WebRTC: a trend worth watching in 2013
By Ian GRAYSON
I recently came across a new technology that, if its supporters are right, could change the way business people communicate.
It's called WebRTC (Short for Web Real Time Communications) and will allow people to conduct video calls using nothing more than a standard browser.
Video calling has been an option for business users for years, but take-up levels remain stubbornly low.
While some companies spend up big to install specially designed video conferencing facilities, most don't treat it as a priority.
Others make use of various desktop and mobile device video calling services. While these can work well, they don't have the universal access that is the key promise of WebRTC.
When the standards that underpin the new technology are finally ratified, it will make it far easier for video calls to be made and received.
Rather than needing a particular piece of equipment or installed application, users will be able to make and receive calls through their web browser.
It can be likened to the time when it became possible to send text messages between different mobile phone networks (Remember when that simple concept wasn't possible?). That step resulted in a massive uptake in text messaging that is still happening today.
If such a growth rate could be generated in video calling, the way people communicate in the business world would be changed for ever.
Do you think it will happen?
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The actual communication protocols of WebRTC are already set - they use the good-old RTP/RTCP communication with a bit of STUN/TURN/ICE and SDP (this is all simplification of course, but it is there).
The part that is being negotiated is the mandatory video codec as well as a few additional APIs. Other than that - it is all a matter of browser implementations now.
As for text messages between different mobile networks - this is the future of WebRTC: each website/service is going to build his own interaction island - a kind of a silo of you will.
But one we will be happy to live with.
Here is how I see this future: http://bloggeek.me/webrtc-islands/
Although plugins are small in size and easy to install, and some are 'evergreen' so they don't require an update, they do require a persons trust. This is a hurdle even for big companies like Google (the Google Hangouts plugin), and Facebook/Skype.
Making this process entirely frictionless, you can literally click once to call someone. This opens up an entirely new world of use cases where the video or voice call becomes a feature rather than the main function. So for example I am shopping online for clothes and want to speak to an assistant face to face I can do this, or I am logged into my banking website and want some help, in the past the install would have been too big a hurdle for the end user.
It also democratises the technology that in the past has only been available to the large corporates simply because it has been so expensive to develop. Google open sources almost $200m worth of cool RTC tech that they got from their ON2 and GIPS acquisitions. This translates to having millions of developers that can now use live video and voice in their apps rather than thousands in the top tech companies.
There are features lacking from WebRTC too like support for IE10-, Safari6-, native mobile platforms, the ability to perform multiparty calls and a host of enterprise features like monitoring usage and quality, security, recording, screen sharing etc and this is where our company (www.addlive.com) helps the ecosystem. We are a live video and voice platform built on top of WebRTC, making it easier for people to deploy WebRTC.