TV category added to Categorizr

Catgorizr - Now detects smartTVs, gaming consoles, and other TV based devicesAs technology progresses, we are now seeing smart TVs and other devices that allow us to browse the web on our TVs. Adding a category to detect these devices to Categorizr is something I’ve debated about. Thanks to some feedback from Eric Kim and Toni, I’ve decided to go ahead add add this new category.

As I set out to gather information on how to detect these devices based on their user agent string, I found that there was not a lot of information currently available on the topic.

There are 3 main issues I ran into when looking for data on web capable TV detection.

  • Where do I get a list of all the web capable TVs / devices that should be recognized as TVs
  • Once I have this information, how to I determine if one can actually browse the internet on this device
  • What’s the most accurate way to detect the user agent string of TV based devices that can browse the web.
The conclusion I have come to is, that for smartTV detection to be as accurate as possible, I’ll need to get feedback from people knowledgeable with these devices.
If you have any information you can share about these devices, please let me know in the comments below.

Where do I  get a list of of web capable TVs / devices that should be recognized as TVs
I’ll admit, I’m more in tune with new Android phones and tablets and Apple devices, so my knowledge of web capable TVs is limited. Wikipedia seems to have the most information that I could find on which devices I need to look at to build an accurate check for TVs in Categorizr. Based on what I found on Wikipedia, I put together a list of known smartTV devices, TV Set top boxs, and TV based gaming consoles.


  • LG ‘s ”SMART TV” branded NetCast Entertainment Access devices
  • Panasonic Viera Cast (by Panasonic), new platform is Viera Connect
  • Philips NetTV
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • Sharp Aquos Net+
  • Toshiba Places
  • AppleTV
  • GoogleTV
  • Roku
  • Boxee
  • Playstation 3
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Xbox 360

If you know of any other devices, let me know in the comments below.

How to I determine if one can actually browse the internet on these devices

Now that I have a list of devices that seem to be good candidates to be categorized as TVs I need to figure out if users can actually browse the web on these device or if they just allow the user access to internet based apps like Netflixs, Hulu, Youtube, etc. For this, the only way I know how to get this information is to get feedback from actual users. I’ve searched the web to get some information on a few of the devices, though feedback from people that actually have these devices on if one can actually browse the web on them is more valuable in my eyes.

What I’ve been able to determine so far is that the following devices can browse the web:

  • Philips Net TVs
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • Android powered Google TV
  • Playstation 3
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Boxee

These devices only have access to internet based apps and cannot browse the web:

  • Sharp Aquos Net+
  • Xbox 360
  • AppleTV
  • Roku

I’ve added keywords to catch these user agents in case there are any updates to these devices allow the user to browse the web on them in the future. While you can hack some of the above devices to browse the net, I have no information on what the user agents are for devices once they have been hacked.

Unknown if users can browse the web with these or not:

  • LG ‘s ”SMART TV” branded NetCast Entertainment Access devices
  • Toshiba Places
  • Panasonic Viera Cast (by Panasonic), new platform is Viera Connect

What about desktop devices hooked up to a tv?

Unfornately, I don’t see a way to detect this case. It would be similar to switching your monitor that your PC is hooked up to. Your still on the same device, you’re just displaying the video on a different screen. I did come across Kylo. A browser built specifically for desktop/laptop devices that are hooked up to tvs. If you are using Kylo when you desktop/laptop computer is hooked up to your TV, Categorizr will recognize the device as a TV.

What’s the most accurate way to detect the user agent string of web capable TV based devices.

With tablet devices, detection is fairly easy. For the most part you can look for the word tablet, or follow Google’s recommendation of looking for the word Android and the absence of the word Mobile. Though with TVs, there is no one keyword to catch the majority web capable TVs. Some have smartTV in the ua string, while others don’t, some use CE-HTML while others don’t. Since there is no common keyword, the best I have come up with is to look for a set of multiple common keywords amoung the devices.

Checking for the following keywords seems provides the most accurate results in detecting smartTVs, and TV based devices, with out causing false positives for other categories.

GoogleTV, SmartTV, NetCast, NETTV, AppleTV, boxee, Roku, DLNADOC, CE-HTML, Kylo, Playstation 3, Wii, and Xbox 

If you know of any clashes between these keywords and other user agent strings that should not be categorized as TVs let me know. So far in testing these against the user agents I’ve collected, results seem great. Though web capable TV’s are fairly new and seem to be in a growing market. I’m sure this list of keywords will need to be audited and updated from time to time.

What to do now

Now that we can categorize TVs, we can optimize specifically for them. TV’s provide a unique user expediences that offer different capabilities and constraints from other devices. I believe there is an untapped market for developers who understand how to create web experiences on these devices.

Google has put together some great documentation on how to develop websites for TVs.

One key point I would stress is to optimize your desktop site for TV’s, rather build a new site when developing your site for use on TVs.

Below is more information on this topic from Google’s guide to developing websites for TVs.

Build the TV version on your existing site/domain

In most cases, it’s better to build the TV optimized version of your content on your existing site (i.e. build on example.com rather than buy a new domain or TLD)

  • Simplifies maintenance for administrators
  • Keeps the brand consistent for users (they only need to remember one URL)
  • Strengthens indexing signals, such as PageRank, to the main site (rather than diluting signals between a TV and desktop version)

Lastly, TV based user agents are a moving target, like all user agents. As the smartTV market grows, Categorizr will need to be checked to make sure it’s handling new devices correctly. If you know of any issues with this device detection category or have any information you’d like to add, let me know in the comments below.