WebRTC (Web real-time-communication) is one of the hot topics being discussed on the conference circuit this year. WebRTC debuted in 2011 as a Google initiative and is seen by many experts as the next big thing in the IT space. WebRTC brings real-time communication capabilities into the web browser which, for example, allows users to make a voice or a video calls without the need for additional software or plugins. While WebRTC has the ability to drive change in both the Telco and IT domain, it’s not ready yet and more development is required to tap its full potential. I’ve participated in a number of conferences covering WebRTC to follow both the technical as well as the service offering developments. Many interesting use-cases have been presented; however, the number of real-world deployments is still quite small and not growing as quickly as it was assumed by the market one year ago. In my view WebRTC is a great idea, as it can enrich web devices with real-time communication capabilities, but it’s had a difficult start. For example there are varying opinions about the decision of not standardizing the signalling part. I don’t really share the view that leaving the signalling framework open to the developers is driving innovation, especially not when some aspects are still mandated such as using the Session Description Protocol (SDP) protocol. On the media side, which is actually the main focus of WebRTC, the various discussions about the supported media formats (CODECS) – for video is still ongoing – haven’t helped to drive acceptance in the market. As a result transcoding is required, which I believe should be avoided as its expensive and impacting quality. On the implementation side the main issue with WebRTC is the web browser support: Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s IE still don’t support WebRTC, and for those which do, the user experience is far from perfect due to ongoing instability and usability issues. Whilst quality is improving on PC platforms, the situation on mobile devices still looks challenging. In my view we need more focus on WebRTC 2.0, which I was expecting to hear more about during the conferences. I’m still convinced WebRTC is a great idea but I also believe a V2 is needed soon: the situation around signaling and the media formats need to be clarified. Object RTC (ORTC – an alternative WebRTC programming interface which would help to make the communications control more flexible) is certainly one of many projects pointing in the right direction, and could also help in convincing Microsoft and Apple to embrace this technology. Although WebRTC has had a challenging start I still think it is one of the best things to happen to the telco sector for quite a while, namely because it has raised interest for voice services in the web developer community, who are bubbling over with ideas for its application. Independently of opportunities or threats, I believe WebRTC has the potential to positively influence the overall communications sector allowing for a much closer integration of voice and video with data services.
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