YouTube Shuts Down API Access, Blocks Set-Top Boxes

YouTube Shuts Down API Access, Blocks Set-Top Boxes

There are two ways for a device to access YouTube: either through the regular web interface (i.e. Flash) or for cleaner integration, through its back-end APIs. As of December, Google is shutting off the tap. Update.

The news comes from the COO of Syabas, the company that makes the Popcorn Hour set-top box. Up until now they’d had a loose agreement with the ‘Tube: They can stream video from YouTube for free, but YouTube can change the terms of the deal whenever they want. Which they did!:

YouTube has always retained the right to change its terms of service in the future should it ever wish to do so. As a result of Google’s decision, Syabas is no longer allowed to access YouTube through its APIs. To be clear, Syabas is not being singled out. With the exception of a few strategic partners Google has chosen to work with, the company has informed Syabas they are asking all over-the-top device makers that are currently connecting to YouTube content through its APIs to take down the service.

To quote every set-top box manufacturer in the world, probably: “Shit.” YouTube access had become the kind of thing you take for granted in a connected box or Blu-ray player, and it was nice to have. Now, it’ll be limited to devices like the PS3, Wii and TiVo — backed by the kinds of players who have the clout to pressure Google, or the money to pay them — leaving everyone else to search for some kind of hacky workaround.

I understand that Google wants to squeeze some ad revenue out of YouTube, and that letting anyone and everyone access raw, ad-free content through the back end probably isn’t the best business plan, but this isn’t Hulu — it’s not like they have many powerful content providers to appease, just a bunch of teenagers with webcams. Set-top box folks: Watch your free video cornucopia dissolve on December 2.

UPDATE: YouTube’s statement:

Since July of 2008, YouTube’s Terms of Service has restricted implementations for televisions based on our APIs. YouTube has been in active discussions with various developers on how best to implement YouTube on set top boxes and TVs. There are several companies, however, that have deployed solutions, like video scraping technology, to circumvent the rules and violate YouTube’s Terms of Service. Companies that have negotiated agreements to use our APIs, like TiVo, Sony, Panasonic and Sony’s PS3 are not impacted.

So, companies like Syabas have been in violation of YouTube’s terms of service for some time now and knew this was going to happen. The question remains, though: Why couldn’t they just comply and get a deal like TiVo or Sony? Does it cost anything? Is YouTube selective? Does it just take awhile? [Syabas via Engadget via Lifehacker]