Who needs a YouTube app? That’s our conclusion after trying Amazon’s workaround to the popular streaming site after Google pulled YouTube from Amazon devices as part of a long-running tiff between the two tech titans.
Last month, a notification that YouTube would no longer be available through Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices starting Jan. 1 popped up, threatening to leave a huge hole in Amazon’s streaming lineup. But just last week, Amazon added the ability to surf the web and get to YouTube via a browser.
The result is a simple path to YouTube, circumventing Google’s move to pull it from Fire TV. Web browsing probably wasn’t a direct response to Amazon’s issues with Google, which owns YouTube, but it provides a convenient alternative to keep the service accessible for Fire TV users.
The first step is downloading one or both of the web browsers. Opening Firefox leads to this home screen with easy access tiles to both Google and YouTube.
On Silk, the home screen defaults to Bing search. But as I poked around, I noticed that YouTube for TV showed up in my bookmarks even though this was the first time I opened the browser.
A YouTube interface optimized for TV, the same one you would see on other streaming devices, pops up on both browsers. To sign in, YouTube prompted me to activate YouTube for TV through a phone or computer. Once that process was complete, YouTube showed the same personalized recommendations as my phone and computer.
The YouTube experience in the browser on Fire TV is simple and intuitive. Instead of a partial video window with a crawl of related videos and comments like the main YouTube app, the TV version opens videos straight to full screen. Pausing the video brings up those secondary elements like related videos.
This TV-optimized version of YouTube is different than YouTube TV, a streaming service released last year that targets cord-cutters. YouTube rolled out YouTube TV apps for a number of devices in October, but not the Fire TV.
With this workaround, Amazon appears to have stemmed any major issues that would come from Google pulling YouTube from Fire TV. But Google also has blocked the service from the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot devices, which don’t feature the same web browser workaround.
We reached out to both Amazon and Google to see if they are any closer to patching up their difference. Google hasn’t responded and an Amazon spokeswoman said there is no update, but the two sides are working to resolve their issues.
The Fire TV-YouTube kerfuffle began a couple months ago, but the seeds were planted more than two years ago. Amazon pulled Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast from its online store in 2015 because the devices didn’t work well with the Prime Video streaming service.
In September, Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show, citing a terms of service violation. Soon after, multiple products made by Google-owned Nest disappeared from Amazon’s e-commerce marketplace.
YouTube returned to the Echo Show in November, but Google pulled it again a couple weeks later. That’s when the search giant made the call to remove the streaming service from Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices due to what it called a “lack of reciprocity” from Amazon.
It appeared that tensions were starting to cool as Chromecast and Apple TV devices reappeared on Amazon earlier this month. In addition, Prime Video made its long-awaited debut on Apple TV. While Amazon and Apple seem to have patched up their differences, Amazon and Google still have some work to do.
In the meantime, in our experience, Amazon’s workaround works just fine.