The official YouTube app is good enough for most Android users including me. They don’t want too many features and they don’t complain about the lack of several features. But there is a different lot that wants far more than what YouTube offers, so these people look for unofficial YouTube alternatives such as NewPipe.
NewPipe users unable to play videos
For the uninitiated, NewPipe is an open source and unofficial YouTube app with tons of amazing features such as the ability to download videos, download audio only, ad-free streaming, accessing YouTube’s premium-only features, play videos in Kodi or another external player, select audio format, and much more. Another reason it’s so popular is its small size of just 6MB.
Folks at Piunikaweb report that the NewPipe app appears to be broken and users are unable to play videos. Apps like NewPipe parse YouTube pages for the content. It means even a tiny change in YouTube’s servers could cause trouble for the unofficial apps. NewPipe is based on another popular open-source software youtube-dl.
The unofficial YouTube alternative doesn’t use the YouTube APIs or Google’s framework libraries. It parses YouTube’s pages to fetch content so users can access them without having to sign-in to their YouTube account. For the same reason, you can also use it on devices that don’t have any of Google’s services installed.
It’s worth pointing out that NewPipe isn’t available on the Google Play Store. It won’t be easy for developers to bring it to the Play Store. It is distributed by F-Droid, a Play Store alternative.
So, what’s the fix?
F-Droid said in a tweet that a temporary solution is to downgrade to v0.14.1, which means you have to uninstall the latest version first. But Piunikaweb says it could still cause trouble when playing newer videos. While unofficial apps could experience problems at any time, the developers behind these apps often stay informed and alert. So, they are able to roll out a fix quickly.
#Newpipe 0.14.2 can't play YouTube videos anymore. Downgrading to 0.14.1 seems to work for the moment. (Need to uninstall the latest version first.)
The problem is fixed upstream in version 0.15 which will be on fdroid (1/2)
— F-Droid (@fdroidorg) January 19, 2019
Youtube-dl has made the necessary changes on its end to play newer videos. Soon thereafter, the NewPipe developers rolled out a hotfix build of v0.15.0. But it doesn’t adhere to F-Droid’s signing protocol. It means if users want to update to v0.15.0, they will first have to uninstall the existing version.
In the future when you’ll try to get back to the F-Droid’s build, you’ll face problems again due to the mismatch in signing protocol. Fortunately, the NewPipe developers are working on multi-signature support, which will eliminate any such problems.
If you do want to update the v0.15.0, you should first export your existing data by going to Settings > Content > Export database before uninstalling the current version. Once you’ve installed the new version, you can import the database from settings.
Unofficial alternatives are at the mercy of YouTube
YouTube frequently makes changes to its platform to bring new features and optimize the user experience, and every change could hurt the alternatives that rely on it for content. The Google-owned service recently announced that it was removing the ability to automatically share user’s YouTube activity on Twitter and Google+. The feature, which had been around for years, allowed users to share their activity to the linked social accounts without having to visit those platforms.
A few weeks ago, YouTube changed its algorithms to clear spam accounts from the platform, which resulted in many creators witnessing a drop in their subscriber count. The company had removed 1.67 million channels and 7.85 million videos from the platform between July and September last year. It has also been adding new features such as YouTube Stories – which is similar to Instagram Stories – to encourage community engagement.