Web browser plugin for the Apple TV, anyone?

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 31, 2007

Safari on Apple TV

Having a web browser running on the Apple TV has always been on top of my list of hacks I wish somebody would do. Even better, Safari running on Apple TV. With this one application, I can browse the web, read RSS feeds, watch movies, check my Yahoo calendar and so on and so on.

There are many devices out there that attempt to connect that big plasma/LCD screen on the wall to the web. Media Center PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox360 (with tversity) and Microsoft Web TV just to name a few. But each has its own pitfalls (low resolution, bad integration, hard to implement, etc.). None of them offers an elegant solution to the problem.

Apple TV, with its elegant FrontRow interface and the ease of use of the Apple Remote, has a chance to shine here. I’m not talking about the watered-down experience like the Web TV or Opera on the Wii. Or full-blown-but-complex experience of running Internet Explorer on the Media Center PC or running Safari on the Mac mini. This is such a natural thing for Apple to do. Why bring Safari to Windows when it has absolutely no chance of winning anybody over? Instead bring it to the Apple TV and create a whole new experience in the living room.

I am seriously investigating this. I am currently looking at Camino’s source code and see how that can be turn into a plugin using AwkwardTV.org’s plugin interface. The Web Kit that Apple has bundled with XCode does not run on Apple TV and I don’t know how complex it is to modify that to work. So, I’m going the open source route at the moment.

However, I am hoping that comes September 5th, not only will there be iPod-related news but also, Apple-TV-related news. And if one of the news happens to be Safari running on the Apple TV, I will stop working this. (hey, I can dream, can’t I?)  If not, I will pursue this further. Even if it means another bounty has to be set up for it.


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  • alinardo

    Hi, this is my first post on this site but I am sure I have read them all. The only thing I think people should be working on right now is smooth mkv playback. I will happily stand corrected on this point, provided you tell me how to correct it.


  • Uh, what? You really want to do web browsing with a 5-button remote, or by maybe hooking up an external mouse and keyboard? I can’t see how any experience with the AppleTV remote would be anywhere close to useful. Even YouTube is painful, and it’s a specialized UI.

    The web browsing experience on the Wii or PS3 is about as good as it can get, because both of those systems have fairly decent input devices, and even then it still sucks. How the hell can an AppleTV do anything better?

    BackRow is a good UI for what it does, but I also wouldn’t consider the AppleTV particularly good for anything except watching TV shows streamed from my computer (recorded via an eyeTV), which is all that I bought it for. Even for that its UI is actually pretty gimpy.

  • swhitset

    All the new hacks in the world are never going to amount to anything unless someone refines them so they are easy to use. I for one would love to be able to add a USB drive, but the current method is never going to be adopted by more than a few ultra capable people. we need a gui installer type app! I guess what I am saying is… finish one thing before going off on a string of half done hacks.

  • Richard Fish


    I second that!

  • Maraklov

    @ alinardo: mkv support is mainly a problem because the appletv doesn’t have the cpu power to handle higher bitrate encodes that are frequently in mkv containers if apple did care about hd and in the future offered true hd programs from itunes, you can be sure they’d release an appletv with a better processor to run them. but at this point they probably looked at their available library and said “1GHz ought to be enough”.

  • It’s on top of my dreams for the next AppleTV’s softtware update!

  • Is there an update expected on 5th Sept ?
    What we really need is a an option to show subfolders under the movies menu. I have lots of short videos, and having them on the apple tv is a nightmare,since the organised playlists of videos on the PC disappear on the apple tv. The videos just list alphabetically, and if you don’t know the the name of the file, finding the right file in a list of 300 files is a nightmare.

  • I want this! Waaaaaanttt >.>

  • fgorina

    Reallyit it is quite easy to have CAMINO in AppleTV. Just use the Applications menu and it works.

    Anyway you must use a keyboard ans activate the mouse cursor to be really usable. The it works reasonably well.

    I have not tried to load plugins like Flash but with Quictime works OK.

  • Nathan TV

    mwahahaha –
    I’ve got firefox working on my apple tv with a usb kernel hack. Works great. Have got the following apps to work so far.
    Text Edit, Firefox, Chicken of the VNC (So I can use my atv to connect to my other comptuers), FUGU SSH, VNC, Transmission(Torrent Downloading), UnrarX (for unraring torrent movies) and SKYPE!!!

    Am in the process of getting my webcam working to try out video chat w/ skype.

    I am using the Application Launcher plugin found on awkward and use this to launch firefox then other apps w/ an application launcher.

    It’s sweet so far and when finished, I will post a img file that can be dd’d to your atv.

  • Nathan TV

    If anyone has had success with Joost, I would like to hear about how, have spent 10+ hours with it and no luck.

  • Ryan

    Yes, yes, yes! Please bring a web browser to the Apple TV! This is the main feature I really think it’s missing, and seeing how many TV networks provide free streaming video of their current shows, it would fit right in to the “TV” experience.

    Even though I own an Apple TV, I still end up plugging in my laptop to the TV to watch shows from ABC, CBS, etc. One interesting point however is that I often have to zoom in (using control-scroll zoom), so I’m not quite sure how this would work on a hacked Apple TV.

    Anyway, good luck!

  • Die Mystic Boer


    “However, I am hoping that comes September 5th, not only will there be iPod-related news but also, Apple-TV-related news. ”

    So was there any news?

  • Budda

    Not having a mouse pointer on the AppleTV means web browsing will suck in the same way it does on non-touch screen mobile phones.

    The Nintendo Wii browser works great thanks to the pointy Wiimote. Maybe that could be supported on AppleTV to make things better 😉

  • Maraklov

    @ Budda: you can get a Wiimote to work with the AppleTV as a mouse but you’ll need first a usb dongle, then enable ssh, follow this wiki article (http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Enable_Bluetooth), and use Darwiinremote (http://sourceforge.net/projects/darwiin-remote/) to set it up.

    as you can see, it’s not quite the easiest thing to set up, but we’re working to get an easier install procedure.

    also, the wiimote buttons can’t emulate the apple remote commands yet, so you’ll be using it as a mouse only.

  • I’ve just added a guide to getting firefox running on the Awkward TV wiki. Full blown Firefox running from the AppleTV via the finder menu.

  • rootentry

    well, I have already Firefox working on my iTV in fullscreen mode, but the point in having webView-based plugin is resolution independence support built-in into 10.4 (and WebKit supports!!!). I want to increase resolution of rendered pages to make it readable from sofa and at the same time to not loose details (bitmap scaling will really ugly 😉 – so here is required res-independent support).
    Another feature that would be nice to have i web browser plugin is a list of urls present first (for example like in RSS plugin) and selection of item from the list will open appropriate page – this one should increase usability of surfing (with Firefox it just start at single specified in application launch plugin start url). Or say – it could be a list of recent items with interface to manage it easily using iTV remote…

  • Techker

    Just got gen2 apple tv and man is it missing that feature!!When you use the ipod/iphone remote im shure we can get it to work as a pointer..

    maybe with the new jailbreak we can get it going…

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