My God, I really hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. As reported earlier by 9to5 Google and confirmed by all of us here in the office, the cast button in the web version of YouTube TV is gone. Why it is missing isn’t readily clear at this point, but more and more users seem to be missing the important toggle as the day goes on.
For those not aware, most of Google’s services have a cast button built right into the UI, meaning from the web app, Android app, or iOS app, users can simply click the cast button and see options for devices they can share their small screen content to. It’s simple and it’s been integrated for about 8 years at this point in apps and services that can take advantage of sharing content to a larger screen. It’s almost odd these days to see streaming video services without this feature, though some – like Vimeo – have never opted to fully utilize the ability.
Sure, Android users can simply cast their entire device and Chrome users can cast tabs, but these methods rely on local hardware encoding over a local network and is less reliable and of less quality than the standard cast methods. With a native cast session integrated into the service, your mobile device is used to tell the streaming receiver (usually a Chromecast) where to go get the content you’re seeing on your phone and then begin streaming it from there. With this method, the same content from the same server is being delivered, but it is coming directly from the source to the larger screen instead of through the mobile device. It makes for smoother playback and much better overall quality.
While there’s no word from Google that they would be turning off native cast for YouTube TV (their support page still lists it as a feature), it is a bit troubling for users like myself who have railed for a long time against the missing feature in another related streaming service: YouTube Music. As I’ve bemoaned on many occasions, the fact that a YouTube property wouldn’t have native cast abilities baked in feels almost like an insult to users. There’s really no excuse for this at all since so many non-Google services have cast abilities built in and have for years both in their native and web-driven applications.
Hopefully, this is a bug that will be corrected soon and not some ill-guided decision from Google to remove a very, very useful feature. If I’m allowing myself to be a bit optimistic, I’d hope that this change is some sort of back-end fix that will result in YouTube TV getting the cast button back as well as YouTube Music on the web finally getting it as well. We’re waiting to see what happens here and will update when we learn more.