After a frosty five-year relationship — and on the heels of the highly publicised Maps breakup — YouTube and iOS have filed for divorce. And you know what? It’s the best thing that could have happened for Apple, Google and you.
YouTube first fell into the iPhone’s sweet embrace back in mid-2007. It was a blockbuster matchup, Apple’s quarterback stud and Google’s newly minted homecoming queen. Most of all, it made sense. The most anticipated handset in forever joins forces with the world’s premier video site. They were made for each other.
There was just one catch: it wasn’t a relationship of equals. The video-streaming app that launched hand in and with the original iPhone may have said YouTube on the front, but it was Apple through and through. All Google did was encode its video cache into Apple’s preferred H.264 format and let Cupertino take it from there. From the beginning, the YouTube app on your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV has been designed and maintained by Apple.
Well, at least designed. The iPhone and YouTube were both such relatively recent phenomena that the mere fact of combining the two was enough to distract one from the reality that it, well, wasn’t very good. And that Apple was content to let it rot.
Remember, back in 2007, Google and Apple were more collaborators than competitors. Android was still just Andy Rubin in a Mountain View cubicle somewhere, and YouTube and Google Maps lent instant credibility to Apple’s fledgeling mobile aspirations. But once it became clear that Google had its own phone intentions — which go as far back as that same year, with the introduction of the Android Open Handset Alliance — the relationship began to sour. When Android came into its own with the Nexus One in 2010, it turned downright frosty.
Suddenly, YouTube and Maps weren’t partners. They were intruders. They gave comfort to the enemy. Apple let them both languish, updating sparsely and sporadically, letting them wither on the vine. So much so that a frustrated Google decided to totally revamp its YouTube web app back in 2010 rather than rely on Apple’s sluggish maintenance.
Need more proof? You couldn’t play an iOS YouTube video in hi-def over 3G until iOS 5.
So when Apple says that YouTube won’t be a native app anymore, what it’s really saying is it’s ending a loveless marriage. Now both parties can go off and find their own happiness. For Apple, that means not devoting developer resources towards Google’s most well-placed Trojan horse. For Google, it means being able to create a YouTube app that’s actually worth a damn. And for us? We don’t have to reroute to the mobile web every time we want to catch up on what Maru’s up to. Everybody wins.
The same is true for Maps, which will feature Apple’s in-house version — instead of zombie Google Maps — with iOS 6 as well. Google Maps will get frequent full feature updates, Apple Maps will be a worthwhile competitor, and we all get the luxury of choice.
So yes, it’s a big deal that Apple and YouTube and Google Maps are all going their own way in iOS 6. But not in the way that you might think. The moral: Don’t stay together for the kids. The fallout: a better iPhone for all.