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Apple pulls ProTube from App Store following complaints by Google's YouTube

Despite it being available for nearly three years, Apple has removed a popular alternative YouTube client — ProTube — from the App Store, allegedly bowing to pressure by Google.

Google, which owns YouTube, first asked Apple to pull ProTube over a year ago on the basis that it violates the company's terms of service, developer Jonas Gessner said in a blog post. Similar takedown requests were reportedly directed against other YouTube clients.

Eventually Google insisted that Gessner stop making ProTube a paid title and disable all of its signature features, such as background playback and an audio-only mode. This would've rendered the app useless versus the official YouTube client, but since ProTube's arrival Google has launched YouTube Red, a service which includes some of ProTube's features — but for a monthly fee.

Gessner said he tried to negotiate with Google but found communication "very difficult," without the chance to get a direct response to questions. The company is said to have threatened legal action, and hanging over the process was the chance that Google would simply switch off ProTube's access to the YouTube API.

Ultimately Gessner found that letting the app get pulled was the best decision, since it would end the fight with Google while letting existing users hold onto the features they paid for.

ProTube 1 is still available on Cydia, a distribution system for jailbroken iPhones and iPads, but Gessner said that he decided against putting ProTube 2.x on the platform since relatively few people have jailbroken hardware, App Store purchases can't be carried over to Cydia, and Google might still pursue legal action.

Developers have sometimes complained that App Store rules can be fickle, making it hard to count on the store as a source of income. Last month, a group of 28 Chinese developers filed a related antitrust complaint.