Netflix and Youtube To Take on Apple Airplay with DIAL

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Janko Roettgers from Gigaom is reporting that Netflix and YouTube are working on an open second screen protocol to take on Apple's Airplay. And it's got a slew of players onboard including Samsung, Sony, Hulu and the BBC.

YouTube and Netflix have been collaborating quietly on these efforts for months. Word first got out when some inquisitive users discovered traces of DIAL back in December. The DIAL website publicly launched with little fanfare and a brief mention on Engadget earlier this month, and now, Netflix is for the first time sharing some key details of the project with GigaOM.

DIAL stands for for DIscovery And Launch — a simple protocol that 2nd screen devices can use to discover and launch apps on 1st screen devices.

How It Works:

Suppose you discover a video on your mobile app and want to play it on your connected TV.

Without DIAL

  1. Launch the apps menu on your TV with the normal remote control
  2. Navigate to the TV app
  3. Launch the TV app
  4. Navigate to the pairing screen on TV app
  5. Launch and navigate to the pairing screen on Mobile app
  6. Input 9-digit pin on Mobile app.
  7. Tap the Play on TV button on the Mobile ap


  1. Launch the Mobile app
  2. Tap the Play on TV button on the mobile app

For app developers, DIAL helps link their 2nd screen app to their 1st screen app without requiring a manual launch or pairing process by the user.

Details for Developers

2nd Screen App Developers

If you are a 2nd screen app developer, you can write an app that leverages DIAL-enabled 1st screen apps that either your organization or a 3rd party has built. Note that some 3rd parties may keep the communications between 2nd screen apps and their 1st screen apps private.

To write a 2nd screen app that discovers and launches a DIAL-enabled 1st screen app, you will need:
  • Info on this site:
    • The DIAL Specification provides client implementation details
    • The Application Name Registry contains a list of app names
    • The Sample Implementations serve as a useful starting point
  • Info from 1st screen app developers:
    • Information about payload options, if required
    • Post launch app to app communication protocol (not part of DIAL)
Note: As DIAL is a relatively new protocol, do not assume that the presence of its name in the name registry implies it can be launched via DIAL on every device. 1st screen app implementations on devices may predate DIAL.

1st Screen App Developers

If you are a 1st screen app developer, there is nothing you must do to make your app DIAL enabled, however you may wish to accept DIAL payloads. Payloads are a container for information that can be passed to your app via the DIAL start request as URL encoded UTF-8 strings.
Accepting payloads is optional. It may be a useful way to pass additional information to the 1st screen app on startup. If you do accept payloads, ensure that you do a proper security analysis since these requests could come from an untrusted source.

To write a 1st screen app that can be discovered and launched by DIAL-enabled 2nd screen apps, you will need:
  • Info on this site:
    • Review the DIAL Specification (particularly the payload section)
    • Register your app name in the DIAL Application Name Registry
  • Provide info for 2nd screen app developers
    • Publish your payload documentation for internal or 3rd party developers (if you support payloads)
    • Publish your post launch app to app communication protocol for internal or 3rd party developers (optional)

1st Screen CE Device Developer

If you are a 1st screen CE device developer, you must implement a DIAL server on the device and integrate this server with your application launcher framework.

To implement a DIAL server, you will need:
    • Info from this site:
      • The DIAL specification
      • The Sample Implementations serve as a useful starting point
    • Info from your DIAL-enabled 1st screen app partners:
      • Whether they accept payloads
      • Whether there are any unique launch parameters for DIAL launches

License Compliance for All Developers

The DIAL license allows you to distribute the specification, as well as source code or binary implementations based on the specification. Any distribution of the specification or software based on the specification must include the copyright notice and part or all of the license. The license section of the DIAL Specification explains this in detail.


About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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