Airplay is arguably one of the single coolest new features of Apple’s iDevices and its open alternative Miracast could be a real boon to the Android ecosystem once more devices start supporting it. But Netflix and YouTube believe they can come up with something better. The two have been quietly collaborating on a protocol called DIAL that will help developers create second-screen apps for their services.

DIAL stands for “discovery and launch” and according to a report on GigaOm that pretty much sums up what the protocol is meant to do. Unlike AirPlay, DIAL won't directly mirror content. Instead, the system allows mobile devices running a DIAL-enabled app to find other compatible devices on the network such as a smart TV or set-top box and launch the same app there -- or direct you to the respective app store if an app isn't found.

So essentially you are running two instances of the app and the one on your mobile device acts as a remote control of sorts. But the real kicker is that the two apps are free to do whatever they want, which presumably involves displaying additional content relevant to whatever is playing at the moment.

GigaOm notes that with Netflix’s current experiments PlayStation 3 owners can already browse Netflix’s catalog on their smartphone and launch videos on the game console, but they have to first manually launch the app on both devices. DIAL removes this extra step by making compatible device discovery automatic.

Apparently the effort is already getting support from a number of content providers, including Hulu, BBC, Pandora and Flingo. Moreover, current-generation Google TV devices already support DIAL, and a handful of smart TV vendors plan to introduce support via software updates “in the next several months.”