Google is threatening privacy-friendly YouTube frontend Invidious

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 10, 2023
Updated • Jun 11, 2023

The open source project Invidious has received a cease and desist notice from Google owned YouTube. In the letter, which the project team published here on the project website, Google claims that it has become aware of the project only recently.

It claims that Invidious is violating YouTube's API Services terms of service and developer policies. Google lists numerous policies that it believes Invidious violates and is asking the project team to correct the issues or shut down its service. To do so, Google is giving the project 7 days time.

How Invidious works


Invidious is an open source frontend for YouTube. Anyone may set up an instance on a web server to offer access to videos published on YouTube.

What makes Invidious attractive to users is that it lets anyone watch any public video on YouTube without advertisement or tracking.

Google appears unaware that Invidious is not using YouTube's official APIs for providing its service. As such, the project team has never agreed to YouTube's terms and can't be in violation of them as a consequence.

The project team is aware that this may not protect them from the wrath of one of the largest corporations in the world. Things may, and likely will, escalate when Google notices that the project team has not complied with its demands.

Invidious believes that Google could try and contact GitHub, the project hosting service, owned by Microsoft, to shut it down that way. There is a backup repository in place already here. Google might also go after individual members of the project team.

For now Invidious is not complying with the demand and stating that it "won't do anything" unless forced to do so, e.g., by law.

Google, who operates YouTube, has two main revenue streams: display advertising, usually in form of video ads, and YouTube Premium subscriptions. The increasing number of ads on YouTube push make some users look for alternatives. YouTube Premium is such an alternative, albeit a costly one. Other options include using a content blocker to watch YouTube without ads and block any tracking attempts, another to use a frontend such as Invidious, or third-party apps, such as Newpipe, Skytube or a YouTube Vanced alternative.

While it is understandable that a large service such as YouTube needs to generate revenue, as it would not be sustainable otherwise, a growing number of users believes that Google is taking it too far.

Now You: do you use Invidious or another third-party frontend for YouTube?

Google is threatening privacy-friendly YouTube frontend Invidious
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Google is threatening privacy-friendly YouTube frontend Invidious
The open source project Invidious has received a cease and desist notice from Google owned YouTube.
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  1. Ray said on June 12, 2023 at 12:54 am

    youtube-dl has survived the wrath of YouTube. I hope Invidious and similar projects can as well, but it will be tough. youtube-dl is mostly a command-line program and so can kind of creep under the radar, while Invidious (and their instances) are public-facing websites showing YouTube content without ads.

    There was a similar project to Invidious a few years ago that got C&D’d. I forget the name of the project and website though.

    1. leaf said on July 1, 2023 at 1:55 pm

      Hooktube, if we’re talking about the same thing. RIP. Once Hooktube went down I pretty much cut youtube out of my life besides occasionally using yt-dl. Invidious has been great for me and has helped get me a bit back in touch with society and the modern world, because I refuse to sell myself out and give youtube a single cent or bit of data to build their totalitarian dream and would sooner cut it out entirely then use their hideous and bloated main website. And besides, I have never once clicked on an ad in my life, so the fact that they think I should have to suffer through watching them anyways is insane. Modern advertisements are literally insufferable and pretty much thought-poison, memetic garbage and I have no idea how anyone can stand them.

      These mega-tech lunatics aren’t going to be satisfied until they turn the internet into the next television, god help us all. No, even worse – at least television didn’t spy on you. This is not what the internet was supposed to become. Humanity had a real chance with the internet, and as always we are letting corporate greed and legal mumbo-jumbo destroy it. Never underestimate the destructive power of human greed and human apathy..

      If invidious goes down I’m sure other alternatives will come up, there are so many people out there who are waking up to what big tech especially google is doing these days and most people I meet will openly say f*ck google and f*ck youtube. The only people who still think google is ‘cool’ are the people making millions off ad revenue. People are starting to really hate big tech so much, people will ‘find a way’ just to stick it to them. I guess google, etc is finally waking up to this fact and in a panic is trying to put the squeeze on as much as possible, which *spoiler* will only make everyone hate them even more.

      Death to google.

  2. KMC said on June 11, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    All I want is a YouTube frontend/mirror where I won’t be forced to put up/ can manually disable with their idiotic UI changes like, on mobile, this “comments preview,” and this “member recognition shelf” on both desktop and mobile

    Maybe the dev team behind Invidious could compromise and release a version of their client that incorporates ads

  3. Torin Doyle said on June 11, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Yet another reason to hate google.

  4. Anonymous said on June 10, 2023 at 10:56 pm

    These tech companies are becoming overly greedy. Its time something is done.

    1. Nameless said on June 12, 2023 at 12:30 am

      oh really? so go ahead and start a YouTube competitor and let others to leach off your business and see how you would feel when your bank account bleeds.

      1. Andy Prough said on June 12, 2023 at 7:13 pm

        >”so go ahead and start a YouTube competitor and let others to leach off your business and see how you would feel when your bank account bleeds”

        Yeah, because that’s exactly what happened with youtube. Except the part where the founders sold the business to Google for over $1.5 billion and they are all swimming in hundreds of millions in net worth today. And except for the part where Google used youtube to grow its ad slinging business massively from a $100 billion dollar market cap to $1.65 trillion.

        Which of these folks have “bleeding bank accounts” because of individuals watching their videos ad-free?

  5. NotAGoodReplacement said on June 10, 2023 at 10:45 pm

    I liked YouTube, up until about 2015-16. Then it seemed to be taken over by ‘mainstream’ media, kicking the ‘real creators’ to the curb. Plus I felt I needed more control over YouTube, then I discovered Iridium right here on Ghacks

    ( )

    A few years later (2020-21?) most of the important controls in Iridium
    stopped working on my devices. Since then I’ve been looking for a Video sharing site to replace YouTube. Two possible replacements mentioned in the comments on this article are Rumble and Odysee, but both of those platforms let hate speech run wild, with no moderation to remove such filth. Another video site that was mentioned is Peertube. I spent 30 mins there, IMHO it’s way too artsy-fartsy and or non-English speaking to replace YouTube for me. In conclusion; there is No YouTube replacement video site that works for ‘normal folks’ like me, as in folks that are not racist and or artsy-fartsy…Can anyone change my mind on this, or point me to a non-fascist video aggregator replacement?

    1. just an Ed said on June 11, 2023 at 2:51 pm

      You could simply not read the comments and enjoy the videos, in which case places like Rumble or Odysee are worthwhile. They also avoid the censorship imposed by Big Tech. It isn’t like I approve of a lot of commentary, but I prefer being allowed the choice of reading it or not. If you want seriously nutty comments try Bitchute.
      Just the fact you are commenting on Ghacks makes me wonder how you might define “normal folk”.

      1. NotAGoodReplacement said on June 11, 2023 at 3:38 pm

        I did give a short example of what I consider to be normal folk; IMHO they don’t go around hating groups of people for no good reason.

        Back to Rumble and Odysee: I was not referencing the comments on these sites. I was trying to say that a large fraction of the videos that are on Rumble and Odysee are white supremacist hate filled rants, with some even prominently displayed on their respective landing pages…Normal folks can’t and won’t support this filth by giving these sites views. Unless one supports antisemitism, fascism, racism and bigotry, one runs away screaming from video sites like these, warning all other to stay away!

    2. owl said on June 11, 2023 at 9:37 am

      > …Can anyone change my mind on this

      What do we really need?
      Was YouTube essential to life in ancient times?

      After losing it, we finally realize that it’s “an irreplaceable thing in life.”
      For me, peace and safety (peace in the world, physical and mental health, and the presence of loved ones) is everything.

      I (my family) was involved in work that required computers, but after retirement, I transitioned to a “digital detox” lifestyle. I am very fulfilled now.

      1. NotAGoodReplacement said on June 11, 2023 at 3:59 pm

        Since I’m far from a regular here, please allow me to give out a bit of myself to you all.

        I’m permanently disabled, so most of my ‘essential life’ happens online. However, I do not live on my smartphone. My current phone has a grand total of one third party app on it – an open source voice recorder. All tracking is off, I can find my way around the world w/o Googles help just fine, lol. Any built in app gets deleted or disable with all premisions revokes if I don’t like the app. I pay my bills the old fasion way, credit card auto pay with monthly statements sent to my ‘business’ email address. I use my phone to, wait for it, to talk to people! The only time I consume any mobile data is for 2FA and or OS updates. I reckon I use about 40 MB worth of data a month on my phone, so no data charges for me!

        How can I be online then? Remember that cheugy old tech they called desktops and laptops? I do. :-)

      2. owl said on June 11, 2023 at 11:33 pm

        > Since I’m far from a regular here, please allow me to give out a bit of myself to you all.

        I am deeply touched by your honest and very polite reply.
        Undoubtedly, everyone’s “essential needs” will differ depending on the reality they find themselves in.

        I have also experienced “hospital inpatient treatment” several times due to injuries and illnesses. Three days after waking up from the anesthesia, “just lying in bed” was boring both physically and mentally, and I strongly wanted to leave the hospital because I didn’t have to completely recover.
        Everything about the environment at the hospital was “air-conditioned, clean, full meals, excellent nursing system, etc.”
        However, restrictions such as restrictions on going out were mentally painful.
        So, I understand your situation to some extent.

        I am a healthy person, so the circumstances are different from yours,
        Now I read, listen to music (Internet radio: Classic FM), go to parks and museums, enjoy trekking in the fields and mountains, and observe daily life around me (changes in nature, observing plants, insects, wild birds, and other living things). looking to the bliss of the senses.
        The existence of a loving family and dinner with friends are also happiness in life.
        For all living things, the most important task is “to be able to sleep comfortably and not to worry about eating”, and reproduction is the providence (biology).
        When I think about the current situation (poverty, war damage, refugees, etc.) where even that is not possible, I am more than happy (luxury).
        Although I am a pensioner, I support (donate) to nature conservation groups and “National Geographic” for the sake of the earth and future generations.

        It may not be a useful reply to you, but it is a reply to your sincerity.
        Please stay healthy both physically and mentally.

  6. ItDontMatter said on June 10, 2023 at 10:07 pm

    I posted here almost an hour ago. How long does it take for Ghacks to show a comment?

    1. owl said on June 11, 2023 at 9:00 am

      > How long does it take for Ghacks to show a comment?

      Ghacks has been plagued with vicious and relentless trolls (hate, discrimination, disdain, propaganda, etc.) in the past. Moreover, trolls are often the first to post and reply, Ghacks have introduced “moderation” as a countermeasure. If posted contains a URL, Ghacks should also validate the URL and check the source.
      All posts are moderated by Admin Martin. As a human being, Martin needs adequate rest (sleep, rest, leisure).
      Ghacks is based in Germany, so we have to consider the time difference. Simply put, nightly Posts in German time is pending.

  7. Benjamin said on June 10, 2023 at 8:53 pm

    I try to avoid this corporation/structure when ever possible and known to me.

  8. Anonymous said on June 10, 2023 at 8:28 pm

    Sooner or later google with add drm to all youtube videos. This will break all video resolvers which get the actual video stream and no they won’t be able to make it to work again. And at the same time they will limit ads to users, (that’s why they increase them now). They will campaign it to about 80% of users who don’t use adblocks and with them on their side the 20% of users who use adblockers wii moan to deaf ears. It’s just a matter of time, google knows about marketing. They just prepare the “reasons” for it.

  9. Adblockers are fair said on June 10, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    Yeah because a dude reviewing soccer cleats really deserves yet another Maserati.

  10. VioletMoon said on June 10, 2023 at 6:38 pm

    “While it is understandable that a large service such as YouTube needs to generate revenue,” it’s also understandable that content creators may want to earn revenue.

    I rather doubt Google is protecting its own revenue–the company has so much cash flow, it’s raining cash.

    Rather, some content creators complained about “lost revenue” and Google has the legal responsibility to protect them.

    1. Anonymous said on June 11, 2023 at 12:59 am

      You obviously never studied Management.
      Management #101 – A company exists to make profit.
      Google’s primary interest is its own profit. YouTube contributor profit is a secondary consideration to that. google will use the taxation adage doing that – ‘the art of plucking the goose so as to obtain the most feathers with the least hissing’.

      Youtube will always be a target to bleed or avoid revenue. In the case of Invidious, Google may be figuratively sticking a finger in the dike before the leaks becomes serious and the dike breaks. None of us who use the service want YouTube to die (unless there is a viable alternative). If YouTube dies, Invidious goes with it.

  11. Mike said on June 10, 2023 at 6:34 pm

    Companies would not be pulling moves like this if humanity as a whole wasn’t collectively stupid enough to hand them a monopoly in their respective industries, over and over and over again.

    Humanity to corporations: “Sure, you can buy out all your competitors! That sounds great, how can society possibly lose?”

    Also humanity to corporations: “Hey, now that you control 90+% of the market, you’re acting like a tyrant and a jerk, what gives?’

  12. Anonymous said on June 10, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    threating -> threatening

    1. SteveB. said on June 14, 2023 at 10:16 am

      Pity you’re not willing to be open about your name – no good slamming others when you hide behind ” annonymous”.

  13. Anonymous said on June 10, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    In spite of being the ones writing the already abusive copyright laws, capitalists don’t actually need to have those laws on their side to censor ethical projects opposing their dictatorship, they just need to have lots more money for lawyers and judges bribery.

    Proxies such as Invidious are a well knowned answer to the numerous aggressions (privacy-related ones but not only) of big web corporations, equivalents existing for search engines (Searx), Twitter (Nitter), Instagram (Bibliogram), Reddit (Teddit)… Generally they find other, non-legal, pretexts to kill them or try to maintain them unusable enough that they never became a real threat. They already killed Bibliogram through technical means. The search engines proxies, also called meta-search engines, that are not surveillance capitalism-based but ethical instead, are hardly tolerated by the Googles and Bings, using artificial access limits to deny them permanent access under the false pretext of pretending they’re bots, while removing those limits for the for-profit ones that share their philosophy. In the case of Youtube, downloading applications (Invidious being a neighbor of them and in some sense even worse for Google), are simply forbidden in the Google Play Store, no pretext given, pure display of power.

    Apparently that was not yet enough power abuse from them and they decided to tell a few lies to the cops to intimidate those projects. The funny part is that Google is the only criminal organization in that story. And not of the petty type, rather of the billions of dollars of fine level even according to bourgeois laws, which are obviously still very lenient considering it’s human rights we should be talking about here. But it’s still the small guy benevolently fighting the giant fascist megacorp to defend our fundamental rights, who is the problem.

  14. Andy Prough said on June 10, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    >”Google appears unaware that Invidious is not using YouTube’s official APIs for providing its service. As such, the project team has never agreed to YouTube’s terms and can’t be in violation of them as a consequence.”

    That’s pretty hilarious, Google doesn’t even lawyer well. Is there anything they do well besides spreading malware to tens of millions of users through their app stores and paid search links?

    I was a super early adopter of back when there was only the one server. Google has been playing whack-a-mole against invidiousus server instances ever since, constantly using threats and rate limiting and so forth to try to shut them down. Their argument that they just “recently” heard of invidious doesn’t hold water.

    Also, as Tom Hawack said, there are already better redirect methods, the most prominent of which is Piped.

    As for shutting down the invidious github repo – that code has already been forked a huge number of times – I don’t think even if they managed to shut down one repo location it would have any real effect.

    Ultimately I moved to watching most content on odysee, which is a completely independent video platform from YouTube. There’s also Rumble and Peertube and other alternatives. Google’s heavy-handed tactics will only motivate more viewers to look for these free and easy alternatives.

  15. Yash said on June 10, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    I watch YouTube because of its content creators. To reduce data collected by Google to steal personal info and show ads, I don’t use Google account. Infact I only have old Google account and currently I use it on Fairemail with no data on other Google services. On mobile I use patched YouTube client, without signing-in, from Revanced and I also have LibreTube and NewPipe. I’m watching videos I want without giving Google any personal data and blocking ads. With Sponsorblock and Dislike Return, I’m saving valuable time watching videos. On browser in mobile and on Desktop I use Piped. Google can go F themselves. They tried shutting Vanced, it backfired spectacularly and now users can apply patches themselves. Same will happen again.

  16. Mr.Stank said on June 10, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    How does this might affect other utilities like freetube etc?

  17. TelV said on June 10, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    I used to watch youtube a lot, but by streaming videos through VLC. But Youtube ultimately found a way to block that by throttling the connections whereby videos became unwatchable. Videolan says there is no way to bypass throttling and the only other means on watching youtube is to download videos with yt-dlp. The latter works, but means accumulating video files some of which can be quite large on your own PC or laptop. That quickly eats into the available space.

    I’ve seen the name Invidious appear in articles on the ghacks site as well as on others, but I never really tried it.

    The funny thing is though that youtube doesn’t own any of the videos on its site and only functions as a streaming service. So why should I pay to watch something which was provided free of charge by the individual who uploaded it regardless of the method used to view it.

    1. nicolaasjan said on June 10, 2023 at 3:58 pm

      Instead of VLC, try streaming through MPV.
      It detects and uses yt-dlp when it’s in your PATH.

      Works well.

      1. TelV said on June 10, 2023 at 5:26 pm

        @ nicolaasjan,

        Thanks for the tip. I’ll give that a go.

  18. Tom Hawack said on June 10, 2023 at 12:03 pm

    I do use Invidious occasionally though by default all of YouTube (that is, videos, channels, playlists) here is redirected to a ‘Piped’ instance.

    Be noted that most Invidious instances include among their preferences the one to ‘Proxy Videos’ which bypasses GoogleVideo servers when retrieving a video. I have no idea if proxying contributes to Google’s irritation given that in that case the “caller” is the Invidious instance and not the user…. no idea, really.

    ‘Invidious’ instances in my experience are less reliable on the long term than ‘Piped’ ones, but that’s another topic.
    ‘Piped’ has encountered issues recently, apparently fixed. ‘Invidious’ has as well faced video retrieval problems. In both cases it’s hard to know if the culprit is on YouTube’s side or not.

    The article says it all to explain the rise of alternatives : ads and the cost of ads-free subscriptions; both are crossing the red-line, too much, too high.

    Reddit and now Google/YouTube facing the impact of front-ends on their income. I think foront-ends must remain strong and determined. As for myself, if i had been a YouTube user for many years, ever since I started using the Net, I opted for alternatives but more specifically for front-ends when YouTube became annoying with its ‘Consent’ together with heavy heavy heavy pages saturated with scripts, XMLHttpRequests as well as it seemed (still does?) with a deliberate policy to provide display embarrassments for non-Chrome browsers. Ads were handled fine then with the appropriate tools (mainly ‘uBlock Origin’ so that wasn’t my first motivation.

    They can bark as much as they will, forbid, break and tutti quanti, that won’t bring me back to Google nor to any of its services. The web is not indispensable as air, water and food : I’ll always avoid than surrendering to such companies. Always.

  19. Frankel said on June 10, 2023 at 11:23 am

    Everytime an alternative gets too popular because the average Joe starts using it, BigTech files for ToS/DMCA violations against FOSS devs.

    My personal take: Then they should paywall their site. Makes leaving it and never looking back even easier. Remember Facebook? Irrelevant today. Youtube is a terrible experience for users today. Even if you block ads there are still large sponsor segments which you need an extension for to skip them.

  20. Game, set and match said on June 10, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Hysterically funny when the lawyers are totally wrong. No use of API, no crime. F*ck off, Google. You failed. Add even more ads to YouTube, the users who love ads won’t notice or care. I am also certain there are more than two ways they generate money on YouTube, those cookies you are forced to accept do more than you want to know and the “decline all” option does not do what you think it does. How about we put our lawyers on Googles back instead? “Don’t be evil”…greedy hypocrite company

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