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Netflix and YouTube to Take on Apple’s AirPlay with DIAL

Apple’s AirPlay may have some competition in the future thanks to DIAL, an open-source, second-screen protocol being developed by Netflix and YouTube.

DIAL, short for “discovery and launch,” lets second-screen app developers discover and launch apps on smart TVs and other connected devices. It’s meant to work seamlessly, so apps can easily find compatible devices on the same network and launch their apps with little user intervention.

Netflix says it partnered with YouTube because “having two major video services define and promote DIAL would help get it more widely adopted as a common solution to a common problem.” The two companies are also working on other partnerships. DIAL is apparently already supported by Google TVs, and GigaOM has been told by developers that some other Samsung and LG TVs have partial support. Netflix has said that several device and app makers will have DIAL-compatible tools rolling out over “the next several months.”

Netflix also says with DIAL the Netflix app on your phone or tablet will automatically discover that there is a device with a Netflix app connected to your TV. It will fire up that app, and then the two apps are free to do whatever they want — which presumably involves some healthy binge-viewing. (For the more technically-minded readers: DIAL is using UPnP multicast for the discovery piece of the puzzle, and a REST-service to launch apps on discovered devices.)

Nowadays, most of us own a Smart TV, Blu Ray player, game system, or other set top electronic that has the ability to download apps and connect to the internet. If DIAL hits the mainstream in the way YouTube and Netflix hope it does, it’ll be interesting to see how it affect the closed off ecosystem that is AirPlay. You can read more about DIAL and how it compares to AirPlay in the GigaOM report.