With WebRTC Expo IV having now wrapped up in Atlanta, a few thoughts come to mind regarding the state of WebRTC and its future.
Based on what I saw in Atlanta, I would say the buzz around WebRTC is at least as strong as it has been, if not stronger. But, it’s a different buzz in some ways. Initially, the noise came from startup companies looking for an opportunity for greatness. It made sense, and it created the momentum to kick-start the WebRTC community and introduce it to the world.
But, the real use cases weren’t there at the outset. The possibilities were almost endless, but doubters remained, and businesses have (rightfully) become hesitant to spend on technology that doesn’t have proven value or that isn’t required to solve a pressing need.
That’s where this year’s show significantly differentiated itself from previous editions. Between the conference sessions (particularly the special focus areas), keynotes, and exhibits, evidence was plentiful that businesses are starting to leverage WebRTC within their communications infrastructres - taking advantage of the browser-based medium to create differentiating value for their customers. As expected, many of these use cases are in the healthcare and contact center industries, and Avaya’s Val Matula believe many businesses will seek to use WebRTC to create real-time customer satisfaction feedback tools.
Dialogic CEO Kevin Cook, whose company has more than 90 WebRTC-related engagements in progress, says that success is being driven by the community’s ability to make WebRTC “business useful.” In other words, finding ways to implement WebRTC to solve business problems is the path to success. In fact, Dialogic itself is using WebRTC for its internal conferencing calls.
From the beginning, there have been two WebRTC camps – those who see WebRTC taking over the world of communications, and those who see it as another complementary tool in the communications toolbox. Phil Edholm’s comments ahead of Cook’s keynote make it clear he is in the former, and sees WebRTC as a surfer waiting for that one huge wave.
Based on what I saw and heard in Atlanta, I sense something less dramatic taking place, which is an increase in real deployments, but with little noise. Businesses are adding WebRTC capabilities where they help solve real problems but they aren’t necessarily making a big fuss about it. Rather, many customer service enhancements are simply implemented with the idea that by simply eliminating problem areas, satisfaction will increase. On the other hand, by drawing attention to their implementations, businesses open themselves up for criticism. Better to simply deliver a positive customer experience.
The wave that does seem to have emerged, however, is the growth of WebRTC support from traditional vendors such as AudioCodes, Avaya, Broadsoft, Dialogic, GENBAND, Huawei, Ingate, Sansay, and Oracle – all of which had a presence at WebRTC IV alongside the more WebRTC-centric vendors. What it means is WebRTC is real and must be acknowledged and supported.
At the show, that acknowledgement came at the WebRTC Pioneers dinner, where many of the innovators and thought leaders that have helped bring WebRTC from concept to reality. The most integral part of that process and also WebRTC Pioneer Award recipient, Serge Lachapelle, headlined the Wednesday keynoters, with a brilliant recollection of the process he and his team have gone through to make WebRTC “just work” – to use a phrase that was heard over and over at this week’s conference.
Judging from the Atlanta show and the excitement already growing for the San Jose edition (November 18-20, 2014), growth will continue. Support will grow and implementations will increase, not only in number but also breadth of use cases.
What is not, however, likely, is major change. We’re not going to see new standards or support from Microsoft or Apple, each of whom already have successful video platforms widely adopted by their users. WebRTC will continue to be a B2C and, perhaps, B2B in some cases, technology. The C2C interactions will continue to use FaceTime and Skype and WhatsApp for the foreseeable future.
But with so many technology decisions today being driven by business objectives rather than IT goals and strategy, IT teams will look more closely at WebRTC as one of the tools available to them and will use it when it presents an opportunity to solve a problem, like Amazon did. Why did Amazon use WebRTC for its Mayday button? Because it was the best option for addressing a specific challenge it faced. And that is how more and more WebRTC implementations are going to occur – not because businesses will seek to create uses for it, but because it becomes the best tool for the job.
I look forward to even more exciting implementation stories in San Jose at WebRTC Expo V.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi