Google hasn't provided a clear answer on whether Chromecast will eventually let users stream their own local videos and music to the TV screen. But if early updates for the $35 dongle are any indication, the company doesn't want third-party developers trying to deliver that functionality. The most recent Chromecast update has broken support for AllCast, an Android application that previously allowed users to stream their personal media to a TV. AllCast (also known as AirCast thanks to a trademark dispute) could play back files stored in a phone's gallery, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Developer Koushik Dutta accomplished the feat by reverse engineering the Chromecast's code. He'd released several betas of the app, even planning a release on Google Play, before Google's latest software update broke things — "intentionally" in Dutta's opinion.
How 'open' will Chromecast be?
"The policy seems to be a heavy handed approach, where only approved content will be played through the device," he says. "The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly." Officially, Chromecast only supports media from the Google Play store, Netflix, and YouTube. The company has a staked interest in actively controlling the user experience (and what content can be streamed) if it hopes to round up new partners like HBO and Hulu Plus.
Google exec Rishi Chandra emphasized that point in an interview with The Verge following the product's release. "If you want to do the model we talked about, streaming from the cloud, I need your full cooperation. I can't just go pull content from the cloud independently from you working with us." But he also voiced support for Chromecast's tab casting feature, which essentially gives users limitless viewing options so long as they're watching something in a Chrome browser. "Our stance right now, what we're enabling, is no different than an HDMI cable connecting your laptop to your TV." So it's easy to understand the confusion on exactly where Google stands in all of this. We've reached out to the company for more information on the software change and its thoughts on third-party developers tapping into Chromecast.
Update: Google has responded to our request for comment, and any fears that the company may bar playback of local media appear to be unfounded. "We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content," a spokesperson tells The Verge. Google notes that its Google Cast SDK is still in "early days" and may change significantly before an official release reaches developers.
Google says it aims "to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available." Dutta has admitted that he reverse engineered the Google Cast protocol to make AllCast possible, but it seems he may have another chance to do things the proper way once a full-fledged SDK arrives. The company's full statement is below.
We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content. It's still early days for the Google Cast SDK, which we just released in developer preview for early development and testing only. We expect that the SDK will continue to change before we launch out of developer preview, and want to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available.