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Amazon made a huge compromise to get YouTube back on the Echo Show

Amazon made a huge compromise to get YouTube back on the Echo Show
[Photo: Jared Newman]

YouTube has returned to Amazon’s Echo Show gadget after Google disabled the service in September, but with one major difference: Instead of playing videos in full screen, the Echo Show now displays the same version of YouTube that runs on desktop web browsers. To watch full-screen YouTube videos, you must walk up to the Echo Show, tap on the video frame, then tap a tiny full screen icon say “Alexa, zoom in” after playback begins.

This is exactly the kind of experience Amazon tried to avoid on the Echo Show. As Miriam Daniel, Amazon’s head of product management for Alexa, explained to me in an earlier interview, the company made a conscious decision to not support web viewers and touch-driven menus, as a way to differentiate the Echo Show from phones and tablets.

After Google removed YouTube, citing a terms of service violation, Amazon was in a tough position. YouTube was advertised as a key Echo Show feature; with ratings and sales reportedly in decline, Amazon may have decided that a broken experience was better than nothing.

In a statement, Amazon suggested that it didn’t seek Google’s blessing for this new version of YouTube on the Echo Show. “A review was not required for this experience,” the company said. “For YouTube content, we’re simply allowing customers to access YouTube’s website.”

It’s hard to imagine the search giant being too upset about the workaround; unlike the old version of YouTube, this new format allows videos to show pre-roll advertisements.

(This story has been updated with a statement from Amazon, and to note that users can play full screen videos with a voice command.)JN