Youtube's new "offline first" product for India treats telcos as damage and routes around them

Yesterday, Google announced "Youtube Go," an "offline first" version of the popular video service designed for the Indian market where internet coverage is intermittent, provided by monopolistic carriers that have a history of network discrimination, and where people have a wide variety of devices, including very low-powered ones.

(Let's pause a moment here and note that this description of the Indian internet/tech situation could just as easily describe the US situation!)

The idea of Youtube Go is that users can choose to download their videos in one place (like the office or home, where they have unmetered or cheap broadband) and watch those videos somewhere else (out and about on mobile internet). The service treats bandwidth as precious, letting you preview videos before you download them, and letting you default to low resolutions for expensive network contexts.

Most interesting of all is that the service allows users to share their downloaded videos with one another, using peer-to-peer distribution over unmetered, device-to-device Bluetooth networks. This is nothing short of amazing, because it represents the worst nightmare of the media companies that Youtube is so desperate to partner with that they've press-ganged Google into breaking the web to suck up to them.

Google is locked in a deathmatch with network providers around the world; these companies want to hold their customers to ransom and use them to blackmail the companies whose services those customers value into paying bribes for "premium carriage." A future in which carriers get to pick the winners online is deadly for Google, because they'd end up in a bidding war against Apple, Facebook, etc, whose massive capitalization is an attractive nuisance to the carriers, who perceive an opportunity to raid those piggy banks.

But with enough capitalization, the internet companies can route around the carriers: they can build services like Google Fiber, and products like Youtube Go, assuming they can recruit the entertainment companies to join them in fighting the telcos. Entertainment companies sometimes are telcos, thanks to mergers like Comcast-Universal, so this is by no means assured.

Here are some of YouTube Go's most notable features:

Find and discover relatable videos right on the home screen: YouTube Go homescreen features trending and popular videos in your area, so that you'll find and fall in love with new videos that you and your community care about.

Preview videos before you save or watch: Not sure if you want to watch the video? On YouTube Go when you tap on a thumbnail, it'll trigger a quick preview of the video, giving you a better sense of what the video is about before you decide to save or play it.

Choose your resolution when saving or streaming videos: Whether you'd like to save a video for offline viewing later, or stream it now, you can see and choose the amount of data you'd like to spend on that video.

Share videos with friends nearby: Share videos with friends and family nearby without using any data. You can send and receive videos instantly and offline with others using the YouTube Go app.

YouTube Go: YouTube reimagined for the next generation of YouTube viewers
[Johanna Wright/Youtube Official Blog]