouTube apps on the App Store have been targeted by YouTube with takedown requests, according to the developer, who signed off by thanking ProTube’s “big and passionate fanbase” and warning that dozens of fake ProTube apps have appeared on the App Store since it was removed.