It’s surprisingly difficult to put a web browser on TV. It’s difficult for regular people — the best option is often just plugging in a laptop — and it’s been ridiculously difficult for the tech industry in general. From interface problems to weird remotes to clunky performance, attempts to put the web on TV have all met with failure of one kind or another. Google in particular learned a hard lesson with its Google TV platform, which crashed and burned so spectacularly when it launched in 2010 that hardware partner Logitech nearly went out of business.
But now Google’s back with the Chromecast, a far simpler way of getting the web on your TV. The Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that basically competes with Apple’s AirPlay system: when you use supported services like YouTube and Netflix on your phone, tablet, or computer, hitting the new Cast button sends the video to your TV. You can also send entire tabs from the Chrome browser on Macs and PCs, which means you can basically put any site or service on TV with just the click of a button. That opens up an entire world of content for your TV — far more than any other service can offer on its own.
It’s all very promising, especially for the price — there was such a rush to buy the Chromecast after it was announced last week that Google had to cancel a three-month Netflix promotion. And after a few days of testing, it seems like the Chromecast might actually deliver on all that potential, but Google still has a lot of work to do.