YouTube Go is probably not an app that many of our US readers will be familiar with, given its unique focus on the developing world, but it scored well more than 500 million downloads in its six year existence. It’s dead too. Youtube recently announced The app will shut down this August.
YouTube Go heralded Google’s next billion users plan in 2016. If you’re as big as Google and you have “most internet users” in your customer base, the best way to grow is to attract more people to the internet. The result was several Go branded products targeting low-end devices with limited internet access. One of the largest developing markets was India.
With the shutdown of YouTube Go, YouTube cites improvements in the main YouTube app as the main reason. The company says the main app has seen “improved performance for entry-level devices or those watching YouTube on slower networks.” According to YouTube, the main app also has “an overall better user experience [and] offers features not available on YouTube Go that many have been asking for, like the ability to comment, post, create content and use dark themes.”
YouTube Go’s headline feature for offline video access is not mentioned in the community post. YouTube Go was actually a wild departure from the normal YouTube formula, as it catered to users with intermittent internet access. In 2016, Go users could actually download and save YouTube videos for later offline viewing. The idea is that if you don’t have internet access at home, you can visit a place with internet and download videos for later.
In an attempt to make YouTube video sharing viral without the internet working, you could even share those videos offline — the app could create an ad hoc network between two YouTube Go devices, allowing for local file transfers that much faster than the internet. The offline videos of course came with some DRM and would self-destruct if you don’t connect to the internet regularly.
According to YouTube, the mainline YouTube app is powerful enough that “Go” is no longer required, but what about the offline video capabilities? It doesn’t sound like these are coming back. YouTube says it’s developing “additional user controls that will help reduce mobile data usage for viewers with limited data,” but that doesn’t sound like offline usage or sharing features.
The main YouTube app does support offline video, but that feature is locked behind the “YouTube Premium” paywall, and it sounds like the plan is to push that more aggressively to users. YouTube Premium introduced in India in 2019 at far cheaper prices than what the company is charging in the US. YouTube Premium in the US costs $12 per month, while in India the program costs 129 rupees per month, or about $1.69. Just four months ago, Google introduced yearly YouTube Premium plans in India for 1,159 rupees ($15.20 for the whole year).
The free availability of offline videos through the Go app was a significant blow to YouTube Premium’s selling point, but now it looks like Google is “fixing” that problem.
Listing image from YouTube