In case you missed it, the WebRTCv Conference & Expo was held Nov. 18 through 20 in San Jose. This is the event that brings together the movers and shakers of WebRTC and the webification of communications movement. I thought this would be a good time to comment on some of the highlights of the event and the state of the industry.
The event was very well-timed as, in the weeks before, there were two major events that will define the path of WebRTC for 2015. In October, Microsoft (News - Alert) announced its intent to support WebRTC, albeit through the emerging ORTC extensions and H.264. The WebRTC community has been waiting for the Microsoft position. While it fell short of committing to the current SDP- based protocol, the commitment to WebRTC and ORTC, when combined with the fact that Microsoft and Google (News - Alert) are working closely on these eventual standards, does give significant hope that Internet Explorer will join the WebRTC browser fold. While there was no word from Apple (News - Alert), there is a high level of hope that Apple will follow in endorsing WebRTC and including WebRTC in Safari.
The other topic that generated a large amount of conversation was video codecs. Just the week before WebRTCv Conference & Expo, the RTCweb working group reached agreement on a proposal that both H.264 and VP8 be made mandatory codecs for browsers and mandatory for all other devices unless there is a major change in royalty costs for one or the other. The agreement in the working group means the proposal is being sent to the mailing list for comment and approval. This opens the door to interoperability between the current browsers and IE through H.264 or VP8 if Microsoft and Google support these. The support of H.264 is critical for interoperability without transcoding into the existing H.264 video systems, including Skype (News - Alert) and Lync.
Other highlights included sessions by Google detailing the VP9 codec. The VP9 codec delivers a 30 to 40 percent improvement over VP8 with minimal increases in processing. This session, combined with a number of sessions about using media servers, showed how WebRTC and video are maturing. The vertical focus track was one of the most highly attended tracks. Sessions focusing on ecommerce, education, finance, and health care showed that WebRTC is not just recreating existing telecom in a new way, but transforming vertical applications. This message was reflected in the plenary panel entitled “What is the WebRTC Killer App?” In that panel, leaders in WebRTC opined that there was probably not a single killer app, but a swarm of apps as real-time communications was added to a variety of applications. This was already in evidence as multiple companies showed specific end user deployments of WebRTC that were impacting revenue, ranging from the Amex solutions by CafeX to MedWeb, a company delivering medical solutions using WebRTC.
The WebRTC demos were much more focused this year, with both more demonstrations of integration with real applications as well as new focus. Ericsson (News - Alert) started the first set of demos with a demonstration of controlling an earthmover by WebRTC using Oculus Rift optical headsets. The demos moved from videoconferencing to real-world uses of the technology and applications. There were a number of demo highlights, and all are viewable on the WebRTC World site.
The event was also leveraged to roll out the WebRTC World WebRTC Ecosystem. The WebRTC Ecosystem has been defined to enable organizations that are considering WebRTC to understand the hundreds of companies that are offering products and services in the WebRTC domain. The WebRTC Ecosystem defines eight user solutions and 22 development areas. In addition, the event saw the initial public review of the WebRTC Ecosystem report, the most comprehensive overview of the industry, with 210 companies reviewed in detail and positioned in the Ecosystem. The free Ecosystem overview and the purchasable Ecosystem Report, with 686 pages and 493 diagrams, is available at http://www.webrtcworld.com/webrtc-ecosystem.aspx
Finally, some comments made by attendees were important in judging the maturity and velocity of WebRTC. While many of the attendees were WebRTC veterans, comments like “I am a WebRTC newbie” were heard as well. Another attendee commented that there were more sport coats than at past events, which shows that companies are now evaluating WebRTC not as a technology to understand, but as a means by which to generate real revenue and value. Overall the event was a rousing success and points to the growth that is coming in 2015 as WebRTC and the webification of communications accelerates. We look forward to seeing you in 2015.
Phil Edholm is the president and founder of PKE Consulting LLC
Edited by Maurice Nagle