Sunday, September 01, 2013

Use Facebook to Watch YouTube Videos on Roku

Like countless other Roku owners, the lack of a native YouTube channel is irritating, to say the least. Don't worry, I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and whine about how frustrating it is, or rant about why I think things should be different. Instead, I'm going to tell you how you can use Facebook to watch YouTube videos on your Roku.

So Many Workarounds: Some Good, Some Not
You've probably spent more time than you're willing to admit trying to find the easiest way to play YouTube videos on your Roku. But, depending on how technically savvy you are, how powerful your computer is, and how much patience you have left after scanning pages of Google search results and reading irrelevant forum posts, those other methods might not be for you. 

This is why I'm going to tell you how I've been watching YouTube videos on my Roku, using methods that are about as simple as you can expect, considering the fact that you're intentionally circumventing official Roku policy. The company seems pretty serious about this, too. Search for news about the VideoBuzz channel and you'll find reports about how Roku shut down the channel for streaming YouTube videos. 

Plex: Easier Than You Think, Nothing To Download 
I'm a busy guy, and I don't have the time or patience to learn how to use complex software just so I can watch YouTube videos on my television. Plus, since my computer is a few years old and seems to be in a bad mood a lot, I don't want to download and install any gigantic programs unless I absolutely have to. I did, however, successfully install the Plex Media Server and was able to watch the movies stored on my hard drive through the Roku. I was actually very impressed with the features of the Plex software and how it handled my movie collection. 

But, we're talking here about watching YouTube without installing the Plex program. I stumbled across an article on mkvXstream that described how to watch YouTube videos, or any other videos, by using the Plex Media Queue . To keep it simple, you add the Plex bookmark or Chrome extension to your browser, then click it when you're on the webpage with the video you want. The video gets added to your Plex Media Queue, which you can view with the Plex channel on your Roku. Also, your media queue comes with its own unique email address, so any video links you send to that address are automatically added to your queue.

Twonky: Android Airplay
The second method described in the article involved the use of Twonky , an Android app that will "beam" videos to the Twonky channel on your Roku. Since I'm never far from my phone, this seemed like a viable method of getting YouTube videos on my television through the Roku. The app is sleek and professional-looking, but it didn't always work. 

The Twonky app presents you with a nicely arranged grid of common internet video sources, including YouTube, Vimeo, AOL, and many others. The concept is simple: Use the app to find a video you want to stream to your Roku, then tap the "Beam" button that appears beside it. Once selected, the Twonky channel automatically opens on your television and begins playing the video.

However, many of the videos on those sites were unable to be displayed by Twonky. I found that frustrating, especially since I arrived at those sites through the app. Regardless, I estimate that Twonky worked approximately two-thirds of the time. Also, it seems there's a problem with the app processing videos that are longer than one hour. Shorter YouTube videos were beamed to my Roku without a problem, but longer videos resulted in error messages.

Facebook: The Perfect Solution
I'm going to assume that you have a Facebook account, which is how you ended up reading my article. In case you didn't know, there is a Facebook channel on the Roku. But, the Roku Facebook channel isn't designed to be a fully functional interface. Instead, the channel can display a slideshow using images and videos from your news feed.

Now, here's the part you've been patiently (or not) waiting for… In the "News Feed Videos" category, you'll see rows of square icons and thumbnails arranged in that familiar Roku style, having been pulled from your Facebook news feed. You simply select the video you want to watch, no differently than the way you select any other video on a Roku channel. They will play full screen, including the YouTube videos posted by your friends.

But, how do you watch YouTube videos that you want to see?

All you have to do is post the video on your own timeline. It's that simple. Really.

Using your computer, tablet, Android phone, iPhone, or whatever other device you've got, just make a new post and add in the YouTube link. After a minute or two, the video you just posted will appear in the "News Feed Videos" section of the Roku Facebook channel.

I love the simplicity of this method because it's easy, familiar, and I'm already using Facebook on my phone, tablet, and computer so there's nothing new to learn. Taking this one step further, you can even restrict the visibility of that Facebook post to "Only Me" so there's no need to explain to friends or family why you keep posting random YouTube links.

Initially, I wondered if the video would still be visible on the Roku Facebook channel if I made the post private, and I was pleased to find that it was still there and still functioned as expected.

One thing I noticed, which you can also see in the photo above, is that the thumbnail images for the YouTube videos don't appear. The black square icon with the grayish-white circles never goes away. I have no idea why, and I don't really care either. I'm just happy that I can quickly and easily watch YouTube videos on my Roku, and now so can you. 

Article originally published on Yahoo Voices (now closed) - 09/01/13