YouTube Go is shutting down beginning this August, Google has announced this week. The lightweight Android app first launched in 2016 and features offline viewing and nearby sharing. Like other apps designed for emerging markets, YouTube Go includes a suite of features that take into consideration the high costs of data, poor signal strength and the prevalent use of SD cards on Android devices. YouTube Go first launched in India and later became available in more than 130 countries worldwide.
The company notes that since 2016, it has invested in improvements to the main YouTube app that make it perform better in emerging markets, while also delivering a better user experience. For example, the company has improved performance for entry-level devices or those that watch YouTube on slower networks. YouTube also plans to build out additional user controls that help to decrease usage for viewers with limited data.
YouTube recommends that YouTube Go users install the main YouTube app or visit the browser version of the platform. The company notes that the main YouTube app provides a better overall user experience in comparison to YouTube Go, and that it has user-requested features that aren't available on YouTube Go, such as the ability to comment, post, create content and use dark theme.
"Using the main YouTube app, YouTube Go users will be able to participate in creation and community and have access to an overall improved user experience," the company said in a blog post.
One of the main features of YouTube Go is the ability to download and save videos for offline viewing later, which was meant to make it easier for users who may not have internet access at all times to still be able to access videos on the platform. Although YouTube's main app does support offline videos, the feature is locked behind the company's Premium subscription. It looks like YouTube's decision to shut down Go may be a way for it to push users toward its Premium offering, which is currently priced at $12 per month in the United States and 129 rupees a month in India.
YouTube Go isn't the only lightweight app to shut down in recent years, as Facebook shut down Facebook Lite in 2020. Facebook Lite launched in 2015 to reach users in emerging markets but was later shut down due to poor adoption, and users were told to use the main Facebook app instead. In addition, Google, which is YouTube's parent company, also recently shut down the Chrome Lite mode feature that was designed to help users save internet costs.
With low-end smartphones getting better both in terms of hardware and software over the years, it makes sense for digital giants like Google and Facebook to shut down their lightweight apps, as they're no longer as necessary as they were a few years ago.