You might recall that a few years ago, Amazon began banning competing streaming hardware like Apple TV and Google's Chromecast from the Amazon store because these products competed with Amazon's own streaming hardware. At the time, you might also recall that Amazon offered up the historically stupid claim that this was done simply to avoid "customer confusion":
"Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime," Amazon said in the e-mail. "It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion."
That decision has only resulted in an ever-escalating game of tit for tat that has started to bubble over in recent months. Around three months ago, YouTube decided to block YouTube from working on Amazon's Echo Show hardware, pushing the bogus claim it was due to a "broken user experience." In response, Amazon expanded its blacklist of Google products by refusing to sell Google Nest hardware as well. This was already bad enough, but the escalating game of "who can be the most obnoxious to paying customers" was taken to yet another level this week.
For a while, Amazon managed to create a workaround that directed Echo Show users to the web version of YouTube, but Google/YouTube managed to find a way to block that too as of today. YouTube is also now informing owners of Amazon's Fire TV products that YouTube will no longer work on that hardware either, starting January 1. Needless to say, this is creating a broken experience on both hardware platforms, and customers are clearly annoyed:
So Google's feud with Amazon just reached my living room. Got this screen when I launched YouTube on my Amazon Fire TV. pic.twitter.com/vtmcuBTtE9
— Cornell Ngare (@cngare_) December 5, 2017
THIS IS INSANITY pic.twitter.com/dYbi5w7pdD
— dan seifert of the house verge, first of his name (@dcseifert) November 21, 2017
In a statement, Google all but admits that the two companies are engaged in a giant game of jackass patty cake:
"We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other's products and services. But Amazon doesn't carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn't make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest's latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon."
There are numerous problems here. One being that none of this is really necessary, and that instead of settling their grievances like professionals, the two companies thought it would be a good idea instead to engage in an epic attempt at pettiness which harms openness, innovation, consumer trust, and the consumer experience. But this is also another example of how in the modern era, you don't really own the products you think you're buying, with companies more than happy to eliminate integral functionality at a moment's notice -- without much concern for the end user.
The dispute is so idiotic, it even prompted US Telecom, an AT&T-funded ISP lobbying organization, the opportunity to take a few pot shots at Google in a statement it circulated to the media yesterday:
"Broadband ISPs are committed to providing an open internet for their customers, including protections like no content blocking or throttling. Seems like some of the biggest internet companies can’t say the same. Ironic, isn’t it?"
When you're being trash-talked by what's currently the most-hated industry in America, you know you have a problem. Granted, US Telecom is engaged in some major conflations here. One, Google hasn't really clearly supported net neutrality since around 2010 or so, making this obnoxious, but not necessarily hypocrisy. Two, Amazon customers at least have the option to use other hardware, something you can't say about broadband subscribers, who usually only have access to one ISP at the FCC's 25 Mbps broadband definition threshold. This isn't a net neutrality violation, it's just stupid.
There really is no winner here. Google and Amazon could simply settle their differences like countless businesses do every hour of every day. Instead, they've decided that the best course of action was a downward spiral that punishes millions of consumers simply because the two companies' executives are unwilling behave like functional adults.