YouTube Go has finally been launched in India, over six months after it was announced. The beta version of the app is now available for download on the Google Play Store in India, although the title of the page still refers to YouTube Go as “Unreleased”. It seems that the app has already been downloaded 50,000-100,000 times at the time of writing this: given how much of an improvement it appears to be over the YouTube app, we expect this to grow rapidly.

Features that are offline first

YouTube Go addresses challenges of connectivity faced in India, with some fairly smart features:

  • Allows users to download videos, and choose quality of videos for downloading.
  • Allows sharing of videos offline, from app to app; it appears this will happen over Bluetooth, since the app takes permissions for controlling Bluetooth: “Allows the app to control Bluetooth, including broadcasting to or getting information about nearby Bluetooth devices”. This reminds us of MeshKit, which also allows sharing of content offline. Remember that side-loading of content is still prevalent in India, owing to poor connectivity and speeds, but things would have improved because of 4G launches, and the behavioral change attempted by Reliance Jio.
  • It allows users to preview videos before watching, by tapping on a thumbnail.
  • The YouTube Go homepage uses the devices location to determine trending videos in that area. This suggests fairly widespread usage of YouTube, which recently claimed 180 million users per month in India.

Unneccesary Permissions

We couldn’t figure out why Google needs Device ID and call information, though. The permission: “Allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by the call”. Why would Google need to know whom you’re calling? Again, in the WiFi connection information being taken, Google wants to know “whether Wi-Fi is enabled and names of connected Wi-Fi devices”. Why should YouTube Go want to know which other devices are connected on a WiFi network? Google really needs to fix its Android permissions, and how they work, for more specificity, and India needs a privacy law to ensure that companies like Google give people a choice about what data they want to share.