Back when the news that the YouTube app would be pulled from iOS 6, I conjectured that Google would be using the built-in hooks in Apple’s OS to send video links directly to its own standalone app. Now that the app has been released, this behavior has been confirmed by my own fiddling and, earlier this morning, by Federico Viticci at Macstories.
When you tap on a link to a YouTube video, it opens automatically in YouTube’s new third-party app. This occurs whether you open it in an app like Tweetbot or directly from Safari. If you tap and hold a link, you’ll be presented with the option to copy the link or ‘Open in YouTube’.
Interestingly, we’ve been seeing intermittent pop up notices that ask us if we want to open the video in the app after we’ve already clicked on the link but before the app opens. So sometimes it’s seamless like it used to be and sometimes it’s treated like a document-based third-party app URL handoff. There are a couple of other oddities, like the fact that it doesn’t open up Youtu.be shortlinks from iMessage to the app, as pointed out by reader James Colman on Twitter.
Because the video is handed off to Apple’s built-in player when you tap on a play button, embedded videos watched directly in Safari still play outside of the app. It’s only YouTube links that open in the external app.
It’s unclear at this point whether the hooks have been altered in some way or whether the new app is using the old URL scheme and capturing those taps as it used to. When you played a YouTube video in iOS 5, it offered the same auto-open or hold-to-choose options you see above, but it opened in Apple’s app. The embedded YouTube behavior is unchanged.
This behavior effectively slips the YouTube app from Google right into the slot that Apple’s app took up. Without the app installed, videos play directly in Apple’s video player. Whether this behavior will remain the same in the final version of iOS 6 will be an interesting thing to watch. If it does, Google should pick up a healthy share of advertising dollars for video links that can open in its own app, gaining access to its new pre-roll ads.
If Apple changes the behavior on the device, Google will be stuck with native app use video viewing only, which will severely limit views in its own app and therefore ad money. I don’t think that Apple will pull that card here, though, so this should be a good thing for Google.