YouTube says a Vision Pro app is ‘on the roadmap’

Here’s a little bit of an about-face: YouTube now says it has a Vision Pro app on its roadmap. I mean this literally, as YouTube spokesperson Jessica Gibby just emailed me the following statement: “We’re excited to see Vision Pro launch and we’re supporting it by ensuring YouTube users have a great experience in Safari. We do not have any specific plans to share at this time, but can confirm that a Vision Pro app is on our roadmap.”

This of course follows YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix all declining to allow their iPad apps to run on the Vision Pro before launch — and the last time we asked, there was no mention of a proper visionOS YouTube app coming in the future, so something’s changed in Mountain View. (One theory: the immediate popularity of Christian Selig’s Juno app for YouTube on the Vision Pro.) Gibby didn’t give a date for this road map, so we’ll have to wait and see what YouTube does here — it could just tweak the iPad app, or it could do a lot more.

One thing YouTube and Apple have not done yet is figure out support for the large library of 360 and VR video on YouTube right now — YouTube has had 3D support since 2011 and 360 support since 2016, but none of it works on the Vision Pro. (Here I am interviewing Michelle Obama at the White House in 360 in 2016!)

I asked Apple if YouTube’s 360 and 3D videos will ever work on the Vision Pro during our review, and Apple spokesperson Jackie Roy basically told me they aren’t good enough, saying that “much of this content was created for devices that do not deliver a high-quality spatial experience. In some cases, this content could also cause motion discomfort. We’ve focused our efforts on delivering the best spatial media experience possible including spatial photos and videos, Apple Immersive Video, and 3D movies available on Apple TV.”

Tough! I asked YouTube if this new app will support VR and 360 video on the Vision Pro and have not heard back yet.

Similarly, lots of new Vision Pro owners are finding that, um, other kinds of VR videos don’t work because Safari’s WebXR support is lacking right now. (There are feature flags, but they don’t appear to do much.) WebXR could also potentially be a pathway to YouTube VR support on the web, but again: it doesn’t seem to work right now.

Apple’s Roy said the company’s working on it, but it sounds like there will be limitations and it will take some time. “WebXR is still a relatively new open standard and as such it doesn’t take full advantage of the power, performance and interaction capabilities of Apple Vision Pro and visionOS,” she told me. “We’ve been actively contributing to the W3C web standards including WebXR — for example, proposing interaction standards that protect users’ privacy. We will continue to work with the community to help deliver great spatial computing experiences via the web.”

So there you have it: a YouTube app for the Vision Pro is “on the roadmap,” but the timeline is up in the air, as is the timeline for almost every kind of VR video on the web. New platforms, new problems, you know?

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