YouTube Vanced Finally Shuts Down as Google Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter Ending Operations

Popular YouTube client, YouTube Vanced, that allowed users to enjoy an ad-free experience on mobile for free has finally come to an end. Possibly succumbed under Google’s pressure, today, the Vanced team officially announced that it will be shutting down the app permanently. All download links and pages will be taken down and there will be no way to download the app after a few days. According to the developers, this decision was taken due to “legal reasons“. Before this, you could download the app (APK) from the Vanced website on Android devices.

It was only inevitable

The app has been under scrutiny for a while as it technically wasn’t the most legal thing out there. Whereas the users loved it, YouTube certainly didn’t as it went against the basic philosophy (and ToS) of the platform: ads. Creators also questioned its ethicality as their ad revenue would be completely cut off through Vanced. On top of that, YouTube Vanced had a lot of extra features and goodies that enhanced the experience even further.

Most of those were part of YouTube Premium, such as Picture-in-Picture overlay and the ability to play videos even with the phone locked, but Vanced offered all these for free. And it had further customization options not seen in the official YouTube app as well, like a true black theme. There’s even a SponsorBlock API that automatically skips intros, outros, ads, self-promotions, and sponsors that are part of the video and put in there by the creator themselves.

Therefore, Vanced was most likely under Google’s radar for a long time, they just never bothered going after it because it was mostly a niche application. The userbase, while passionate, wasn’t anything notable to a business as large as Google so it wasn’t worth going through all the legal troubles to purse this case. There simply wasn’t enough of an effect that would warrant taking action. However, during the past year, Vanced grew exponentially as word got around, and the downloads skyrocketed to the point where it must’ve become impossible for Google to just ignore it.

Wait, NFTs are involved?

There also weren’t strong grounds to take legal action as the goal of the Vanced developers was never to make any money or profit off of the app, instead it was a simple modding project aimed to help the community. Vanced did accept donations, but that doesn’t count as profit. Therefore, a barrier stood in between Google just simply telling Vanced to halt their operations. While it isn’t clear what exactly lowered this barrier, current chatter and speculation says that it can be attributed to the Vanced NFT that the team minted as a joke.

As expected, this attempt at humor backfired instantly with severe backlash from the community. Vanced apologized for this but what they might not have realized at the moment is the second-hand damage already done legally. This NFT charade might have just given Google the grounds to seek legal action as selling an NFT based on Vanced, which itself is based on YouTube, constitutes as making profit off Google’s property and enough of a reason for the company to take legal action.

 

 

 

Vanced NFT tweets | @aseldesu

But, again, this is just speculation and we don’t know for sure it this is the case. It very well could be that Google found some other loophole to exploit or that they just had enough evidence in general to pile up a strong case regardless of the Vanced team’s external activities.


It’s important to note that, originally, the Vanced team never explicitly mentioned that Google or YouTube pressured them into shutting down Vanced; “legal reasons” are vaguely cited as the cause behind all this. But I don’t think we need the intellect of a rocket scientist to figure this out for ourselves. — Update: The Vanced team has confirmed that Google sent them a cease-and-desist letter, more on this below.

Prior to the actual confirmation, it was basically next to confirmed that Google was involved in the discontinuation of Vanced as it grew in popularity. In fact, it was a common notion within the community to not mention the app as much or it would garner too much attention forcing those in power to take notice. Google already forced music bots off Discord that would play songs from YouTube last year, so it makes perfect sense that Vanced would see a similar fate.

Message from the Vanced Telegram channel announcing the closure of operations. Here, the second edit to the message mentions legal reasons as the basis for the discontinuation.

Cease (and desist) the operations

After the news initially broke out, The Verge reached out to the Vanced team on Telegram and they were told that Google sent Vanced a cease and desist letter recently. According to an admin on the channel, Vanced was “asked to remove all references to ‘YouTube’, change the logo, and remove all links related to YouTube products“. The Verge has asked Google for comment on this directly and we’ll update the article accordingly if anything comes up.

Sadly, the modding community can’t just make another Vanced either, at least not quickly as Vanced was the result of years of hard work, labor and love that translated into a mature and polished app, better in every way than the stock one. Worst of all, Vanced is a close-sourced project which is rare amongst these niche apps and services. This means that someone else can’t just access the source code and continue what Vanced started on their own. As long as the code is sealed behind closed doors, it will hard to replicate something as close to perfect as Vanced.

That being said, the app is expected to work for almost two years if YouTube doesn’t make changes to its API before that. If you already have Vanced installed, it will continue to work for now. For what it was worth, Vanced was truly one of the best apps one could have on their phone and its absence will certainly be missed. So long, legend.

Huzaifa Haroon
Born and raised around computers, Huzaifa is an avid gamer and a Windows enthusiast. When he's not solving the mysteries of technology, you can find him writing about operating systems, striving to inform the curious.

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