It’s that time of year: when cyberspace is chock-full of articles from technology writers about what 2013 might hold for all of us on the technology front. We know you’re getting sick of them.
If you take away only one thing from this avalanche of prognosticating editorial, however, learn this word: WebRTC.
WebRTC (short for “Web Real Time Communications”) is a newish standard: a free, open project that allows high-quality, real-time communication applications to be developed in the browser via simple Java APIs and HTML5. In essence, it’s a technology that will make it much easier to communicate over the Internet on a peer-to-peer basis, allowing Web users to use click-to-text or click-to-call buttons, video conferencing and other Web-based communications technology, with no need to first download an application or a plug-in.
This is the impressive part, because until recently, all Web-based peer-to-peer communications limited to you to a certain rigid platform or required you to download something so you could chat (or call, or videoconference, etc.)
Some analysts view WebRTC as a standard that could largely supplant the telephone. (Yes, we know people have been using the telephone for over 100 years, which makes that a pretty lofty claim.) But think about it…how much time do you spend working both starting at the computer and with a phone stuck to your ear?
Why would you need to use the desktop phone when you can simply initiate a phone call or even video chat on the spot while you work?
“As this trend rides upward, the value of the desk phone will continue to drop,” wrote telecom analyst Jon Arnold on the Unified Communications Strategies blog. “I’m not ready to say the desk phone is irrelevant, but I believe this notion will gain mainstream attention in 2013, largely because video is emerging as a better way to communicate.”
Companies that require heavy use of video conferencing today spend a lot of money for that privilege, not only in onsite hardware, but in licensing for software solutions to keep using that equipment. As companies try to cut down on business travel for budgetary (and even environmental) reasons, the rise of a ridiculously easy-to-use video conferencing technology could change the market entirely.
The technology could also revolutionize call centers and help desks, allowing them to offer far more personalized, video-based service to high-touch or high-value customers.
Going forward, WebRTC can be combined with technologies such as facial recognition and 2-D or 3-D graphics, which will allow developers to build a wide variety of products based on the standard new security systems and interactive games.
The applications for social media are very broad and will ultimately allow people to virtually “hang out” together, co-browsing, watching video, chatting face-to-face and even shopping together.
While most of the nation’s largest technology stakeholders are on board with WebRTC, at least one – Apple – is being a little more noncommittal.
Even without Apple, however, the technology is expected to have a significant impact on the way we communicate over the Internet. So if you read about and absorb no other prediction articles this month, you’ll still know a lot: keep your eye on WebRTC.
Edited by Braden Becker