YouTube is getting ready to retire its TV-optimized browser interface, also known as YouTube Leanback, on October 2, Variety has learned. The move comes as YouTube is putting a bigger emphasis on its native TV apps, but also represents a blow to users who directly connected their PCs to their TVs.
YouTube started to inform users this past weekend that Leanback would be going away “soon.” A source familiar with Google’s thinking told Variety that Leanback was never meant to be used by uncertified devices, which weren’t capable of supporting all of its features.
YouTube first launched Leanback as TV-optimized browser interface 9 years ago. At the time, the company launched it as a way to boost tune-in rates for its Google TV platform. However, Google also made Leanback publicly available on the web, allowing users to access it from their PCs and other browser-based hardware.
Leanback has evolved over time, turning from a pure non-stop viewing experience into a more full-blown HTML-based TV app. Through that process, Leanback also turned into a bit of a work-around for device manufacturers that weren’t able to strike deals with Google. Most notably, Amazon relied on Leanback to access YouTube on Fire TV devices before Google and Amazon settled their long-running dispute earlier this year.
Google will turn off the public-facing Leanback interface on October 2. At that point, users who visit Leanback will be redirected to the regular YouTube homepage.
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This represents a significant blow for home theater PC users, who use their PCs as primary streaming devices in their living rooms. While they will still be able to access YouTube with those devices, they won’t have an interface optimized for browsing the service from the comfort of their couch anymore. What’s more, turning off Leanback will also cut off access to casting for PC users, who previously were able to launch playback of videos on their PCs from their mobile phones.