WebRTC is a huge step forward in allowing interoperable real-time communications between various web browsers, but as far as we've come as an industry, we still have more to go. Temasys is spearheading the effort to alleviate the interop challenges facing the WebRTC community. To keep my audience updated, I recently had a chance to interview Chip Wilcox, CEO at Temasys to learn more. I hope you find the interview useful.
What’s the state of WebRTC browser interoperability?
The state of WebRTC browser interoperability today is quite challenging. Let’s start with Google and Mozilla. While these two companies have made their browsers interoperable in terms of WebRTC, they’ve each implemented WebRTC support very differently.
With the frequent releases of both browsers and the updates or changes occurring in the WebRTC API, simply keeping pace can make it challenging for developers building WebRTC-powered applications.
Now, throw in the fact that Microsoft IE and Apple Safari are not supporting WebRTC, today, add in all the other random web browsers and devices like set top boxes and game consoles which use web core libraries as part of their UI applications and you can see that interoperability isn’t easy.
So while we would say there’s been progress over the last twelve months, there is still a long way to go to fix things across the board before WebRTC is available everywhere.
How does Temasys help?
Temasys helps by providing the only (that we know of) commercial-grade and generic solution for making WebRTC work inside Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari desktop browsers.
We launched the free version of this component less than a year ago, back in May 2014, just before WebRTC Expo. Our reasons for launching this project and our commitment to maintaining the free plug-in are the same today as they were back then: First, we believe that for Temasys to be successful, WebRTC needs to be successful. In terms of desktop web browsers, there needs to be support for IE (at least) and Safari (a very nice-to-have) because together they make up a significant portion of the browser market, especially in the enterprise space.
By doing this, we see ourselves as a technology enabler for everyone working with WebRTC: We are completely agnostic as to who uses our plug-in.
Complementing the plug-in, we also now offer a modified version of Adapter.js, the polyfill helper file that makes it easier for a WebRTC service to manage the different browser vendor implementations of WebRTC support. Ours not only improves upon the open source version of this component, but it also adds support for users of IE and Safari, and our plug-in.
We are now also offering a commercial licensed version of our plug-in that lets customers add their own branding to the installer package. This also allows them to add support for features that are not part of the WebRTC standard, like screen sharing. Since we have to do more to support these implementations, we charge for these versions of the plug-in in order to make it feasible for us to manage.
Can you provide some examples of how your solution is working in the real world?
We have many large customers who are using our WebRTC Plug-in for IE and Safari. These are “household brand names” in the video conferencing and collaboration space.
Our WebRTC plug-in for IE and Safari is intended to be generic and works pretty much out of the box for any service or vertical that needs it. We offer this to anyone who wants it, even our direct competitors in the Platform-as-a-Service space.
The commercially licensed version is also something anyone can use, but we provide additional support for customers paying us as well as for doing the programming that integrates features like screen sharing or the support of codecs that are not part of the WebRTC Standard.
What are the natural industries where Temasys can help?
The WebRTC plug-in can be used anywhere, in any industry, with any service that is powered by WebRTC.
On the PaaS side of our business, outside of Unified Communications or Video Conferencing, we already have customers from verticals like Healthcare and Telehealth, Contact Centers, Social Networking, eLearning, Wearables, Security, even Drones as we see the Internet of Things and WebRTC as natural allies.
That gives us pretty broad range of opportunities, and what’s nice is that we seem to be well suited to meet the needs of customers across all of them.
Here and there we need to tweak or extend some aspects of our SDKs to enable functionality that’s specific to the requirements of a given vertical or service provider, but that’s often not a huge effort and it creates more opportunity to serve other customers in those spaces.
A good example of this is SkylinkCC (CC is for “Contact Center”).
This extension implements standard alerts and queuing features along with an “on hold” experience for the end user and an “agent view” for the contact center workers. It’s currently deployed and “live” with two customers who have been gracious enough to give us excellent feedback to make this a great new way to use our Skylink platform, and we’ll be marketing that more widely soon.
Will you be able to help bring WebRTC to iOS?
We already do. With Temasys' Skylink for iOS we help developers bring WebRTC-powered communication and interaction features to any iOS application. We also have an Android SDK to help developers build native Android apps that leverage WebRTC and the Skylink Platform-as-a-Service.
With the majority of iOS applications being “native” versus built for mobile web browsers, there is already quite a bit happening to bring WebRTC to iOS.
When it does come to a discussion about browser-based iOS apps, there are no iOS web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari) that can take advantage of WebRTC, due to Apple’s SDK which requires developers for iOS to use Apple’s version of WebKit in those browsers.
See the Temasys WebRTC Expo Keynote this past July in Atlanta, GA
On this front, Temasys is working with Ericsson and Igalia, among others, to build WebRTC into WebKit (details). The aim of this initiative is to implement WebRTC support in the core of WebKit and therefore make it shared among all WebKit ports. This will also enable integration of other WebRTC backends such as webrtc.org. It’s about making WebRTC available in as many different places as possible and helping the technology get traction, which will ultimately benefit the ecosystem, as well as Temasys.
Of course, Apple then will have the opportunity to leverage this, too, if they want to bring WebRTC into iOS browsers, and into the Safari desktop web browser.
What about Microsoft’s future browsers?
Microsoft recently announced that it planned to replace Internet Explorer with Spartan, its new desktop web browser. Even after this happens, we expect it will be several years before the audience for IE will cycle through upgrades to the newest Microsoft browsers. We still get questions about whether our WebRTC plug-in will support IE 6! We’ve always said that we think having access to WebRTC as a native experience within web browsers is the best outcome for the technology, but we expect there will be a need for a plug-in to support IE users for some time yet.
Are current social and messaging companies competitors to the new WebRTC implementations?
Absolutely not. WebRTC could be seen as an enabler for them, as well, and from our perspective using a platform like Skylink could help them deliver features in parity across multiple platforms more easily. Many of them will decide to build WebRTC into their products on their own, deciding to build their own supporting infrastructures or to bolt WebRTC onto their existing stacks. Yet we don’t see this as being a bad thing, either, as having any of the big social networking and messaging companies add WebRTC to their products is only going to further validate the technology.
What can we expect from your company in the future?
Our real mission is to make using WebRTC less complicated for developers, providing them with faster time to deployment and an easier route to get there, and with economics that make sense for the way they value the technologies they use.
With regard to the WebRTC plug-in and other components that could help the ecosystem at large, we will continue to maintain our free and commercial versions of the plug-in. We are also piloting a couple of other efforts to make WebRTC easier to work with. We’ll announce those when we think they’re ready for the market.
We also believe that there are many new use cases and existing verticals where the idea of bringing communication as a feature into any user experience is a huge opportunity.
Beyond the low-hanging fruit of adopting WebRTC to power Unified Communications and Video Collaboration, or simply using it to extend existing VoIP products to WebRTC-capable endpoints, there are many more ways this technology will impact the future of communications on the Internet.
Temasys at Demo Days at WebRTC Expo this past July in Atlanta, GA
Temasys discusses its place in the market, crowd funding and more at WebRTC Expo this past July in Atlanta, GA.
"Our goal is to become the Amazon web services of real-time communications."
Edited by Stefania Viscusi