YouTube's HTML5-based browser solution for TVs will "soon go away" as the company transitions to TV apps.
From HTML5 to apps
Consider the current Smart TV landscape for a moment. Most of these platforms are based on a browser solution, which is reflected in TV apps. Oftentimes, apps are simply web pages wrapped in an icon. But that may be changing.
YouTube is pulling the plug on its browser solution for TVs. It was launched in 2010 as 'Leanback' and is based on HTML5. It was designed to give TVs (with embedded browsers) and HTPCs access to YouTube via a browser but it has also been used as a foundation for some YouTube "apps" on Smart TVs over the years.
- "This version of YouTube will be going away soon. You'll still be able to view youtube.com, but you can get an optimized experience on a supported device. Check your device app store to see if the YouTube app is available for install," the company said.
YouTube is instead transitioning to apps developed for the specific TV platforms. These apps are available for free via the app store in the TV, so the decision to phase out the Leanback interface will most likely have limited consequences. However, TV users with an HPTC or a Raspberry Pi may need to start searching for a different solution.
In the footsteps of others
In the early days of smartphones, companies such as Facebook developed universal solutions based on HTML5. Many of these companies later refocused on native apps.
The TV market seems to be taking the same route. Early HTML5 solutions are being phased out in favor of native apps for the most popular platforms. As attempts at building TV platforms on browser solutions falter, more advanced TV operating systems take over. As a result, app quality should improve. App companies are no longer building for the lowest common denominator.
YouTube says that the 'Leanback' browser solution for TVs will cease working "soon" but did not provide a firm date. You will still be able to access youtube.com via an embedded browser in a TV but the user interface will np longer be optimized for TV. YouTube has a list of supported TV devices (with apps) here.