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Google Deliberately Slowed YouTube on Rival Browsers

April 18, 2019

12:01 pm

Google has been accused by a former Mozilla executive and current Firefox product manager of deliberately slowing down YouTube load speeds on rival browsers.

According to Chris Peterson and Jonathan Nightingale, Google was able to make YouTube run slowly on Firefox and Edge by not issuing a specific API to these browsers. While this may sound fairly inconsequential, it resulted in YouTube loading five times slower on Firefox than on Chrome.


So, is Google deliberately slowing down its services on rival browsers? And if so, what can be done about it?

Is Google Deliberately Slowing Rival Browsers?

From the allegations alone, it’s difficult to work out whether Google deliberately tried to slow down rival browsers.

However, Nightingale believes that senior people at the company make the decisions to implement changes which negatively affect the other browsers. When challenged, Google plays dumb:

Nightingale also claims that when Google launched Chrome, the company reassured Mozilla that both companies were pulling in the same direction, and that there was nothing to worry about.

Then, after a while, bugs started appearing on Firefox when using Google services. More curious still, Chrome ads appeared next to Firefox search terms.

This certainly makes it seem like Google was well aware of its actions, and was willing to try to sabotage competitor browsers to increase Chrome’s appeal. Again, there’s no definitive way to prove this, but it certainly feels like a growing case against Google.

What Can Be Done About Google’s Reach?

Sadly, not a lot at the moment. With Google controlling the services it issues, it’s free to push out updates as it sees fit.

What’s more, both Firefox and Edge use Chromium source code. Chromium is technically an open source project for internet browsers, but it is controlled by Google and powers Chrome.

This means that both browsers are, effectively bonded to whatever Google wants.

Antitrust

One drastic, but perhaps persuasive, step would be to hit Google with an antitrust case. This could, for example, call for the breakup of Chrome and Google’s web-based services.

As Google Chrome controls over 60% of the web browser market, with second-placed Safari way behind on 15%, it could be argued that it has too much control over the services and the delivery of these services, putting it in a monopolistic position.

This kind of action would require Chrome, YouTube, Google Docs, and other services to be completely removed from each other. It might limit some of the seamless convenience that many have come to know and love about Google services, but it might be a price worth paying for a fairer internet.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.