Flingo, originally intended to allow users to “fling” links from the web to connected television screens, has emerged as a powerful way of coupling web services to smart televisions. Flingo is the brand name of Free Stream Media Corp, a San Francisco startup company founded by a team out of BitTorrent Inc. The company claims its technology is available on 5.7 million televisions, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes and says that with relationships with major manufacturers including Samsung, LG and Vizio, over half the smart televisions on sale are already enabled.
“Flingo’s goal is to build that bridge between Web and TV so that the TV experience is a better reflection of what the viewer cares about,” said Ashwin Navin, the co-founder and chief executive of Flingo. “We have taken careful steps to forge an ecosystem where businesses and viewers alike can participate and benefit from the tremendous potential of Internet-connected television.”
Before founding Flingo in late 2008, Ashwin Navin was the president of BitTorrent Inc, which he co-founded in 2004 with Bram Cohen, who created the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol in 2001. The co-founder and chief technology officer of Flingo is Dr David Harrison, a former BitTorrent Inc engineer.
The original application of Flingo was to allow users to “fling” media from the web to their smart television, hence the name. Users install a Flingo bookmarklet on their browser bookmarks bar, then when browsing Flingo supported web sites, which include YouTube, they can click the bookmark to send the selected video to their compatible television or media device running a Flingo-enabled application.
Flingo-enabled devices announce themselves to Flingo by sending an HTTP request. A Flingo-enabled web site later discovers Fling-enabled devices by sending an HTTP request to Flingo, which then returns a list of all Flingo-enabled devices sitting behind the same public internet protocol address as the browser.
Essentially, Flingo provides an online rendezvous service and message relay between the web browser and devices on the same network. It is claimed that this avoids limitations faced by other technologies, such as UPnP and Bonjour, which are not available to web browsers.
Flingo provides an agent based on standard unix libraries that manufacturers can integrate in devices where applications would otherwise be restricted by a security sandbox.
Flingo also provides an application programming interface and example code to allow developers to integrate fling functions in their own web sites and applications.
Unlike proprietary technologies like Apple AirPlay, which provide tight integration between devices in the Apple ecosystem, Flingo is based on simple web protocols and open standards to provide a looser linkage between devices and displays.
Although Flingo can tell a connected television to play or queue a video, it can be used to communicate any message, opening up other possibilities. Notably, however, the system is dependent upon the Fling online infrastructure for providing a discovery and messaging service.
Flingo has now launched a suite of application publishing products to integrate the web seamlessly with the television experience. It aims to enable broadcasters and advertisers to build mobile and web applications that are contextually aware of the programme being viewed on a connected television screen.
The company hopes to monetize its platform through a share of advertising and sponsorship revenue.
Flingo will provide apps that can add a Facebook like button, a Twitter stream, or overlay reviews over television shows. Such applications are now becoming standard on smart televisions.
The real promise of Fling is in providing a way to couple the connected television experience with companion devices, allowing apps and web site to synchronise with television programmes.