Despite Amazon now selling the Chromecasts again and being in a “productive discussion” with Google to try and keep YouTube access on the Fire TV next year, the main YouTube app on the Fire TV continues to display a message saying the app will no longer be available starting January 1st, 2018. With today’s release of Firefox for Fire TV and today’s update to Amazon’s Silk Browser, there are now two very good alternatives to accessing YouTube on the Fire TV if Google goes through with blocking the main app.
If you load youtube.com in either FireFox or the Silk Browser on a Fire TV device, you will see YouTube’s mobile-optimized website. While that version of YouTube is perfectly usable on the Fire TV, by moving an onscreen cursor around, it’s certainly not ideal or as good as the main Fire TV YouTube app.
However, if you load youtube.com/tv in either FireFox or the Silk Browser, you will see YouTube’s television-optimized website, which looks nearly identical to the interface of the main Fire TV YouTube app. That’s because the main YouTube app on the Fire TV is just a browser that loads the exact same television optimized version of YouTube.
Loading youtube.com/tv in either web browser on the Fire TV is not as good as using the official app, but it’s pretty close. Amazon made the Fire TV’s YouTube app, so they’ve tweaked it so that YouTube’s television-optimized site works perfectly with the Fire TV and the Fire TV remote. Without those tweaks, you get minor oddities when visiting youtube.com/tv in Firefox or Silk, such as the onscreen prompts to press keyboard buttons for certain actions.
When Amazon first released their Silk Browser for the Fire TV, it did not work well with YouTube’s television-optimized site. Even though the site was made to be used with a remote, the Silk Browser still forced you to use the onscreen cursor to navigate the site, which made parts of the site unusable.
With today’s Silk Browser update that adds compatibility with the new Fire TV 3, Amazon has also optimized the Silk Browser to no longer use the onscreen cursor for navigation on youtube.com.tv. Instead, if you’re using the latest version of the Silk Browser on the Fire TV, you can now use the remote control directional buttons to navigate YouTube’s television-optimized site. Firefox on the Fire TV also has this optimization and if you select the YouTube icon from Firefox’s “Home” screen, it also automatically loads youtube.com/tv instead of just the regular YouTube website.
If Google does block access to YouTube through the main YouTube app on the Fire TV and does not block access through the Silk Browser, Amazon could theoretically further optimize the Silk Browser so that using it to access YouTube would be identical to the current YouTube app. Even if they don’t go any further to optimize the browser for YouTube, the current version of the browser is pretty good as-is.