Google Just Killed The Best Thing About The Chromecast (For Now)

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Google’s Chromecast is a curious beast because it’s incredibly cheap and does exactly what it promises, but that hasn’t stopped from developers from (what else?) trying to make the $35 dongle even more useful. That’s exactly what esteemed Android dev Koushik Dutta did — earlier this month he reverse engineered the Chromecast to create an app called AllCast (nee AirCast) that let users stream stuff not just from their browsers, but straight from their Android smartphones too.

Sounds pretty great, right?

Well, thanks to a recent update pushed out by Google, AllCast doesn’t work anymore. To hear Dutta tell the tale on Google+, this was probably a calculated move to ensure that only Google-approved content providers could play.

Heads up. Google’s latest Chromecast update intentionally breaks AllCast. They disabled ‘video_playback’ support from the ChromeCast application.

Given that this is the second time they’ve purposefully removed/disabled[1] the ability to play media from external sources, it confirms some of my suspicions that I have had about the Chromecast developer program: The policy seems to be a heavy handed approach, where only approved content will be played through the device. The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly.

Dutta’s tinkering with Chromecast didn’t end there — he managed to bake Chromecast streaming support into the popular Cyanogenmod custom Android ROM in early August, though to my knowledge the feature hasn’t yet been pushed into nightly builds. In fairness though, none of Dutta’s distributed work has been built using Google’s still-in-beta Cast SDK, so there was always a chance Google could muck things up for Dutta and devs like him.

When Dutta released the first beta version of Allcast, The Verge’s Casey Newton pointed out that Google would likely put the kibosh on it. After all, Google could easily score some points with major content providers by closing off parts of the Chromecast system that would allow users to stream illicitly obtained media to their televisions, or at least show that it’s committed to controlling its ecosystem. It’s a bummer for would-be Chromecast buyers looking for ways to get more out of the HDMI dongle, but Google never said that the Chromecast would be open in the way that Android is. I’ve reached out to Google to see if they want to weigh in, and will update this post if I hear back from them.

UPDATE: A Google spokesperson just replied with the following comment.

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.