As WebRTC Approaches Its Second Decade, What Does 2020 Hold in Store?

By Juhi Fadia December 03, 2019

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) has been one of those technologies that started small, expanded in its applications steadily and often in stealth mode, then drastically upended the traditional stack. Before we tap into predictions by investor and entrepreneur David Walsh, one of the top pioneers in commercializing WebRTC as one of many disruptive technologies his companies have driven forward, let’s take a quick look back.

In May 2010, Google bought Global IP Solutions (GIPS), a VoIP and videoconferencing software company that had developed many components required for RTC, including codecs and echo cancellation software. techniques.

Google open-sourced the GIPS technology and stood up the WebRTC project, bringing in standards bodies including the non-profit IETF and W3C to help build industry consensus.

WebRTC is a free, open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication using application programming interfaces (APIs). It allows developers to embed audio, messaging and video communication to work inside web pages and mobile apps by allowing direct peer-to-peer communication, eliminating the need to install plugins or download native apps.

While it took years for Apple to join the tech giants in supporting WebRTC, Google successfully roped in Microsoft, Mozilla (News - Alert), and Opera for browser support.

In May 2011, Ericsson Labs built the first implementation of WebRTC using a modified WebKit library, and in October of the same year, the W3C published its first draft for the spec. The first WebRTC cross-browser video call occurred in early 2013, the same year David Walsh, as Chairman and CEO of GENBAND (now Ribbon Communications) established the foundation for Kandy (News - Alert), which today continues to lead in WebRTC innovation, with Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) capabilities that form the basis for AT&T’s “over the top” applications, as announced earlier this year.

“We immediately understood the potential of WebRTC to disrupt just as VoIP disrupted at the turn of the century,” Walsh said in a recent interview. “The technology team at Ribbon, which at the time included Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, named one of the top 50 women in telecom, came to the board with a business case and we placed a large bet on WebRTC and were among the first companies to bring low-code or no-code developer tools and services to the market.”

WebRTC’s mission is to "enable rich, high-quality RTC applications to be developed for the browser, mobile platforms, and IoT devices, and allow them all to communicate via a common set of protocols".OpenWebRTC provides another free implementation based on the multimedia framework GStreamer. JavaScript inventor Brendan Eich called it a "new front in the long war for an open and unencumbered web".

“Open Source was the way to go in the beginning,” Walsh said, “but we knew that until investment was made in bringing the highest level of quality and security to WebRTC-based services and solutions, its market would be limited.”

Walsh has been working with the world’s largest telecom companies in the world for over 30 years, and was a pioneer in VoIP and Internet-related technologies early on, and as the leader of a company serving nearly every Tier 1 operator, hundreds of Communications Service Providers (CSPs) in over 30 countries, and tens of thousands of enterprises and businesses, was in a unique position to provide guidance on how to commercialize through the creation of value propositions and use cases against “really big, hard problems. Service providers started to see their voice revenues erode again, after having to fight back with VoIP as fixed line revenues declined steadily, as mobile adoption skyrocketed. They started to face challengers including Skype, WhatsApp and dozens more rolling out over-the-top services, and we knew at that time we could help them fight back with WebRTC as a service, based on better quality of service and exponentially stronger security.”

Major components of WebRTC include several JavaScript APIs:

  • getUserMedia acquires the audio and video media (e.g., by accessing a device's camera and microphone).
  • RTCPeerConnection enables audio and video communication between peers. It performs signal processing, codec handling, peer-to-peer communication, security, and bandwidth management.
  • RTCDataChannel allows bidirectional communication of arbitrary data between peers. It uses the same API as WebSockets and has very low latency.
  • getStats allows the web application to retrieve a set of statistics about WebRTC sessions. These statistics data are being described in a separate W3C document.

“The peering economy, which is often invisible to most, is similar to the sharing economy and just as economically disruptive and still early,” Walsh said. When Walsh led the development of IP services for one of the world’s largest fiber optic networks, his team, lead by another pioneer in IP-data networking, John Longo, created a $1 billion business by developing IP-peering technologies (at Global Crossing (News - Alert), which is now part of Level 3).

“WebRTC will continue to dominate in the CPaaS market, even though many seldom refer directly to the technology itself,” Walsh said, “but the analysts who continue to study the huge potential of this technology continue to predict growth as the biggest players, including AT&T, Ribbon, Kandy, Alcatel-Lucent, Apple, Google, Cisco (News - Alert) Microsoft, Oracle and of course Twilio continue to invest heavily.”

Earlier this year, Transparency Market Research published their forecasts in their report, forecasting 2018 - 2026, with a market size of nearly $55 billion by 2026, expanding at a CAGR of 17.9% during the period covered. The report says the global demand for WebRTC is expected to rise, largely due to a growing understanding of its potential applications in end-use sectors such as telecom, IT, e-commerce, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“WebRTC is changing everything,” Walsh concluded. “Now that RTC can be easily integrated in any website or application an entire world of capability is opening up.  CTI (News - Alert) (Computer Telephony Integration) was cumbersome to use. Right idea, but it couldn't scale and was difficult to implement. WebRTC is frictionless. Expect most if not all websites and apps to have RTC embedded in them within 5 years.”

Walsh has returned to his entrepreneurial roots and is invested in and helping to build a new crop of disruptors. “There’s nothing more exciting than taking a new technology and disrupting entire industries with it, bringing it to market, and then watching it flourish in the hands of innovative developers,” Walsh said. “If you thought the last twenty years have been interesting, wait until we reach 2030 then 2040. We’re innovating at the speed of light, and we’re peering in new models, disrupting not just the tech but the economics associated with everything from supply chains to payments and trading.”

Walsh has published frequently on “The Exchange of Everything,” a term he coined in 2016; you can read one of his posts here.

Juhi Fadia is an engineer, analyst, researcher and writer covering advanced and emerging technologies.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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