Picture-in-Picture mode is useful if you want to watch videos while you browse. Both Firefox and Opera support PiP, and some of you may be using it for that purpose. One of the shortcomings of the mode is that some functionality needs to be performed in the YouTube browser tab, as the functionality is not available in the PiP window.
What about browsing YouTube when you’re on other sites? Sidebar for YouTube is an extension for Opera and Firefox, that makes it possible to access the video service from a convenient side panel.
The add-on does not have a dedicated button in Firefox; to access it you will need to click the open sidebar button on the browser’s toolbar. You can use it without signing into your account. The add-on lists the most popular videos, but let’s face it, these are usually videos that you may not be interested in.
Signing in to your account allows you to access all of YouTube’s features such as your subscriptions, playlists, history, etc. The add-on does not support YouTube music. The toolbar at the top of the sidebar has a few buttons that you may like. It has a back and forward button on either side of the toolbar, the home button takes you to YouTube’s main page. Click the pop out button at the top to open the site in a new tab. The only thing that’s missing in the sidebar is an option to load a YouTube URL.
Sidebar for YouTube is not compatible with Firefox Containers, so even if you have a Google container and are signed in to your account in it, the side panel plugin will not recognize it. As a matter of fact, clicking sign in did nothing with Firefox Containers installed. If you don’t use containers or use Opera, and are signed in to YouTube, you will be logged in the sidebar too. The Opera extension has a refresh button at the top of the panel, which is useful and something that the Firefox plugin lacks.
The settings button takes you to the add-on’s options, of which there are just two. The extension uses mobile view to load the videos, but you may switch to desktop view from the settings page. Sidebar for YouTube blocks ads by default, you can toggle this behavior from the settings page. The bad news is the ad-blocker is very inconsistent. Sometimes it would block the ads, but it failed way too many times. The add-on’s settings page mentions that its ad-blocker only blocks basic ads, and that using a third party ad-blocker is advised.
Switching to desktop mode blocks the ads in the sidebar, and though it is inconsistent too, I think it had better results than mobile view. Sadly, that only applies to Firefox, as the desktop mode doesn’t work in Opera browser, which has the view enabled by default. So, if you see an error message that says “ERR_BLOCKED_BY_RESPONSE”, go to the add-on’s settings page and uncheck the 2nd option.
However, the plugin fails to block ads even with uBlock Origin installed. Just to clarify, uBlock Origin has no problem in blocking the ads on the YouTube website. Even Opera’s built-in ad-blocker works perfectly on the site. It does make me wonder if Sidebar for YouTube is facing a problem with ads similar to what Opera had until the recent update. If you have a YouTube premium subscription, ads aren’t going to be an issue for you.
I feel that the add-on would be impressive if the ad-blocker problem, and the sign in issue with Firefox Containers is fixed.
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