Finally, I was able to get the time to write up a bit about WebRTC World Conference and Expo that was held November 17-19th in San Jose, California. This event brought 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 timing of the event was great, as in the weeks before there were two major events that will define the path of WebRTC for 2015. In October, Microsoft 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 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, there is a high level of hope that Apple will follow in endorsing WebRTC and include WebRTC in Safari.
Immediately before the conference, at the IETF meeting, a recommendation on mandatory video codecs generated a large amount of conversations and discussion. The RTCweb working group hummed agreement (see the video here - listen about 2 hours into the meeting for the process of agreeing on this compromise) 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 “hum” in the working group means the proposal is being sent to the mailing list for comment and potential 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 and Lync (nee Skype for Business in 2015).
Other conference highlights included sessions by Google detailing the VP9 codec, which was released in WebRTC last week as well. The VP9 codec delivers a 30-40 percent improvement over VP8 with minimal increases in processing. This session, combined with a number of sessions about using media servers, recording and others showed how WebRTC and video are maturing.
The Vertical focus track was one of the most highly attended tracks. With sessions focusing on Health Care, Finance, Educations and eCommerce, this area showed how 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 and forward thinker in WebRTC opined that there was probably not a single killer app, but a swarm of apps as real-time communication was added to a variety of applicants. 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 medial solutions using WebRTC.
A major facet of the conference was a series of live demos showcasing the best of WebRTC at a point in time. All of the demo videos are available here at WebRTC World. The WebRTC demos were much more focused at this event, with both more demonstrations of integration with real applications as well as new focus. Ericsson started the first set of demos with a demonstration of WebRTC using Oculus Rift optical headsets. The demos moved from video conferencing 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 the roll-out of 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 to giving an overview of the Ecosystem, the event was 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 here at the WebRTC World website.
I thought some of the 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. One WebRTC veteran attendee commented that there were more sport coats than at past events shows that companies are now evaluating WebRTC not as a technology to understand, but as a potential of generating real revenue and value. Overall WebRTC World V was a rousing success, and pointed to the coming growth in 2015 of WebRTC and the webification of communications accelerates. We look forward to seeing you in 2015.
Edited by Maurice Nagle