July 25, 2013, 3:32 PM —
Image by author (kind of).
Did you see the Chromecast yet? If you're a lazy tech writer (hint: we are all lazy), you just go ahead and call it Google's version of Apple's AirPlay: send almost anything you're looking at on your mobile device or laptop browser to your TV, so you can watch it with a friend or while eating ice cream.
At $35, and with Netflix support built in, Chromecast is an aggressive entry into the web-on-TV space already occupied by Apple TV (about $100) and Roku ($50-$100). It has its faults, including a not exactly honest pitch as a "dongle," when it actually needs a power cable. And there's the ever-present content issues involved with cord-cutting web TV: live sports, store-by-store content availability, and cable companies with awful throttling policies.
But I can see why Wired's Mat Honan is excited about Chromecast: it's not just video, it's almost anything you can open in a Chrome tab. So let's just take a moment to rejoice in everyone having a pretty easy and cheap means of beaming the web onto their TV now. Allow me to point out a few of the neat but overlooked things that can make it onto your TV from any Chrome browser, an Android phone or tablet, or an iPhone or iPad.
Really good music from all over the web
Pandora has apps for Roku, and Apple TV, and they're working to implement the Googlecast SDK, so people can beam straight from their Pandora app onto their TV. But Pandora is far from the only web music source these days.
Spotify, for example, has full albums and a huge catalog, but generally charges $10 per month to use it on a Roku or a mobile device. But if you're cheap, lazy, or both, you can open Spotify's web player in Chrome, beam it to your TV with Chromecast, and show off your finely tuned playlist at your parties (or knitting sessions).
Or, if Spotify doesn't have what you want, you've got Grooveshark, Rdio, This Is My Jam, Hype Machine, or freaking YouTube playlists that have that one song you're trying to get people to to remember or get stuck in their heads. Maybe you left some good stuff in Dropbox, though, and you're on someone else's laptop. Well, that is what Droptunes is for.
If there's one thing the web has a lot of (besides that other thing), it's music. And it sounds just a bit better through TV speakers than laptop speakers.
Illustrations, trackers, and ... liveblogs
Every nerd goes through a weather phase. And when a storm approaches, everyone becomes a weather nerd. There are weather tools and apps on some of our TVs, but they generally stink, and remind you of 1990s-era WeatherBug.
You know what looks great on a huge screen? Hint.fm's Wind Map. As does a radar map from Forecast.io. As does any page that is watching or monitoring your interests, situation, or livelihood. All those web-based development dashboards and uptime monitors and QA trackers can now go onto TV, but so can live blogs from Apple and Google events.
All the obscure video out there
You've had that moment before, where you just absolutely need to show someone a Simpsons clip that illustrates your point. My go-to, for example, is in Treehouse of Horror VI, when Lisa Simpson enlists Paul Anka to convince the people of Springfield that the giant advertising characters attacking the town will lose all their power if they Just Don't Look. So you go and find the clip on YouTube, but it's been torn down by Fox. So you keep searching, and eventually you find it: on a Russian video site, with the image mirrored horizontally, surrounded by eyebrow-raising animated ads. Or somewhere else.
There are apps for YouTube and Hulu and DailyMotion and Vevo and Vimeo and lots of other video channels on the standard video players, but sometimes you have to look muc deeper into the web to find what you're looking for. A Chromecast setup helps you get your obscure Doctor Who clips from a Turkish fan page onto the TV, where the Good Doctor belongs.
What other Chrome-tab-to-TV joys am I missing? Tweet at me, or drop a line in the comments. I can go on with this for days, don't you worry (my editor will be the one to worry).