Everyone’s Freaking Out over a Blocked Chromecast App

For Chromecast to be a success, Google will need to strike a balance.

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Jared Newman for TIME

There seems to be some outrage today over Google’s decision to block AllCast, an app that let Chromecast users stream their own photos and videos to the $35 TV dongle.

The hubbub began when Koushik Dutta, a developer best-known for his work on ClockworkMod, revealed that his AllCast app had been “intentionally” broken by Google. The app had allowed Chromecast users to send photos, videos and other files to the big screen using the “Share” button on their Android phones. It wasn’t as elegant as being to press a ready-made “Cast” button in your photo or video app of choice, but it was a crude solution for one of Chromecast’s most-requested missing features.

In a post on Google+, Dutta speculated that Google would only allow approved content to play through Chromecast. “The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly,” he wrote. “The Google TV team will likely only whitelist media companies.”

Cue the opining about how Google isn’t open (as if it ever was), and the cries from disgruntled users who say they’re returning their Chromecasts en masse.

Dutta’s aggravation is understandable, and there’s reason to be concerned about Google’s decision. But some of this outrage is overblown.

For one thing, the inability to stream local files to Chromecast won’t last. In fact, Google said in a statement to The Verge that apps will be able to stream local content in the future. And you can already send local files to the television with the tab casting feature on the desktop version of Chrome–just drag a file from your desktop into any browser tab with the Cast extension running.

Furthermore, if Chromecast isn’t going to be friendly to indie developers as Dutta claims, why are Google’s app-building tools publicly available to anyone? And if Google is only going to whitelist media companies, why is Tic-Tac-Toe included among Chromecast’s sample applications? Google clearly recognizes the potential of Chromecast to go beyond music and video streaming from established media companies.

Let’s also keep in mind that Dutta reverse-engineered Google’s protocols and worked around the company’s whitelist restrictions, which were meant to block new apps until the final software development tools are available. Right now, no third-party developers are allowed to be releasing Chromecast support in their apps, except for Netflix. It’s not really surprising that Google wiped out whatever exploits were making it possible for Dutta to distribute his app.

But Dutta seems to be right about one thing, at least: Only approved content will work with Chromecast. That doesn’t mean smaller developers won’t be welcome — see Apple’s App Store as an example of a thriving indie development scene, with some restrictions — it just means that Google maintains some veto power.

Could Google use this power to block apps that enable piracy or other unauthorized streaming? Perhaps, but that might be a necessary trade-off if larger media companies like HBO and Hulu are going to develop their own official Chromecast apps. Catering to hackers and indie developers is important, but so is appeasing media companies who offer the apps that most people want. For Chromecast to be a success, Google will need to strike a balance.

15 comments
Sassinak
Sassinak

Yeesh everyone is responding to this like Google is in the wrong.. I'm sorry, but they are correct in doing this for 2 reasons:


1:  They have tried to get a foothold into media distribution, and because the platforms have been too "open" for the media companies, they are trying a different tact of keeping it closed as much as reasonably possible.. sorry, but until the big R and big M's are gone or more content comes from other sources beyond them and theirs.. then you have to play by their rules. So they have to lock it down for now. As the article points out, they have a SDK out and are working with lots of developers, but for now they have to keep it controlled, otherwise it will become another product flop.. (I'm sure we can name a few.. like googleTV for instance)


2:  They are still rolling out features, and this guy reverse engineered the details.. now I'm normally all for that, but lets get it right, this has a lot of negative potential.. say some hacker figures out a way to replicate the stream to multiple TV's within Wifi range.. well, guess what, those naughty pictures you are streaming from your device suddenly become public.

tgm404
tgm404

Newsflash, if you have a smart TV, you probably can do most of what this device can, without the device. Load the Chromecast app into your android device, and then you can use the same "casting" features, just select your HDTV or BLU-Ray device from the list.

It really looks Chromecast was just a SCAM!

tgm404
tgm404

They took so long rolling this thing out, it's quickly becoming vaporware. I bought one, and now regret it, it can hardly do anything.

It was a good idea, but the fascists @ Google locked out any good apps, so it's just junk now.

JoeUser
JoeUser

There is a big difference between "catering to hackers" and actually blocking so called "hackers." I purchased a Chromecast unit to stream videos recorded from my camera to my parents large screen TV. It is now not possible. If Google does not fix this soon, I will certainly take back the unit. 

LittleDog
LittleDog

I considered buying a few chromecasts to test out some development ideas.  Now I'm glad I didn't.  If Google is going beyond "actively ignoring" independent development to "actively blocking" independent development, the people most likely to come up with great original ideas will still come up with them -- using other devices. 

Let's face it, just about every smart device out there can stream Netflix and Youtube.  For this to do something that sets it apart from, say, Roku, it will need to do really different stuff.  If this sort of thing continues, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of that sort of stuff on, say, raspberry pi boards.

As a developer, I want transparency from any potential gatekeepers for my products.  Google can curate, but they must have public, even, and consistently applied standards for doing so.  If you follow the rules, they have to let you through.  And the rules can't tilt the tables too far in favor of one type of usage over another.

tonyhard
tonyhard

google , forget about the software the guy said you took from him to support your chromecast. Redesign a more friendly app with features that have not been dreamed yet. We at Bell Labs in the 80's did this on a regular basis using brainstorming.

WilliamD.Silverthorn
WilliamD.Silverthorn

I think that the closing paragraph of this piece is the most informative.  One should not overreact to Googles needed actions to maintain some 'veto power', otherwise the Chromecast might end up in the 'not approved by media companies' list must as the Boxee Box did.   It's great to have a hacker box, and Chromecast is not after that market.  If you want to be a media darling, supported by all the real content providers with the movies, that needs some tighter controls.   Boxee TV was their solution to this 'painted corner' for that that company, however they are now all part of Samsung so who knows the final chapter there.   Chromecast is doing the right thing .. don't rule any capability out, but do it with control.  I have my $35 unit, not a lot of function right now that I didn't already have with other apps, roku, etc. but lots of potential.   

One thing I have noticed that the Chromecast unit does NOT do, is play 3D Youtube content as 3D.   I can use a YouTube app on my samsung DVD player and play 3D content beautifully over my 3D equipment .. for some reason the Chromecast unit splits 3D content in two, so my equipment can't use it.  Hope this gets looked into.  

mattbehnken
mattbehnken

the DLNA casting still works on my smart tv for local files like Pics and vids, screen casting from mobile should be in the works for chromecast. Also, tab casting from android phones should already be allowed. Nobody wants to go to their bulky computer to cast a chrome tab.

US1776
US1776

Google needs to add local streaming into the SDK.  Like Pronto !!

This is one of the things that people expected when they purchased Chromecast.

I want to cast my cat's videos.

.

AhmadMalik169
AhmadMalik169

just as Leroy responded I am amazed that someone able to get paid $4143 in four weeks on the internet. did you read this link ᵂᵂᵂ.Duℬ40.ℂℴℳ

tgm404
tgm404

@LittleDog I have an OLD Roku that can do so much more than this piece of crap, it's rediculous. And Chromecast will NEVER be able to do as much, either.

WilliamD.Silverthorn
WilliamD.Silverthorn

Correction ... after writing the above, I played with my 3D setup and once I changed my projector to SBS mode (whatever that stands for) the 3D content on Youtube was communicating properly, just as it did via the non Chromecast Youtube app on my Samsung unit.   I also verified after making that change, that my 3D DVD's still work fine .. would hate to have to have two different 3D settings.  So now, my one objection to Chromecast is removed ... short of needing more content on this tool, I no longer have a 3D Youtube content problem (not that there is a lot of 3D content on Youtube as of this writing, but hopeful!)

tonyhard
tonyhard

@US1776 When it works I just hope your cats mug shots don't scare my lab mice

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@TrajanSaldana Comments that hurl insults instead of making substantive points make me hurl.