Google has essentially broken the ability to browse YouTube on all Amazon Fire TV devices. If you try to browse the television optimized version of YouTube at youtube.com/tv using either the Silk Browser or Firefox app on a Fire TV device, Google has put in place a redirect that forces the browser to load the desktop version of YouTube. By blocking access to the version of YouTube made for television browsers, Google has deliberately made browsing their website an unusable experience on Amazon Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Edition televisions.
Last year, Google began displaying a message in the main YouTube app on Fire TV devices that informed customers that access through the app would be blocked on January 1st, 2018. This was due to various disagreements they had with Amazon. Despite “productive discussions” between the two companies, an agreement could not be reached between the two companies before the deadline.
Amazon’s solution for Fire TV customers to retain access to YouTube on their devices was to release the Silk Browser for Fire TV devices so that customers can browse to the television optimized version of YouTube, instead of using the soon to be blocked YouTube app. Firefox followed shortly after by releasing their popular browser for Fire TV devices, giving customers a second way to access YouTube’s website on their streaming devices.
Amazon later updated the main YouTube app for Fire TV devices to simply display two buttons that gave customers the option to browser YouTube through either the Silk Browser or Firefox. Amazon, who makes the main YouTube app for Fire TV devices, made the change a few days before Google’s January 1st deadline. Once 2018 arrived, Google never actually blocked YouTube through the main YouTube app for Fire TV devices. Customers who did not update their Fire TV YouTube app were able to continue using the app to access YouTube, even though the app continued to warn customers of the now past block deadline.
Earlier today, Google made a change on YouTube that deliberately sent customers viewing their website through a Fire TV device to the desktop version of YouTube’s website. Even if customers manually enter youtube.com/tv in either Silk or Firefox on a Fire TV device, Google redirects the customer to the regular youtube.com website with no way to get back to the TV optimized interface that they were once able to use. Customers who did not update the main YouTube app for Fire TV devices are also now being redirected to the desktop version of YouTube.
Unlike youtube.com/tv, which is made to be used with a remote control while browsing from several feet away, the youtube.com desktop website is extremely difficult to use through a Fire TV device. While Google technically hasn’t blocked access to YouTube through a Fire TV web browser, they’ve deliberately made the experience so bad that it effectively makes the streaming service unusable through Amazon’s television hardware.
About an hour or two after Google began redirecting Fire TV users to the desktop version of YouTube, they are now once again allowing access to the television optimized version of YouTube through all previous methods.