Communications is poised to get a whole lot more interesting in the next few months as a new technology called WebRTC comes to bear. This technology will allow for real-time voice and video interactions from a Web browser without requiring special client software.
“Imagine when communications become like the web,” says Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting LLC and UCStrategies.com, who heads up WebRTC Expo later this month in San Francisco.
When that happens, things get particularly interesting for Web entities like Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google (one of the pioneers of WebRTC) that want to enable new communications options for existing online communications, he says. Edholm offers for consideration one possible scenario on this front: “So if you use Pinterest, for example, and tag something you like and there are five other Pinterest tags on that item, what can happen with WebRTC is it can allow the server to trigger real-time communications between those individuals. To do that in a server takes about 40 lines of Java script, which is really easy to write.”
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This is just one example, as the potential applications for WebRTC are limitless. WebRTC could also allow one person or organization to send a URL linking to an RTC server to another individual as a means to allow for real-time communications directly from one person or entity to another. There is also great opportunity for using WebRTC to enable communications in various business applications.
All of that probably sounds great if you’re a Web entity or an end user, but it might be a bit less appealing if you’re a communications service provider. That’s because WebRTC can take the middle man (telco or VoIP provider) out of real-time communications. Indeed, many in the industry see WebRTC as a potential Skype killer, and some are suggesting that Skype and its owner, Microsoft, might want to put efforts on this front to a stop.
“WebRTC is a technology that lets developers build real-time communication into web pages,” writes Tsahi Levent-Levi, direct of business solutions at Amdocs and BlogGeek.me blogger, in a Sept. 10 posting. “While it’s going to affect the telcos, it’s actually the VoIP vendors who now face the real danger, because it brings down the VoIP players’ protective subscription walls.”
Shubh Agarwal, vice president of marketing for OpenClove, a WebRTC proponent that is providing an open, cloud-based platform for anyone (consumer or enterprise service provider) to embed communication, offers this perspective: “Skype is a success story in transforming communications – the third or fourth generation (switching, digital, IP, OTT VoIP). But it is not capable of this next trend – of embedded or context-based communications. Proof point – the idea did exist when eBay bought Skype, but it failed, due the very nature of Skype as a closed communication system – making money the old-fashioned way – selling cheap long distance. Word on the street is that Microsoft is attempting to do the same – but it is anyone’s guess if and when it will happen.”
Yet, interestingly, Skype and its new owner, Microsoft, have been among the key participants in work around WebRTC.
Matthew Kaufman, principal architect for Microsoft-Skype, tells us that WebRTC provides yet another platform through which the company can deliver its services.
“Skype is available in mobile devices, tablets, desktop machines and every operating system,” Kaufman says. “Cross-platform interoperability is very important to Skype as we want all of our customers to be able to access and use Skype across platforms. As our customers are in situations where they only have the browser to rely on for communications, we want to enable them to use Skype in that situation. WebRTC enables this real-time communications in the browser without a plug-in. Skype is currently available in the browser through Facebook video calling using a plug-in.”
Edited by Brooke Neuman