YouTube Vanced, a popular mod of the official YouTube Android app, is dead. The project announced its discontinuation over the weekend. The project leaders are being weirdly coy about why the app is shutting down, but The Verge confirmed that a cease-and-desist letter from Google is the reason.
YouTube Vanced, which was created in 2017, is a mod of Google’s Android YouTube app. The developers decompiled Google’s official YouTube app, added additional features, and distributed the resulting code. The primary appeal of Vanced was the ad-blocking feature (the name is YouTube “AdVanced,” but without the “ad”—get it?) and background playback. Along with the copyright infringement of redistributing Google’s proprietary code and infringement of the YouTube trademark, you could consider Vanced a form of piracy since it was essentially a cracked version of the YouTube app that enabled most of the $12-per-month YouTube Premium features for free.
Vanced didn’t just block ads, though; it also added a bunch of community-requested features like a darker dark theme, SponsorBlock integration, and video quality preferences. In addition, Vanced re-enabled YouTube’s removed “Dislike” button and got rid of the YouTube Shorts UI. Team Vanced also released “YouTube Music Vanced,” which made similar changes to the YouTube Music app. Vanced was, of course, not allowed in the Play Store, so an open source “Vanced Manager” app could check for updates, install both Vanced apps, and install a modded version of MicroG so you could log in with your Google account.
Over its five-year lifetime, Vanced was so popular that it once accidentally showed up in an official Samsung video. It’s not clear why Google took so long to kill the app, and there are still plenty of popular alternative YouTube clients, like the FOSS app NewPipe, that Google isn’t going after. Just last month, Team Vanced pulled a provocative stunt involving minting a non-fungible token of the Vanced logo, and there’s solid speculation that this action is what drew Google’s ire. Google mostly tends to leave the Android modding community alone, but profiting off your legally dubious mod is sure to bring out the lawyers.