The most important new protocol since RSS: AirPlay (three cool new apps that use it to change how we view TV)


I still remember when Dave Winer showed me RSS and what it did. It changed my life and continues to, even after we switched much of our reading behavior to Twitter (a new iPad app is coming on Friday that uses RSS, more about that when the embargo ends).

But since RSS has there been a new protocol that’s changed our lives in a big way? I haven’t seen one until Apple announced AirPlay.

What is AirPlay? It lets you play video instantly and wirelessly from your iPhone or iPad to your big-screen TV which has an Apple TV attached. I had my nephew, Kian, video me in my family room where I show you what it does.

Yes, you can already recognize the downside to this new protocol: it was developed by Apple and isn’t yet available on other devices or to developers who might, um, want to put it on Android devices.

I can see why Apple might want to keep it for itself. It’s a killer feature. Reading on Wikipedia you’d learn that the protocol lets you wirelessly stream audio, video, and photos.

But it wasn’t until the past week that we’ve seen iPad apps that really use it. In my tests with three of these apps I’ve found that they completely change my TV viewing patterns.

Here’s why.

In old-school YouTube viewing I’d watch a video on a laptop, or on my iPad, but if I wanted to show it to the whole room, say, to my wife or my sons, I’d have to get off the couch, find the remote for either my Apple TV, or a controller for my Xbox, and figure out how to browse to what I was viewing. Lots of times it was way too frustrating to find what I was viewing on the iPad that I’d just give up.

Here, try it yourself. Go watch a video on and then try to watch that same video on an Xbox, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, PlayStation, or Wii. I have most of those devices in my family room and they are just nearly impossible to use.

It gets worse when you have your own video that you shot on your iPhone or iPad. I hate having to hand my iPad around just to show people something cute my kids did or the BBQ place we visited at SXSW.

No longer.

Now I just click a new AirPlay icon on these new apps and BOOM it starts playing on my big screen TV.

Anyway, the three apps that I’ve been using in the past month that have changed my viewing habits quite radically are:

1. TED iPad app. I love watching TED videos and since these are usually about 18 minutes each (some shorter) I like watching them on my big screen so that I can tweet on my iPad while learning from these great speakers.

2. Squrl. Squrl lets me watch lots of videos, especially from YouTube and other places, and I can curate those videos into pages. Much of the videos here are playable via AirPlay. I thought the Netflix and Hulu ones would be, but they are giving me an error, I’ll try to find out. I did an extensive video with the founder that you should watch.

3. ShowYou (just released, I have an exclusive first look and interview with Mark Hall, CEO).

After watching the video you can read more on the ShowYou blog and it’s available on iTunes now, visit the ShowYou site to get a link to it.

You can follow me on each service, I use the username “Scobleizer” on all of them.

Anyway, this is how Apple will be very successful with the Apple TV and shows you how they are going to continue to monetize long into the future.

Welcome to the “Age of AirPlay.”


51 thoughts on “The most important new protocol since RSS: AirPlay (three cool new apps that use it to change how we view TV)

  1. RSS – open.
    Airplay – closed.

    Although the same Wikipedia article says that Airplay has already been reverse-engineered to work with other devices.

    Any suggestions why DLNA didn’t catch on?


    1. RSS was NOT open, by the way. It was largely controlled first by Netscape and later by Dave Winer. It was a standard that was made popular by Dave Winer and his company UserLand. It became a defacto standard because everyone started using it. The same way people are already starting to adopt AirPlay (thanks Rob Mitchell for the Lifehacker links that demonstrate such).


      1. wait… what. rss not open?

        i can produce and consume rss on ANY device. that is the essence of open. i built one of the first mobile rss readers (which sold to newsgator) and it worked on all sorts of devices – there was no dependency. can’t get any more open that that.

        airplay will not fly… we need open and we need it to be device/platform agnostic. the same can be said for facetime (i have never had anyone even mention building something on top of or integrating w/ facetime).

        “But since RSS has there been a new protocol thatโ€™s changed our lives in a big way?” the answer is twitter. this is an OPEN (well was open anyway) platform. again, i built one of the first mobile twitter clients (tiny twitter) way back when (for a plethora of devices) w/ no dependencies.

        i (and any sensible long term thinking developer) will never build anything on top of airplay.

        now if there is an open platform that does similar and i can build an html5 app to leverage then yes, i and many others may build cool shit.


      2. RSS is a de-facto standard that any developer can use. That doesn’t mean it’s open. Dave Winer controls it.

        You are nuts. Totally nuts. Apple has handed developers MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS so far to develop on its “closed” iOS system. Seems like developers, especially pro ones, are going to town with Apple. They will with AirPlay too. Already developers like MobileRhoadie and a significant baseball app have gone with AirPlay. Not to mention TED, which is watched by hundreds of millions of people. I guess those aren’t “sensible long term thinking developers.” What arrogance on your part.


      3. “RSS is a de-facto standard that any developer can use. That doesn’t mean it’s open. Dave Winer controls it.”

        But it is/was open in the sense that the spec was published royalty-free, so anyone who wished to could implement it without reverse engineering or legal concerns. Nobody had to pay Netscape or Dave Winer (or even ask for their permission) to implement RSS on either the client or server.

        AirPlay, on the other hand, is completely proprietary to Apple and has to be licensed (or reverse-engineered, for the technically sophisticated and/or legally fearless developer) to use it.


  2. Hey Robert,

    Thanks for the heads up on ShowYou, looks great, just installed it.

    I can see AirPlay being a huge deal in classrooms. Imagine where each kid has an iPad (or other AirPlay compatible device) and the classroom projector has an Apple TV attached to it. Assuming that more applications become able to send an AirPlay stream out (such as Keynote or Pages for example), students could instantly throw their work up on the screen to share with the class. The whole idea of an interactive whiteboard just got overthrown!

    Once this protocol is more widely used, the implications are enormous!

    Thanks for the update.


  3. Do you think that it would be possible to create an AirPlay stream of the actual screen? ie, send the entire mirrored output from the actual device to the big screen, rather than just the output of a specific app?


    1. When it comes to software I’ve learned to stop betting against developers. I bet it can be done, I just don’t know how easy it will be to do it.


  4. I think you are right that AirPlay CAN be the next killer protocol, but if that CAN is attached to people having to purchase an Apple TV, it might die on the vine. I think time and time again consumers have shown that they won’t buy a second device to make something work. If I have a TV and an iPad, I will use AirPlay. But having to buy a third device to make something work?

    I think Netflix is the model to follow here. They put NetFlix on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and lots of Blu Ray players that have wired or wifi internet connections. Apple should do the same. Let me use my wifi router and connected media device and don’t force me to buy something new. The average person, not the tech forward, don’t have more than one game console and one dvd/bluray player connected to a given TV.


    1. You need to read yesterday’s blog post:

      The world is going Apple all the time everywhere. Most of my friends are already buying Apple TVs. Why? $99 and it uses AirPlay.

      This game is gonna end very quickly due to the ubiquitous nature of iPad.

      But, yes, I do want to see the protocol licensed to other players. It makes more sense than spending $299 for a Google TV.


      1. I read the post yesterday. I just don’t see the same in my world. I spoke at a conference in Belgium in late March. 200 enterprise developers and line of business decision makers. less than 1/3 of the folks owned any Apple.

        Apple has always been the luxury option. Android will fill in for people who don’t want to pay a luxury tax. We need a remote video play standard that works across devices and tv boxes. And doesn’t require buying a new TV.


      2. The future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed. Yeah, I stole that quote from someone, but, yeah, enterprise developers will be locked in the 1990s for a while still.


      3. “This game is gonna end very quickly due to the ubiquitous nature of iPad. ”

        Yes, the iPad will remain ubiquitous. Because never before in history has Apple seized an early market lead with an innovative product only to see it eventually overtaken by less expensive/more open competitors.


      4. Google has the HDMI pass through and can overlay graphics on top of another input feed – that’s kinda cool. The ease of use and price of Apple TV will probably overshadow all of that though.


    2. I can see Apple licensing (for free?) one half of the protocol.
      The sender or the receiver part, so their standard could spread and you have to us, at least, one apple device


  5. One AirPlay app that was forgotten is Major League Soccer’s official app. MLS MatchDay 2011 for iPhone/iPad is as far as I know the only pro sports league app with AirPlay support. Apple even showed this app in the AirPlay Guided Tour video on as an example of third-party app integration.


  6. … and then, there is DLNA. Far more open, used by more manufacturers (e.g. used in TV sets without need of appleTV).

    I know Apple can create nice little integrated solution with their devices, but AirPlay is not YetAnotherGreatNewInvention by Apple.


    1. I have these devices in my home:

      1. Xbox.
      2. Playstation.
      3. Roku.
      4. Boxee.
      5. AppleTV.

      I don’t remember seeing DNLA on any of those and if it’s there no one showed me a use case for it before Apple. The iPad is HUGELY important here.


      1. Playstation and XBOX both support DLNA. I’ve been able to right click on a video on my PC and ‘send to TV’ wirelessly since Vista was around. This has worked on my old HP LCD TV. Still missing what’s new about this, other than the hardware is white.


      2. The iPad affords video. I never use PCs in my living room. Thanks for playing. Why didn’t Microsoft show this to me? Or explain how cool it is? I’ll never get Microsoft marketing. They have so much cool stuff to tell the world about and they squander it (I felt the same way when I worked there and we WERE the tablet leaders back then).


      3. I agree but what average, everyday users know that exist and why they need it. I don’t think the beauty is that Apple discovered some new technology, but that marketing it in a way that people relate to and can easily use.


      4. Marketing based on ease of use has been an Apple strength for a long time. Waking up the world to the non-proprietary ways of doing the same things has often been the other side of the coin.


      5. I do same on my android phone? For years? Many ppl do? its quite trivial and old.
        My SGS can stream to tv and computer. Also computer to phone.
        Apple fans have such narrow vision, anything that pops up in their narrow world is a first, magical and exclusive.


  7. Don’t forget the app “Air Video” that allows Airplay of practically any video formated file on your Mac or PC (they have servers for both systems).


  8. 1) Would this work for say, a Boxee app on an iPad (certainly that would hurt Boxee Box sales) but you get the idea.

    2) What does it do to your battery life to stream from your iPad to your TV? (can you watch a full movie on Netflix)

    3) Is there any lag/playback issues? Obviously I doubt the iPad would stream an ISO to your TV, but I suppose that is the point at which you would rely back on your Apple TV


  9. I’m already doing this with Flingo: using my laptop/handheld I can ‘fling’ a youtube video into my TV’s queue (using a Vizio). And yes, doing this is awesome and has totally changed by behavior when asking “what’s on?” I can’t see myself every buying an Apple anything…


  10. Just a thousand geeks who dont get it. My MOTHER uses airplay already. This is a women who still doesnt store numbers in her flip phone. But she has an iPad and an Apple TV.

    We geeks have been doing this for years, the rest of the public HAS NOT. Its very hard to lose touch with the common user. 1 touch on a device that is already touch savvy. Thats a big deal.


  11. We already see AirPlay at work with clients. USRowing is sharing links so people can pay for race video downloads. The contestants themselves and their families are the market. What is surprising is how many buy the video and play it for their teams on a large screen. It turns the private purchase into a social experience. The photo they used to promote the service shows a boathouse gathering in front of a TV using a race video for training purposes.


  12. Absolutely loving using the AirPlay app (on the iPhone and iPad) with the Apple TV. My movie collection (which is in multiple formats) is now available from every mobile device and to every Aiplay enabled screen ๐Ÿ™‚


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