Why I Refuse to Subscribe to YouTube Red
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that YouTube needs to make money in order to cover their costs, and I also understand that content creators need support to continue producing amazing videos. It’s not that I can simply enable AdBlock, and it’s not that YouTube Red is expensive. The reason I refuse to subscribe to YouTube Red is because it’s downright insulting. Let me explain…
This may sound counter-intuitive, but if YouTube Red was purely a service that offered ad-free YouTube and nothing else, I would pay that subscription in a heartbeat. That’s right, forget the ability to download videos for offline viewing. Forget background playback and picture-in-picture functionality in the mobile app. Forget all those features and just give me ad-free.
Come on, YouTube. Stop treating us like idiots. We’re the ones willing to pay you money! Background playback is a standard, fundamental feature of any modern computing device. We’ve had it for years with practically any webpage in any web browser, including YouTube itself. Sure, picture-in-picture arrived in iOS back in 2015, but that doesn’t mean you have the moral right to charge users to unlock simple OS-level functionality. In fact, it’s against Apple’s guidelines.
Putting aside the fact that I believe it’s just a basic consumer right for a user to be able to consume media in the way they choose, you’re essentially asking me to pay you to flip a switch on the API that Apple developed. It’s insulting!
Imagine if any other app in the world asked for $10 a month in order to unlock fullscreen and windowed mode. Nobody would pay for it. Sure, you’re bundling other content with that feature, but the message it sends to your users is loud and clear - user experience is not a priority.
Right now in the official YouTube app, I can’t use any other app while playing a video. If I try to open another app or switch apps, YouTube will pause the video immediately. That is, of course, unless I pay $10 a month. This is borderline ransomware. The only reason I won’t call it that is because you’re offering a legitimate, useful service.
I think what frustrates me most is that Google touts how they want an open web, freedom and doing “what’s right”. I don’t see this reflected in the YouTube app. It’s not an incentive to restrict users from expected and basic functionality. It leaves a bad taste in users’ mouths and therefore generates a negative attitude towards the wider company as a whole.
As we’ve seen with other platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, people are more than happy to pay for content when the platform provides an amazing experience. In order for customers to feel valued, they must actually be valued. All YouTube users have helped grow YouTube to this point, and to put a price tag on basic and traditionally free functionality is insulting. We are no longer valued.
I will consider YouTube Red once they correct their ways. In the meantime, I will continue to use AdBlock and have videos play in the background via Safari on iOS. I will also continue to directly support the YouTubers I watch by purchasing their merchandise, but until YouTube stops restricting my basic consumer rights, I will continue to avoid supporting the service.
The user experience should be free, even if the content is not. Agree with me? Spread the word and let YouTube know!