I’m hopeful that Amazon and Google will come to an agreement that keeps the current YouTube app for Fire TV devices functioning before Google actually blocks access on January 1st, 2018. Amazon’s official statement on the matter ends with “we hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible,” so they’re hopeful as well. If Google does block YouTube on the Fire TV, I’m confident that there will be ways to bypass the block and continue watching YouTube videos on Fire TV devices.
There are several ways that Google can go about blocking the existing YouTube app, which is made by Amazon, on Fire TV devices. Google might structure their block in such a way that it only blocks the main YouTube app, or they might implement a more widespread block. There’s no way to know which methods of viewing YouTube on Fire TV devices will work after January 1st until Google implements their block. For that reason, I have not tried all of these methods yet. If Google does block YouTube, I’ll investigate all alternate methods further and write a followup post with more concrete recommendations. For now, here are some possible alternative ways to watch YouTube.
1. Loading youtube.com/tv in the Silk Browser
The current YouTube “app” is simply just a shortcut that loads YouTube’s TV-friendly website located at youtube.com/tv. If YouTube targets their block at only the current app, you will be able to load YouTube in the Silk Browser and have a similar experience. My new Bookmarker apps will help you access the page with a single click from the Fire TV home screen.
2. Cloning the current YouTube app with a spoofed ID
If Google’s YouTube block extends to other apps beyond the existing YouTube app, like the Silk Browser, it might be possible for an app developer to clone the existing YouTube app but force it to identify itself as a non-Fire TV device in order to bypass Google’s block. We’ll have to wait for Google to implement their block to know how viable this option is.
3. Sideloading the Android TV YouTube app
The YouTube app for Android TV devices might work on the Fire TV after the block is put in place. It would require sideloading multiple APKs in a specific order, similar to how you install the Google Play Music app on the Fire TV.
4. Third-party YouTube Apps
There are dozens of dedicated YouTube apps available that are not made by Google or Amazon that will potentially continue to work on Fire TV devices after Google blocks YouTube. Tab for uTube is one that is already in the Fire TV appstore. Smart YouTube TV is one that can be sideloaded that people are already deciding to use over the existing YouTube app.
6. Cast/AirPlay YouTube
There are numerous casting and AirPlay apps that are already in the Fire TV appstore that support sending YouTube videos from a mobile device to the Fire TV. It’s not as convenient as a dedicated app, but sending videos from a mobile device might be a good alternative. The official YouTube app for both Android and iOS mobile devices supports the DIAL open standard, so you likely wouldn’t need to use an app other than the official YouTube app to send video to the Fire TV, but if that does get blocked, there are also dedicated casting apps that handle both sides of the task that might still work.
7. Dedicated YouTube channel apps
There are literally thousands of Fire TV apps that are nothing more than a dedicated feed of a single YouTube channel. Fullscreen Inc, one of the top YouTube Partner Networks, has created over 1,500 apps for their YouTube channels alone, so you might be able to find dedicated apps for your favorite creators and not need to use a general YouTube app.
Again, I’ll post much more detailed recommendations and instructions if Google does go through with the block.