Amazon makes the YouTube “app” for the Fire TV, not Google, and that’s very important

Now that Google has decided to block access to YouTube on the Fire TV starting next year, there are many heated discussions about who’s to blame, Amazon or Google, for this mess. I’m not here to point fingers, but I do want to clear up something that many arguers are getting wrong. The YouTube app for Fire TV devices is made by Amazon, not Google. That is a very important distinction that highlights how far Google is going to combat Amazon and hurt consumers in the process.

The word “app” is in quotes in the title of this article because the YouTube app for Fire TV devices is not really an app in the traditional sense. It is essentially just a bookmark that loads the TV-friendly version of the YouTube website, found at youtube.com/tv. The “app” is made by Amazon to provide an easy way to view the YouTube website on Fire TV devices because Google refuses to make a YouTube app for any of Amazon’s hardware.

Google is obviously within their right to not make an app for the Fire TV or any other device they deem unworthy of their development resources. This is very common when it comes to streaming video services. Apple doesn’t make iTunes Video apps for Android, Netflix doesn’t make an app for Razer’s Forge TV Android TV box, Vudu doesn’t make an app for Fire TV devices, Google doesn’t make a Google Play Video app for Apple TV, and there are many other examples.

The very important difference with Google’s decision to hurt Fire TV users is that they are not simply deciding to ignore the Fire TV, like many other video services do with devices they don’t want to make apps for, but rather, they are actively going out of their way to block their otherwise public website. As far as YouTube is concerned, the Fire TV YouTube “app” is simply a browser loading a website.

Come January 1st, if Google blocks the Fire TV from accessing youtube.com, they will be deciding which web browsers can access their public website based on what manufacturer made the device running the web browser. If you think the end of net neutrality is bad, this behavior is worse. It’s no different from if Netflix decided all Macbooks could no longer access netflix.com because they didn’t like Apple, or if Disney decided that all Android phones could no longer access espn.com because Google pissed them off.

Google’s decision to block the Fire TV from accessing youtube.com is far worse than a company deciding to simply not develop an app for a platform, which is how so many people are seeing their decision. Let’s hope, for the sake of all consumers and the open web, that other companies do not follow in Google’s footsteps and block public websites based on the hardware being used to run a web browser.

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89 comments
  1. Charlie says:

    My first or second reaction is net neutrality and claims from big tech they will do no harm. Not when money is one the line.

    • Ichijoe says:

      What does this have to do with Net Neutrality? How is this different from say (as an extream example) Freeflix who have the ability to mirror Netflix @4k, without those bothersome Subscription Fees? Do you think Netflix should just roll over and, deal with it, or do you believe they have not only the right, but the duty to shut that **** down ~Negan style~?

      If your a rational Person (as I suspect you to be), you would pick the latter. So again, I would like to ask you how is YouTube any different? This is clearly a case of a trespassing Application, and I believe Google has the right to close the Door in their face.

      So let Bezos and, Pichai sit down and work something out… I mean it’s not like Amazon, and Google can’t sit together is some kind of Harmony. ’cause we have the nVIDIA Shield TV. But, alas that might actually cost Amazon some mony, that they would have them out the Door. By trying to reverse engineer Google’s new YpuTub Code… Again.

      • Heather c says:

        Umm… You tube is free. There’s the big distinction. It’s free everywhere, on any device, to watch anything, including the shit you think should be shut down lol so yea..there’s that

      • MarkyR74 says:

        You clearly did not read the article did you? It states, the App Amazon made is NOT an actual app. All it does is open the mobile You Tune website, it is not an impeaching app… it is not an illegal app, it is the EXACT same as google banning all iPhones from accessing the You Tube website!
        This is disgraceful behaviour by google because it can’t milk you for data to sell, spam you with adverts or directly sell you apps and make money if you use an Amazon device.

        • xnamkcor says:

          YouTube is not an ISP. They are not limiting the internet, they are choosing who accesses their servers.

        • xnamkcor says:

          You did not say “ISP”, but the good news is, it still applies. Denying entry or requests to pull information for a server is not on the internet. Net Neutrality concerns the internetworks that make up the internet, not the gateway between the internet that leads to a specific server. Google can deny access to their server at a junction that is not on the internet, thus not regulated by net neutrality.

  2. Fire TV 2015 says:

    So it is likely that the new silk browser will not be able to open youtube website either next year? How will Google do that? By reading hardware fingerprints?

      • AR says:

        wouldn’t it be just as simple as hacking a browser to send a spoofed
        hardware report? or would you need to spoof your hardware and OS at the root level , i remember in like 2011 i was going to spoof my old intel i3 laptops
        hardware ID to report as a newer chip/set to install the newer intel wireleless display drivers, i never ended up bothering but it would have allowed features that intel blocked on lower chipsets to get you to upgrade to new laptop such as streaming copyrighted content and less lag
        not sure what it involved in windows or how involved it would be to spoof and android device to report different hardware though

        • SomeGuy says:

          Yes, initially, but if Amazon actually tried to do it, but then things would just escalate from there. Google would simply figure a way to authenticate more rigorously, or do something more damaging, like block AWS IPs from accessing Google APIs.

          Things will get ugly quick if this escalates.

  3. Dean says:

    So if the web site is a public URL for the YouTube “leanback” interface, what’s to stop someone independent from creating a new FTV app (or sideload android app) that just hits that web site? If necessary, spoof or obscure the device identifier telling what device it’s coming from?

    Browser extensions do this all the time to make it look like you’re coming from a Mac or some other browser.

    Anyone know a good app developer? Elias? :)

  4. Craig says:

    I see what you’re saying Elias. An open website should be open to all on any device. But Amazon was just asking for it…and this one single time? I don’t mind em getting burned. Yep! It sets dangerous precendent. I get it. But Amazon kept fooling around and got burned by “Fire” pun intended. So now? If Google is demanding Amazon sell their hardware and implement Google Cast into their apps for the return of YouTube to Fire TV, like the agnostic online retailer Amazon should be? Then it simply needs to happen. No excuse for Amazon to pull this crap! They owe Google some respect for the simple fact that they’re using their Google’s own operating system. Google Cast doesn’t cost 30% fees to Play Store for purchases. It’s Amazon being greedy and/or lazy. Maybe this will motivate em. Until then? Nvidia Shield, Google Home and Spotify for me and Fire TV in the drawer.

    • Dave says:

      Amazon doesn’t owe google anything, google is being ***holes. They are evil, youtube is a ruble website. Amazon is a store can sell what they want, I don’t agree with them not selling google products but that is there right. Google has no right to block a device from youtube unless it blocks ads or something like that

      • Kmh65 says:

        Huh? How does amazon have a right to control what products they carry but google has no right to control who accessed the content they own?

      • Pete says:

        How is this not Google’s right to prevent a set of devices from using their services? How is this any different from an app with a service being restricted only to Samsung devices? Google doesn’t filter search results when it comes to googling up links/reviews about FireTV but Amazon refuses to sell Google products and on top of that? If you search “Chromecast” in Amazon, your first result is a FireTV and there’s an additional ad recommending you to use the “All New FireTV”.

  5. Ian King says:

    Yes, a clear violation of net neutrality principles. Will either the FCC or FTC notice?

    • xnamkcor says:

      I’d say it has more solid roots in trade laws, not communications law.

    • hegemon13 says:

      Net neutrality applies to internet service providers (or did). It does not apply to websites or companies that use the internet. This is super crappy of Google, but net neutrality does not apply here.

      • Adam says:

        Agreed hegemon, but it is a case study in how a company could, and will, abuse consumers if it has the capability to.

        Google blocking a competitors customers gives us a taste how Time Warner cable could block Netflix customers.

        This Google/Amazon fight isn’t a net neutrality issue, but its similar in all the important ways.

        • xnamkcor says:

          It’s very similar to the divide between wanting to regulate businesses and a more laissez faire approach. And people have been debating that for decades. Not much new. Just that the internet is involved.

          • Adam says:

            The fact that its the internet makes it a little new.
            As in no other development short of the Gutenberg press back in the 15th century has infiltrated so many facets of basic everyday life, and is likely to have such unforseen far reaching influence as the internet.

            Not the automobile, not the steam engine, not even the germ theory and vaccines. Maybe TV, but then I don’t do my banking on TV, nor does my doctor renew my prescriptions on it.

            Information sharing, and the ability to restrict it to the benefit of one party, regardless of its effect upon untold others, is an unprecedented power if left unchallenged. Think about it, every connection is subject to slowing or outright restriction by the ISP. Your banking, your entertainment, your credit card, your bosses ability to pay you, your doctor’s access to your records.

            Your own browsing ability. Conceivably, every site you visit is subject to having to negotiate a rate to transmit to you through your ISP. Amazon pays your ISP enough, you don’t get access to Craigslist.

            That, in its scale and impact, is new.

  6. Paul T says:

    There’s absolutely nothing stopping people from writing their own YouTube “app” and I fully expect to see them available for sideload very quickly. Amazon might even allow them on their appstore, as clearly they aren’t friendly with Google.

    There is a _bit_ more to it than just a webview to youtube.com/tv, though. The YouTube app also intercepts and redirects remote control commands to the website. But I wouldn’t expect that to be a lot of work to implement.

    • Rob says:

      I don’t think the app is the problem, since Amazon makes the app for Fire TV, rather the problem is Google is blocking Fire TV devices from accessing YouTube content. At least that’s how I’m reading into this. Is this not right?

  7. xnamkcor says:

    Can anyone who has installed google play services and the real YouTube Android app confirm if the block affects that?

    • AFTVnews says:

      YouTube is not blocked on the Fire TV yet. It’s supposed to happen on January 1st, 2018 if Amazon and Google don’t come to an agreement by then. If YouTube does get blocked, I’ll be sure to test and write about all of the possible workarounds.

      • AR says:

        what are the restrictions currently with the Youtube “app” and Google?
        i get some cast options from the youtube app on my nexus for my fire stick
        i just got a GH mini because i couldn’t resist trying it for $20
        now i wonder if it is currently possible to get the GH to cast to the fire stick just by my making a voice request to the GH
        i don’t think it is but that is funny how they allow casting to the fire stick from the android app but not from the GH , pretty sure the fire stick does not show up in the GH app

        • The Brain says:

          That is because the YouTube casting to the Fire TV is made through the DIAL protocol, meanwhile the Google Home makes use of the proprietary Google Cast.

  8. clocks says:

    I’m assuming Google gets the full ad revenue from ads played in Youtube via FTV? If so, then Google is shooting itself, just to try to inflict damage on Amazon.

    But as I said in the other thread, I give it 3 week to so, and someone will have an APK we can sideload that will not only give us Youtube, but it will also block the ads.

    • xnamkcor says:

      If you go through the process of installing about 5 APKs in a certain order and rebooting after each install, you can have google account and google play services on AFTV. No root needed. And then you can install the real versions of apps like YouTube and gmail. The Play Store itself doesn’t work, but any so that needs Play Store to be installed will have no issue with it.

      So, we already have that, just minus the ads removal.

    • Jack Smith says:

      Google needs to do this to stop Amazon anti competitive behavior. Heck Amazon has now pulled Twitch from the Roku while YT is in the Roku.

      Google should have done this 2 years ago and not just rolled over for Amazon.

  9. Ron says:

    Certainly not the first time content has been blocked for a specific group.
    For example, when CBS and Time Warner Cable were having a dispute a few years ago, CBS.com blocked streaming access for Time Warner customers. Not just cable tv customers, but anyone who used TWC as their isp regardless of whether they had tv service or not.
    That situation didn’t seem right to me, nor does this YouTube restriction.

  10. Terry says:

    So if Amazon changed the browser identifier to ‘say’ it is a Chromecast when accessing YouTube would Google be able to do anything at all to block it without breaking their own devices? Ha. Problem solved!

    • Steve says:

      Funny enough I was thinking the same thing, it’s just a matter of someone building a shell that identifies the Fire as a Chrome browser or a Android TV box.

      • SomeGuy says:

        Google’s taken a fairly extreme step here. If Amazon tries something cheeky like that, they’ll just escalate even more.

  11. Paul T says:

    Yes, the FireTV YouTube app shows all ads, assuming the user hasn’t rooted his FTV and installed an adblocker of course. But that applies to androidTV also.

    @xnamkcor: I don’t have that setup, but I would assume it doesn’t. Note that on my ShieldTV, the YouTube app is absolutely identical to my FireTV2. They both use the same HTML5 webview now– it isn’t a native android app anymore. This changed maybe 6 months back.

    • AR says:

      how do you install an adblocker on a fire tv ? do you have to have the xposed framework and install an adblocking xposed module like youtube adaway like on android or is there some other way?

  12. K Barlow says:

    This probably wouldn’t legally be a violation of net neutrality since google isn’t doing this as an ISP. (in the case of google fiber though I’m not so sure) But in anycase I’m sure they had their lawyers look at it first.

  13. NashGuy says:

    The distinction between accessing content via a dedicated app versus a browser configured to look like a dedicated app (when it actually isn’t) seems to be splitting hairs to me. It’s OK for a company not to make an app for a competitor’s device to access their content but it’s not OK for the company to withhold their content from an app devised by the competitor for the express purpose of accessing that content? Hmm. Not sure about that. At any rate, Google could always take down their youtube.com/tv website with the leanback UI and only offer that kind of UI through dedicated apps that they provide.

  14. Peter says:

    It seems kind of similar to what Google did w/ Windows Mobile/Phone. They actually did publish some lame Youtube app, but went out of their way to stop developers from writing apps that hit Youtube from WM. When MS developer a great app for Youtube on their own, Google wouldn’t let them publish it. Admittedly it was never blocked outright, but it was hobbled as much as they could manage. So not really surprised that this is going on w/ Amazon now. Admittedly, there’s a big fight going on w/ Amazon selling or not selling Google’s products or not working with Google services, but the behavior still doesn’t surprise me. :(

  15. Chris says:

    This isn’t a violation of Net Neutrality, as Google is not a common carrier in this situation. They are a content provider. And under current copyright laws, can allow or block whomever they want from their content. No different than amazon only allowing prime members access to prime streaming video. Or other sites you may have been to that don’t allow chrome, or firefox, etc. Or, don’t allow an older version of the App. The only recourse is to complain to google and not use their products. If enough of a stink is made, they may change their minds. But there is certainly nothing wrong or illegal about the owner of a website deciding who can view it. Every subscription/membership based website does so.

    • Ichijoe says:

      10pts to Grifendor! This Man gets it do you?

    • hegemon13 says:

      You’re half right here. Google is a platform provider here, not a content provider. Content is provided by those who upload content to YouTube. Google does not hold copyright on that content, the creator does. They just provide a platform to host it. You’re right about this not being net neutrality, though. It sucks, but it’s not the same thing as a common carrier interfering with the data being sent on the network.

  16. Dayton says:

    Will we be able to bookmark Youtube on the fire tv browser?

  17. Jon Fonda says:

    This move by Google only further solidifies the ever increasing body of evidence of Google’s greed and their lack of any consideration or conscience towards their current customers. If we band together and boycott all things related to google, the decrease in revenue will certainly convey our disaproval over their impendimg actions as well as their overwhelming level of greed.

    • Jack Smith. says:

      Jon,. This is on Amazon not Google. Amazon anti competitive behavior had to be checked and good Google is doing it. Amazon has now pulled Twitch from the Roku.
      I
      Google should have done this 2 years ago when Amazon banned Chromecast and apple TV on their marketplace

  18. Mewtwo says:

    About a year ago Google did the same thing to blu-ray players. If your Blu-ray “app” gets a “error 400 – Your Client has issued a malformed or illegal request” that is the reason.

    • arrowrand says:

      Actually, no. Google stopped supporting version 2 of the YouTube API which these older devices used.

      Everyone was given over a year’s notice.

  19. carter johnson says:

    Time to fire up your ad blockers to explain this to Google in terms they can understand- $$$!

  20. Jack Smith says:

    Amazon is to blame. They banned Chromecast and Apple TV from their marketplace. Now Amazon has pulled Twitch from the Roku.

    Big Amazon customer but their behavior is anti competitive and hope Google pushing back can straighten out Amazon.

    • LBJ says:

      Amazon pulled the official Twitch app but never blocked other ways for roku users to access twitch. Google is no saint and if they have opportunities to be anticompetitive or deceptive or screw with search results, they have had no problems doing it so far. Amazon has been well within its rights.

  21. Tampa8 says:

    I can’t sort out where to put blame to be honest. It seems like it started with Amazon by not selling some products but I don’t know what Google may not have implemented.
    What I do know is this is not anything to do with net neutrality. Youtube is a product. Netflix is a product. Neither has to allow their services to be accessed if they don’t want them to be. Net neutrality would be the exact opposite, an internet provider keeping a service from being available to customers. (More complicated that is the basics however)
    I do think there is no question you will see apps made available that will work, or do what I did with my Amazon stuff and make them “Googled”

    • hegemon13 says:

      Well, technically, Amazon did that after Google booted the Amazon app store app out of the Play Store (for likely legitimate TOS violations). It’s been a pissing match for a while, and I’m just sick of it.

  22. Brian H. says:

    I totally see Google’s side with Amazon pulling their competition off their site. So Google is taking away Amazon’s right to advertise as a stream box or stick that carries Youtube. Making less appealing.

    Funny thing is, what they are doing now is exactly what the major networks did to Google TV when it was released. Blocking Google TV devices from being able to access their free episodes from their sites. https://www.techhive.com/article/208521/ABC_NBC_CBS_Blocking_Google_TV.html

  23. Robert M Katz says:

    Is this gonna effect the Fire tabs if you already have the Google play store installed on one?

  24. Name says:

    The future, Google Services available only on Google Branded Devices. Google this Sucks, make nice and don;t do this to your loyal Android Users.

    • Ichijoe says:

      Ahhh with context to the issue at hand though… Amazon’s Fire line DO NOT run Android! The run a fork of Android in which they call FireOS. So there you go.

      • LBJ says:

        Android is open source. Google can’t say a damn thing about what Amazon does with it. That has nothing to do with what Google is doing now nor is it a justification for Google’s behaviour. They may be annoyed that Amazon managed to create a successful Android platform without needing to integrate their proprietary elements, but Amazon is well within its rights to do so.

  25. Keith says:

    I could definitely see Amazon doing the same thing if they owned YT.
    Im not taking sides. They’re both hurting consumers with virtual monopolies.
    IMO though,this isn’t a smart move on Google’s part. Fire TV is the most popular streaming device. So they’re gonna lose potentially millions and millions in ad revenue.And not if but WHEN Amazon rolls out its own website where people can upload and share content,Google might deeply regret their actions here. Probably the only thing stopping Amazon from doing this now is the fact that YT has a HUGE headstart but if people don’t have any choice other than to watch “Fire Tube” (lol) … eventually itll threaten Google’s business.
    I know it seems like its always been here but go back just 10 years and very few knew what YouTube was. Up until 5 years ago, no one was watching it on their TV.

  26. Anonym.3ddy says:

    “Not here to point fingers but/highlights how far Google is going to combat Amazon and hurt consumers in the process” lol.

    I happy support both companies although in my opinion Amazon stated this whole thing when they pulled off Chomecast devices of their site (granted they are within their right, just like Google pulling support for the youtubez on FireTV devices.

    But let’s be reasonable here, as much as I live amazing Amazon and it’s service. IMHO Amazon is being Abit greedy here, not only are they basing their devices on Google’s AOSP to almost directly compete with Google’s. Amazon not only didn’t provide access to Prime video on Google’s Android for the longest time, no Chromecast support either. And on top they decided to pull off competing Google devices of the Amazon site!?!? I was like WTF Amazon!! Hence I stopped buying Amazon home entertainment/multimedia devices and just got Chromecast/Audio/Home for my home.

    I hope this ends soon and when it does it’s going to be good for the customers. IMO it would be wise for Amazon to just stop being a bunch peacocks just play nice and compete.
    Cause in the end it just hurts the consumers.

    Altho now most my multimedia is done through Google devices, I see this hurting amazing Amazon more than Google in the end. Cause I can use PRI on my TV and I am still not buying nor recommending FireTV anything to anyone plus most smart TVs have Prime video or consoles.

    I still support both Google and Amazon but Amazon is not b in very nice on this one. Just my 2 cents.

  27. Dan Dutra says:

    No sympathy for Amazon on this one. They blocked the Nexus player and MiBox from using the prime video APK, and sent nasty letters to sites hosting the work around. They’ve actively blocked their content on competitor devices and now someone in their league is punching back. Everyone could use a good humbling now and then.

  28. Christopher Loughrey says:

    It’s Amazon’s fault. Amazon can’t expect Google facilitate the sale of Amazon’s products by allowing free access to its services on Amazon products while Amazon refuses to sell Google products on Amazon even though it sells other competitor products such as the Roku on the platform. One of the many reasons anyone would by the Google Show is to watch Youtube products, so Amazon is profiting from a free service provided by Google while it takes an anti-competitive stance against Google. If Amazon stopped producing inferior products then it would have nothing to worry about. I side with Google. Google supports market competition, which economics dictates is a good thing for consumers, while Amazon insists on being anti-competitive which is a bad thing.

  29. Rob says:

    If they can’t work this out I will pick up another Nvidia Shield. My 2nd Gen Fire TV is fine for the Bedroom, but no YouTube is a deal breaker. Besides, I still haven’t forgiven Amazon for moving that annoying ad banner from the top of the menu to the third or 4th row (?). I really hate that banner :)

  30. Fred_EM says:

    .

    Maybe Amazon plans to break Google’s video / vblog monopoly.

    Create a mess, create a really huge and epic fuzz
    and then offer a similar service “as a consequence”.

    I mean, you can’t possibly get any better attention from the masses
    spanning over weeks and month.

    Maybe all this is done intentially and is full of purpose.
    And Google just falls into the trap Amazon has put out for them.

    .

  31. Aleksey Zimin says:

    Thank you for the reference to https://smartyoutubetv.github.io/en/. My daughter is very grateful, because the annoying message about youtube ceasing to work is gone!

  32. Johnny Lumber says:

    In 3 years of owning the firestick I have watched Youtube maybe 3 times. I don’t give a rat’s a$$ whether YouTube is accessible through the firestick.

    • stephana D says:

      Its not just the fire stick , its going to be all of amazon products.. so if your kid has a fire tablet you will also be SOL.

  33. Juan says:

    Will this affect the “cast” function too?. For example i have the Fire Stick and the Fire 8 HD tablet. I received the notification of the termination on the stick. Will i be able to cast Youtube videos from the tablet to the stick?

    • SirBH says:

      You won’t be able to stream youtube anymore from your fire tablet or phone because youtube app won’t be available on the fire stick or fire box. This is bad news for all.

  34. SirBH says:

    The youtube app is very important for me. I actually use the youtube app on television more than Kodi. Kids really enjoy youtube on the television with their youtube kid shows and music videos. I hope they fix this issue.

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