A WebRTC Primer

Cover Story

A WebRTC Primer

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 05, 2014

WebRTC is the term used to describe the growing trend of web real-time communication. The technology allows for real-time voice and video interactions from a web browser or other peer node without requiring special client software or requiring a server between the two endpoints.

It takes the components of a typical VoIP media engine into a browser or any other peer endpoint with a simple API that a web server can control. That means developers can build real-time communication into web pages, existing software applications, or wherever else they want – and do so more easily and affordably than they could’ve in the past.

A Little History

WebRTC got its start at Global IP Solutions, a company that provided the technology to such large VoIP companies as Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, and others. Google (News - Alert) purchased GIPS 2011, and shortly after that made its technology open source, which kicked off the WebRTC movement.

Google has been a leading advocate of WebRTC ever since, and today supports WebRTC in its Chrome browser. WebRTC is also supported in the Mozilla (News - Alert) Firefox and Opera browsers. And, in an important recent development for the WebRTC ecosystem, a new specification called Object Real-Time Communications is helping to bring Microsoft (News - Alert) and its popular Internet Explorer browser into the WebRTC fold. As of the deadline of this article, there was no word yet from Apple as to where it stands on WebRTC.

In any case, the WebRTC ecosystem and community continue to grow. It started in 2010 with a small group at Google, expanded in 2011 with a strong group of standards advocates, and then in 2012 with early evangelists and companies, and it continues to snowball.

Forecast for Transformation

ABI Research (News - Alert) expects there to be 4.7 billion WebRTC devices by 2018.

WebRTC is interesting not only because it enables two endpoints to easily connect and conduct rich media sessions including data, video, and voice, or some combination thereof, but also because it puts us on a path to what Phil Edholm (News - Alert) of PKE Consulting LLC calls the webification of communications.

“The webification of communications is not a single technology, but rather a transformation of the basics of communications,” says Edholm. “Instead of having a single server that manages all of my communications, the webification process will free me to interact directly with millions of web servers to manage a succession of independent communications events, each tuned to the specific needs and requirements of the event, not an arbitrary vendor paradigm. Just as we all have hundreds of different web information experiences monthly, each web communications experience can be defined by the suite hosting the event.”

The Possibilities are Endless

The possibilities for WebRTC are endless, but some of the first places we are seeing it in use are in customer care/contact center, and conferencing applications.

“WebRTC applications will both delight and amaze us,” says Edholm. “While many WebRTC implementations will be extensions of existing communications solutions, many will emerge that will use WebRTC to deliver communications in contexts we have yet to imagine.

“The change of communications from a separate service or capability to being integrated with applications and other activities will become obvious,” Edholm says. “With this we will see the emergence of asymmetrical communications solutions where the experience is different dependent on the role of each individual.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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