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When Google first released the Chromecast, there was much to be excited about. The thumb-size dongle allows users to easily "cast" online video content to a TV via a laptop, phone, or tablet running Chrome. And at just $35 a pop, its potential seemed great. However the drawbacks to the device soon became clear; most sites weren't properly outfitted to stream content in this way, and thus, the usage for the Chromecast was fairly limited.
That is set to change as Google officially released its Chromecast Software Development Kit (or SDK) last week. Developers are now able to create and release Chromecast-compatible sites and apps, meaning that a slew of new material will soon be available to users in the next few months.
Google announced the open Chromecast SDK release on its Google Chrome blog last week. Technically though, the Chromecast SDK was released in July of last year, but it was locked for most developers; some were "whitelisted" and could tinker around with it, but were not permitted to release any actual software for the device. For these reasons, there are currently only a paltry 15 supported apps available.
However, Google says that the now widely-available Chromecast SDK is easy to use and doesn't require developers to write a completely new app. Instead, developers can integrate the SDK into their "existing mobile and web apps to bring content to the TV," wrote John Affaki, Chromecast's Engineering Manager. It's also cheap: there's a one-time fee of $5 to register and test developed apps.
One of the newest Chromecast apps was created by Paul Arterburn. VidCast is a bookmarklet designed to isolate a playable movie file on a website and send it to the Chromecast; without the app, users mostly attempt to view a video by sending the webpage URL in which the video is embedded. That URL frequently won't load properly on the TV, or if it does, the process is very slow and clunky. Arterburn's app streamlines the process, making for faster streaming. To use it, go to dabble.me/cast and drag the VidCast icon to your bookmark. Open up a website, click the VidCast link on your bookmark, and VidCast will search for a usable file on the page. It will then send the direct video URL to the Chromecast. Keep in mind that the app only works with MP4, OGG, or WEBM files; a few sites confirmed to work with VidCast are FunnyOrDie, BuzzFeed, and DailyMotion, while this thread on Reddit lists several other compatible sites.
The SDK release also green lit at least one formerly blocked extension. AllCast is an app that let users stream video, music, and pictures from any Chrome-supported operating system to their TV, and while Google had blocked it for use on the Chromecast, the app was compatible with most media players like Roku, AppleTV, Xbox 360, and some smart TVs. Now, the app is available in beta. Also coming to Chromecast are music apps Rdio and Beats Music. Both companies tweeted that they were working on Chromecast support, according to The Verge.
Games, too, are in development. So far, all the Chromecast has is a simple (albeit fun) tic-tac toe game. Using two devices running the app, each person can stream their moves to a Chromecast-enabled TV. It's not much, but it hints at the possibility that more complex games may reach the Chromecast in the future. I
Despite this open door to content, developers don't have unshackled reign over app development. Google expressly forbids pornography, "gratuitous violence," "hate speech," and gambling in its developer program policies. That said, it'll certainly be interesting to see what developers can do with Google's little $35 piece of hardware in the coming months. Readers, do you have any greater inclination to opt for a Chromecast now that more content is on the horizon? Let us know in the comments below.