Some years ago Dish Network realized that its set-top boxes had a whole lot of untapped potential. As a result, today’s Dish hardware goes beyond simple channel tuning and DVR recording by offering users the ability to stream live and recorded video to a smartphone or tablet, download recordings for offline viewing, and even access web apps like Netflix. Now, incumbents like Comcast are looking to play catch up and grab themselves a cut of the action, but you’ll be disappointed if you were expecting Netflix or YouTube. A new feature announced today, Xfinity Share, takes the form of an app for Android and iOS that lets X1 set-top box owners live stream or send photos and videos to any other X1 box, even their neighbors.
Currently available only to Xfinity Triple Play customers, Xfinity Share’s intended application is much narrower than much-publicized streaming apps like Persicope and Meerkat. Comcast envisions families sharing memorable occasions with friends and families across the country — birthdays, graduations, and the like. “We’re giving our customers the power to share special moments in their lives as they happen,” said Patti Loyack, Vice President of Communications for Comcast, in a statement.
Judging by the features (or lack thereof), that sounds about right. Xfinity Share is about as basic as they come — to get it working at home, all you need to do is launch the app, tap the “Stream Live” button, and accept the prompt that pops up on your X1-connected television (in high-definition, if the bandwidth is good enough). Photos and videos sent through Xfinity Share are automatically uploaded to the Xfinity Photos App, with advanced playback and recording for live streams absent right now but coming “later this year.”
Regarding sharing, you can direct the stream to whomever you choose… as long as the person you’d like to share with has fortuitously associated the number in your contact list with their Comcast account and configured their X1 box to view streams. In the likely event those two prerequisites aren’t met, Comcast’s adding additional ways to share in the future, among them the ability to e-mail URLs to the stream and share with up to five people simultaneously.
Comcast told The Verge that Xfinity Share has no built-in controls to prevent piracy, a trend currently plaguing Periscope. The company said sharing protected content without permission would obviously run afoul of its copyright infringement clauses, but there isn’t a built-in mechanism to actively prevent sharing. Given the number of X1 users, it’s probably unnecessary, but welcome all the same — you needn’t worry about music in a bar muting or shutting down your stream. At least for now.
Xfinity Share is available for free through the Play Store on Android and the App Store on iOS.