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Last updated: November 8th, 2023 at 18:06 UTC+01:00
Google is on a crusade to make ad-blocking on YouTube a thing of the past. The company recently made its efforts to block ads on YouTube global; users can now watch three videos before they have to disable their ad blocker or modify it to allow ads on YouTube. Most ad blockers no longer work on YouTube, and users have to resort to hacks such as watching videos without logging in or trying out the few ad blockers that still haven’t stopped working.
In addition to ad blockers, ads on YouTube could also be skipped by using modified versions of the app. YouTube Vanced was the most popular one for Android smartphones and TVs, as it blocked ads and gave users access to other YouTube Premium features. Google used legal means to get the app shut down last year, but there are other unofficial modified versions of YouTube that are still in circulation.
Now, those modded versions could also stop working, thanks to a new experimental Android WebView Media Integrity API that Google is exploring for WebView, a tool in Android that allows opening of webpages inside apps. This new API would allow websites to check the integrity of your device and block access if your device is detected to be modified; for example, bank websites could block access on rooted Android devices for security purposes.
WebView is widely used in the Android app ecosystem, but since it opens webpages inside apps, there is possibility of fraud as app developers can potentially modify what you see when a webpage is opened. That’s where the new API will come in: websites will be able to check a device’s integrity to make sure they aren’t opened in unsafe environments or modified to cause harm to the end user.
Unfortunately, that ability to make modifications is exactly how WebView is used by some modified YouTube apps to get around ads on the platform, and the new API could pose a problem for them as YouTube would be able to detect what app you are using to watch videos.
Google will start testing the Android WebView Media Integrity API in early 2024, and that will probably be when we will find out if it affects modified YouTube apps. To be fair, blocking modified apps is ideally a good thing as far as security is concerned, but with many already up in arms about Google making it harder to block ads on YouTube, people’s inability to use modified YouTube apps to avoid ads could invite even more criticism.
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