The End of ProTube 2

Posted September 3, 2017.

I am very sad to announce that ProTube was removed from the App Store by Apple on September 1, 2017. This comes after multiple requests and threats by YouTube which ultimately led Apple to suddenly pulling the app from the App Store. ProTube and many other 3rd party YouTube apps on the App Store have been targeted by YouTube with takedown requests.

YouTube first requested Apple to remove my app well over a year ago, initially just stating that my app violates their Terms of Service. This was a generic takedown request they sent to many YouTube apps at once. They later started going into more detail, even stating that I could not sell the app as that alone violates their ToS. They basically wanted me to remove every feature that made ProTube what it is – that includes the player itself that allows you to play 60fps videos, background playback, audio only mode and more. Without those features ProTube would not be any better than YouTube's own app, and that is exactly what they want to achieve. YouTube wants to sell its $10/month subscription service which offers many features that ProTube also offered for a lower one time price, so they started hunting down 3rd party YouTube apps on the App Store.

After the threats from YouTube wouldn't stop I had several options to end the dispute:

  1. Remove all the features that YouTube wanted me to remove, which would have included making the app free. This was not an option as everyone who payed for ProTube's standout features would suddenly get an app update that removes all those features, resulting in a useless app. A free YouTube app also has the risk of attracting too many users, which can cause the app to reach the daily limit of requests to the YouTube API which makes the app unusable until the next day.
  2. Try to negotiate with YouTube and find some sort of agreement. I tried this with no success. The communication was very difficult and it was not possible to get a direct response from YouTube to questions. There were threats of legal action and I knew that getting sued could cost me more than I ever made with ProTube. Furthermore, there was a risk that YouTube would turn off ProTube's access to the YouTube API which would have made the app unusable for every user.
  3. Remove the app from the App Store. This would end the dispute with YouTube, I wouldn't end up in court and everyone who had downloaded the app could still use it. While it is absolutely awful seeing ProTube getting pulled from the App Store, it was the best solution when it comes to the users that already purchased the app. I was getting screwed either way but I at least didn't want to screw my users.

Some people might suggest that I re-release ProTube 2 on Cydia. Few people even have jailbroken devices anymore and only a fraction of my user base would be able to access Cydia. Purchases from the App Store also can't be carried over to Cydia so people would have to purchase the app again. And YouTube might still come after me.

Just thinking that I won't be able to update ProTube anymore freaks me out. I put so much love into this app and I was totally focused on ProTube since I released it on the App Store. I did my best to update the app to iOS 11 as soon as I could, trying to make sure that it would keep on working for as long as possible. I did not want to let all my loyal and dedicated users down.

ProTube has been my single most successful app in terms of sold units. It reached #1 in the paid app charts in 11 different countries and the top 10 in 57 countries. When I released ProTube in November 2014 the app debuted at #12 in the US App Store charts, which is an amazing achievement by itself. The last version of ProTube (2.5.9) received over 2900 reviews with an average rating of well over 4.5 out of 5 stars. Despite the app being almost 3 years old it was still doing extremely well (which makes the fact that the app is gone now even more painful).

When I initially launched the app it had a video download feature which was a big selling point. After a couple of months Apple noticed and I had to remove that feature. It was not looking good at that time, as sales dropped and users were furious. But I kept updating and improving the app and eventually ProTube established itself as the de facto alternative YouTube app, with a big and passionate fanbase. ProTube brought some unique features, namely the ability to play 60fps and 4k videos, something no other 3rd party YouTube app has managed to achieve so far. I never expected this much success and I can be very happy that this app has had a run of almost 3 years. This success comes thanks to all the users who supported me and I am very thankful to everyone who has supported me! I had so much fun working on ProTube and I learned a lot from this project.

It's sad that I have to say this, but there have already been dozens of fake ProTube apps on the App Store: I still own the ProTube trademark, so nobody can take advantage of this situation by releasing a fake ProTube app on the App Store. ProTube 1 on Cydia is also still available.

As much as I would like to continue doing ProTube I have felt the urge to move on and work on a new project for a while now. With YouTube killing my app it is now the time to do so. I don't know what my next project will be (although I can say it will not be an app that depends on a 3rd party 😑) or when I will release it, but I can say this: I'll be back.

Thanks everybody,