It’s been 24-hours since the surprise return of the Microsoft engineered YouTube app, thought to be complacent with Google’s terms of service (TOS). The app, as we reported extensively, is essentially the same as the one originally removed but now with pre-roll ads, no video downloads, voice and upload support.

While reviews and feedback from the app have been tremendously high, one of the core features of an “official” app is stability. The idea here is that since Microsoft is theoretically abiding by Google’s API requirements, the app should ideally never stop working (unlike third party apps). However, tonight it seems to be a fairly wide spread outage of the app on Windows Phone.

We tested the YouTube app on our Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020, on both Wi-Fi and cellular, and we were constantly met with the somewhat befuddling “Something happened and we’re not sure what” error message (see below). Nothing from YouTube would load and the app is basically dead in the water.

Users in the Windows Phone Central Forums and on reddit have experienced intermittent outages with the app’s service coming and going, seemingly in a random fashion.

Preliminary analysis

YouTube Error
The error Windows Phone users are experiencing

Our first hunch would be to presume a connection, somehow, between this outage and the and SkyDrive problems that Microsoft has been experiencing today e.g. that the app passes information first through Microsoft's servers. However, upon looking deeper at the information that the app is sending out, it looks to be something more fundamental.

The current problem with the YouTube app is that it appears to be using a “revoked developer key”, which is invalidating the app:

X-GData-Key: key=AI39si5YN5ADODc3kFpbnuzyiD8JgZoo6Ni2CEbEu2P_

According to Rafael Rivera (@withinrafael) who discerned the above information and assisted Windows Phone Central, that can only occur in two situations:

  1. Microsoft forgot to update the key with the new app release
  2. Google revoked it

Google revoking it is a plausible explanation should Microsoft not have received permission to publish the app within those API guidelines. Backing up this theory is the fact that the Windows Phone Blog never did an announcement post for the return of the YouTube app, which is a bit curious. Perhaps Microsoft has been caught off guard by a Google change?

However, this is Microsoft and forgetting to update the developer key in the app is certainly not out of the purview of potential blunders by the software company. So while it may be convenient to accuse Google for this, it could just as well be a Microsoft guffaw. We’re really not sure in this case.

Assuming this is just a Microsoft gaffe, Rivera suspects the developer key is hardcoded in the app, which means Microsoft can’t fix this via a simple server side change. Instead, an app update will be required.

Alternatively, if Google revoked it, it simply means the companies have not come to an agreement and Google is ratcheting up the response to a very aggressive level or that Google has made some backend changes, affecting numerous YouTube apps.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft, who is aware of the problem, for a statement on the matter. We’ll update this post accordingly when official information comes forward.

Update: It appears that the third party app MyTube is also having issues playing videos (after multiple plays), meaning this is looking like a Google change.