Google Strongarms Vanced Ad-Free YouTube Clone For Android And Forces Shutdown

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Google's YouTube video platform operates on a model where users can either watch videos for free with ads or pay a monthly subscription for YouTube Premium to remove ads and unlock additional perks. However, there are a number of unofficial tools for avoiding YouTube ads, such as ad-blockers, front-ends, video downloaders, and modified apps. Modified apps are particularly notable for providing a full YouTube in-app experience on mobile with extra features. Other tools like YouTube front-ends are more privacy-focused, but lack features that require a Google account, such as the ability to comment, like, or make public playlists.

The Vanced app for Android, which is likely the most well known modified YouTube app, supports Google account sign-in and all the features of the official Android app, but comes with a slew of extra features, such as ad-blocking, an AMOLED black theme, volume and brightness swipe controls, and an auto-repeat toggle. The Vanced app grants non-paying users an experience similar to YouTube premium, as Vanced not only blocks ads, but also gives users the ability to play videos in the background or in Picture-in-Picture mode. Additionally, Vanced restores some features that have been removed from the official YouTube app, like the dislike counter and full video quality controls.

As a modified YouTube client, the Vanced app goes against the YouTube and Google Play terms of service, which now seems to have finally spelled doom for Vanced. Yesterday, the official Vanced Twitter account tweeted that Vanced has been discontinued and that the download links will be taken down in the coming days. It wasn’t initially clear why Vanced was to be suddenly discontinued, but the developers were more forthcoming after some confusion.

About half an hour after the initial tweet went live, the Vanced Team posted the following message in the announcements channel of the Vanced Discord server: “For everyone asking why, it was due to legal reasons out of our control.” An admin from the Vanced Discord server later sent a message to The Verge saying, “We were asked to remove all references to ‘YouTube’, change the logo, and remove all links related to YouTube products.”

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Tweet announcing the YouTube Vanced NFT

Based on these further statements, it seems that Google sent the Vanced developers a cease and desist letter. Some members of the Vanced community speculate that the developers drew negative attention from Google by releasing an NFT monetizing the YouTube Vanced brand. The Vanced developers drew a lot of flak over releasing the NFT and initially appeared defensive, but eventually deleted the tweets announcing the NFT and published an apology. Even so, releasing an NFT of the Vanced logo, which strongly resembles the YouTube logo, and associating the NFT with the YouTube name was probably a bad move on the part of the Vanced developers, from a legal perspective.

That said, we may never know exactly why Google moved to force the Vanced developers to discontinue the app. The developers have stated that “Currently installed versions will work just fine, until they become outdated in 2 years or so.” However, the Vanced app relies on the YouTube API, and we may see Google change the API to shutdown Vanced for good.