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Many modern smart TVs have support for the Chromecast-like DIAL protocol built in. You can cast videos to your TV from YouTube and Netflix — on your phone or computer — without getting a Chromecast.

This works both with the YouTube and Netflix websites on your computer and with the YouTube and Netflix mobile apps on a smartphone or tablet.

How DIAL Works

Google’s Chromecast originally used a protocol known as DIAL, for “Discovery And Launch.” This protocol was co-developed by Netflix and YouTube. It allows “client” devices (like your smartphone, tablet, or computer) to discover apps on “server” devices (like a smart TV or streaming box) and launch content on them.

Basically, this protocol allows the YouTube and Netflix smartphone apps and websites to talk to the YouTube and Netflix apps on your smart TV. You can then find videos on your smartphone or computer and start playing them on your TV. Your TV does need the associated apps installed — so, if you want to cast YouTube and Netflix, your TV will need to have YouTube and Netflix apps installed as well as system-level DIAL support for advertising those apps.

RELATED: How to Use Your Roku Like a Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast eventually diverged from DIAL, and now uses a different technology. However, the Netflix and YouTube apps still have support for DIAL, and so does Google’s own Google Cast browser extension for Chrome. Many modern smart TVs support DIAL, too — in fact, one of our Sony smart TVs recently received a firmware update that added support for DIAL and made the TV appear as a casting target. Even the Roku has support for DIAL, making it possible to cast YouTube and Netflix to any TV with a Roku, just like you’d use a Chromecast.

How to Check For and Use DIAL

RELATED: How to Enable HDMI-CEC on Your TV, and Why You Should

Unlike HDMI-CEC, DIAL shouldn’t be a hidden option in your smart TV’s menus. If it’s available on your device, it should just be enabled by default. Assuming your modern smart TV has built-in YouTube and Netflix apps, there’s a good chance the operating system is DIAL-enabled. If not, it may be enabled in the future with an automatic firmware update. And, if you’re a Roku user, your Roku is DIAL-enabled, too.

To use it, first make sure your smart TV is powered on. Next, open the YouTube app or Netflix app on your smartphone or tablet. Start playing a video and look for the “Cast” button — the same cast button Chromecast users use to start casting a device to their TV.

If your TV (or another device, like a Blu-ray player or set-top box) is DIAL-enabled, you’ll see it in the list. Tap it in the list and the video you’re watching will be launched on your TV.

Don’t see your TV in the list here? Assuming it’s powered on and is on the same Wi-Fi network as your smartphone, tablet, or computer, it probably doesn’t have DIAL support.

On a computer, you use Google Chrome and install the Google Cast extension — yes, that’s the same extension Chromecast users use. Visit the Netflix or YouTube website and use the Cast button. You’ll see DIAL-enabled smart TVs appear in the list and you can launch videos on them in the same way.

Remember, this only works for YouTube and Netflix — and, theoretically, other DIAL-enabled apps that could be installed on your smart TV. The Google Cast extension still supports DIAL.

Only Netflix and YouTube

You’ll notice that we keep mentioning “Netflix and YouTube,” even though this is supposed to be a larger standard. The biggest limitation you’ll find here is that DIAL only really works for Netflix and YouTube. In theory, it can, and should, work for other apps, and there’s a whole DIAL website dedicated to explaining how it works and letting other apps implement it. In practice, we haven’t seen any other apps that actually support DIAL in the wild.

This isn’t too surprising, sadly — YouTube and Netflix created DIAL. Google was initially pushing it with the Chromecast, and it’s become a bit forgotten now that Google is pushing a different technology. The Chromecast has an entire ecosystem of apps that use Google Cast instead of DIAL.

Don’t have DIAL support? Your TV may get it one day in the future via a firmware update. Try checking your TV’s system menu and seeing if there are any available firmware updates.

The point of DIAL is to use those apps preinstalled on your smart TV in a smart way. It’s a shame few new apps are rolling out DIAL support, but it’s still useful for YouTube and Netflix — probably the most popular apps used on the Chromecast, anyway.

Image Credit: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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