Creators of YouTube Vanced, the popular modification of the official YouTube Android app, have announced the project’s discontinuation after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Google.
Created in 2017 by accessing, modifying and redistributing the code from the official YouTube app, YouTube Vanced provided users with the additional features of YouTube Premium for free. These include the ability to play videos in the background or with the screen locked, and the in-built ad-blocking from which the app derives its name (YouTube “AdVanced” – minus the “ad”).
On top of features available to Premium users, Vanced also added highly-requested features that were not offered by the official app. Among these were a re-enabled version of the public “Dislike” count which YouTube removed in November 2021, a darker dark theme and SponsorBlock integration which enabled users to automatically skip sponsored advertisements in videos.
It is unclear why it took Google five years to respond to the app legally, considering Vanced was an unambiguous case of copyright infringement by distributing Google’s proprietary code and infringing on the YouTube trademark on top of what could amount to piracy by providing YouTube’s paid service free-of-charge.
Luckily, there remain multiple options for people looking to access features like ad-blocking and background playback. If you don’t mind not being able to log into your Google account (though still being able to import your subscriptions), then free and legal open-source apps such as NewPipe offer an easy-to-access upgrade to the YouTube experience.
If you want to still be able to interact with your official Google account, your options remain diverse, though more complicated. Despite the accelerating trend of online sites encouraging people to access their services through their own proprietary mobile apps, one can still access most online services through a web browser (such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera).
Using a web browser to access YouTube (as one would on desktop) can give you access to all the above features and more. Open-source mobile Chromium browsers (built using the same core as Google’s Chrome) such as Kiwi and Bromite give mobile users access to the same browser extensions available on desktop, opening up a wide choice of ad-blocking services and extended functionality.
While it does not offer desktop extensions, the Brave browser offers background video playback and ad-blocking out of the box, making it a good choice for people looking to enjoy those features without messing about with add-ons.