Just after Christmas I was browsing through my Facebook feed, and something on the official Microsoft Social Networks Feed page (or Microsoft Feed) caught my eye. It was an application that Microsoft proclaimed to be “the best free YouTube Downloader tool”. Now, downloading videos from YouTube has never been something that was on my radar. That’s mainly because I’m not a big YouTube user, and, secondly, I have always pondered whether it was actually legal. So not wanting to get on the wrong side of the law for computer usage abuse again, I try to stay away from legally questionable internet related acts.
Now before I actually start talking about the application itself, i want to discuss the legality of downloading from YouTube. In most of the EU, including the UK, it is illegal (well at least it is according to computer active), unless you have the uploader’s permission or some special form of exemption (like writing a review for an Indian/American tech website). In the U.S. and Canada it is actually legal, but it is actually against the YouTube Terms of Service to download content from the site unless a download facility is provided by the uploader (specifically a download button). Now this clause in the TOS is strange because YouTube doesn’t actually support native downloading of content at all. So I guess my lawyers can argue that the TOS is invalid (I must mention that to them when the MPAA and RIAA come after me for writing this piece). I guess a disclaimer is required then, (lawyers are expensive) so here goes:
Downloading any copyrighted content from the Internet is illegal in most countries, unless you have explicit consent from the copyright holder to do so. For the purposes of this review, I will only be downloading content from my personal channel (and no, you can’t have a link).
Now on with the review!
The application I’m testing is called Aiseesoft Free YouTube Downloader. It’s a very basic piece of software and downloaded very quickly. The user interface kind of reminds me of what would happen if Windows Media Player 7 and MusicMatch Jukebox 6 got put into a blender for a couple of minutes. It has buttons for creating a new download and managing current downloads. There are some adverts on the right (in this version) and a small media player on the left side. The center frame displays active and complete downloads, and there is a right click menu which mimics the “action” option in the menu bar at the top.
Downloading content should be an easy 3 step process. You click the “new download” button, copy the full URL for the video you want, select the destination folder, and hit “OK”. You will notice I said “should be an easy 3 step process.” Granted, adding video to the download queue is as easy as described, but actually getting it to download anything has, in my testing, proved impossible. This could be a configuration issue with my system, or it could be YouTube is actively blocking the program on their end. I did try downloading some content from MetaCafe, one of the other supposedly supported sites, but I got the same results. The program just seems to sit in a constant waiting loop and never seems to achieve its advertised goal.
Normally at this point I would give a summary of the pros and cons, but this time out there isn’t really any point. Like all similarly imaginatively named applications, this one is completely useless. It may be easy to use, but ease of use is worthless if the product doesn’t actually work. I’m also very disappointed with Microsoft for advertising an application without actually testing it first. This is definitely one to avoid.