WebRTC World Feature Article

December 27, 2012

Updates to WebRTC APIs Expand Capabilities


The clean integration of technologies always ensures better performance and user satisfaction, especially when it comes to communications. For WebRTC, the support of real-time communications, especially video, is a priority. With the latest advancements in this space, users are about to experience a whole new way to communicate across the miles.

According to an HTML5 Rocks report, WebRTC is arriving on a number of different platforms and browsers. The communication experience is enhanced for all Google Chrome users as WebRTC is now available with no flags. Opera is also on board, as is Firefox Nightly/Aurora, although users will be required to set preferences.

The Ericsson Bowser browser now also invites all iOS and Android users to experience WebRTC. For the greatest capabilities on this platform, Chrome is stable and without flags. A simple demo shows users how to get started, enhancing their real-time communications experiences.

To optimize the video communications experience, resolution constraints are implemented in Chrome 24 and above. These restraints are used to set values for resolution for video calls to optimize the interaction. Users do need to pay attention, however, as all constraints set in one browser will affect the constraints for all tabs open at the same time. Errors can occur if constraints are not set and managed properly.

The latest WebRTC API announcement focuses on DataChannel. A high performance, low latency, peer-to-peer communication channel for arbitrary data, DataChannel is simple and similar in operation to WebSocket. The difference here is that communication occurs directly between the browsers, making DataChannel much faster.

Chrome version 25 is expected to offer DataChannel, although it will be behind a flag. The launch is considered for experimentation only and this version may lack full functionality. Communications is not expected to be possible with the Firefox implementation, although subsequent versions are expected to be more stable to enable interactions via Firefox.

The Firefox blog offers more information and demos, with basic WebRTC support expected in the Firefox 18 release in the beginning of 2013. Support for additional features is expected in coming versions, including communications between browsers sitting behind firewalls.

Finally, WebRTC now also offers Tab Capture in the Chrome Dev channel, making it possible to capture the visual tab area, turning it into a stream. That information can then be used locally or with RTCPeerConnection’s addStream. This function is useful for Web page sharing and screencasting, but should be used properly to optimize the experience.

As the development for WebRTC continues, the possibility of the completely unified communication experience grows. APIs continue in development and enhancement, inviting developers to create new uses and identify potential bugs to address before mass adoption. The demand for real-time communications continues to grow, especially in relation to video. The continued progress with WebRTC will be fun to watch, anticipating the benefits it promises to deliver.


Edited by Rachel Ramsey




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