WebRTC World Feature Article

November 08, 2013

PubNub Shields Customers from Protocol Adoption Wars with Evolving WebRTC Standards


One of the most promising features about WebRTC is its ability to deliver what today’s businesses, customers and people want: real-time communication. Whether we are gaming, screen sharing, instant messaging or video conferencing, we’ve grown accustomed to this “what we want, when it want it” culture. WebRTC takes video over the Internet to the next level by eliminating barriers like downloads and plugins to make communications as seamless as possible.

PubNub has many customers using the PubNub Real-Time Network as the global signaling infrastructure for their audio/video collaboration applications, including those using WebRTC. For example, Ondello, a provider of WeBRTC-based software and services, uses PubNub for its WebRTC solution in the healthcare collaboration/meeting rooms industry. Many more customers are currently in development on the PubNub Network for WebRTC apps, including those using the PubNub WebRTC Data Channel bridge. 

We caught up with Todd Greene, CEO and co-founder of PubNub, to discuss the latest WebRTC trends, impacts and excitement.

PubNub sees WebRTC as part of a broader trend: the demand across the board for real-time apps. Users of online applications expect changes to data to be reflected instantly on all of their devices; mobile, desktop and embedded systems, Greene explained.

The PubNub Real-Time Network is focused on integrating all types of real-time systems together in an easy-to-use way for developers. WebRTC, Websockets, SPDY, RCS and other standards all need a way to integrate, regardless of the adoption of WebRTC across other platforms like Apple and Microsoft. As history has shown, the broader adoption of fewer standards almost always benefits customers of technologies, so PubNub firmly hopes that all companies will adopt the WebRTC standard across the board. Regardless of how real-time protocols evolve or who adopts them, PubNub is committed to being a one-size-fits-all solution for delivering real-time, shielding customers from the ever-changing world of protocol evolution.

WebRTC removes many of the cost and complexity obstacles for providing audio and video features into a variety of solutions. PubNub has fit amazingly well into the WebRTC ecosystem by plugging the few remaining holes that generated complexity in WebRTC development:

The need for a global signaling system: establishing a call, doing multi-party collaboration during a call (chat, screen sharing, etc.)

The need for a global presence detection system

The ability to store WebRTC Data Channel streams and retrieve them later (social chat streams, screen sharing, etc.)  

Greene explained that WebRTC represents a broader trend for adopting real-time technologies in virtually every kind of online app. Call centers, remote workers, machine-to-machine (IoT), social apps, eCommerce and advertising are just a few examples of industries that are evolving their online apps to be more real-time.

PubNub has seen adoption of the PubNub Real-Time Network across a surprising range of industries, all clamoring for the same general real-time building blocks: Data push, presence, stream storage, analytics and real-time security of data streams.

“What we’re seeing is nothing less than a complete re-definition of the software stack: one that is designed to support the core functions needed by real-time applications across the board,” he said.

The WebRTC data channel combined with a global signaling network like PubNub makes it really easy to power a wide spectrum of rich multimedia capabilities, especially peer-to-peer collaborative apps utilizing large data sets. But it goes beyond that -- data streams proxied through the PubNub Real-Time Network begin to represent a new hybrid development model: where data is transferred between peers, while simultaneously streaming to servers to enforce business rules and step-in where necessary to direct or revoke permission to the peers.

While the WebRTC data channel provides a great peer-to-peer protocol for data sharing, PubNub has enabled an easy way for WebRTC solutions to work in real-world, multi-party, global deployments. PubNub is a strong supporter of the WebRTC standard, and committed to ensuring the most up-to-date support of WebRTC and delivering tools that easily round out the delivery of complex, powerful WebRTC solutions.

“Customers use PubNub specifically as a way to shield themselves from the protocol adoption wars that always happen when new standards evolve,” Greene said. “PubNub is committed to being an easy-to-use solution that will handle the bridge between many evolving protocols.”

There has been a lot of discussion about standards and codecs as the most recent IETF meeting set out to decide on a video standard between H.264 and VP8. As a company focused on real-time signaling, PubNub is completely codec agnostic.

 “Given the breadth of customers using the PubNub Real-Time Network, we’re in a unique position to see the evolution in application development,” Greene said. “While standards like HTML5 have promised the elimination of native apps for years, PubNub finds that developers usually make informed platform choices for their apps that have more to do with the specific business problems they are trying to solve, vs. adhering to a standard solely to avoid the need for native code. This realization is what’s driving PubNub to support over 60 platforms, both HTML5 and native, to ensure that every platform in use will have the same access to the core building-blocks of real-time functionality.”

WebRTC Awareness

PubNub has been “happily surprised” by the industry excitement and adoption of WebRTC. It’s anyone’s guess whether every browser and device will support WebRTC natively, Greene said, but the PubNub Real-Time Network is specifically designed so that people don’t have to bet their businesses on whether a specific protocol is widely adopted.

PubNub sees a diverse range of understanding on a customer-by-customer basis about the benefits of WebRTC and other real-time protocols. It often takes a few paragraphs to “connect-the-dots” for customers between their real-world business problem and how it will be solved with the PubNub Real-Time Network.

“As the understanding of what the core building blocks for real-time are (data push, presence, storage/playback, analytics, security, etc.) we are seeing more customers who can jump right in without much handholding to get their real-time applications to market quickly,” said Greene.

He explains that events are the best way to help WebRTC developers to reach a wider audience.

“It is a vital way to evangelize and communicate what is happening in the specification, as well as spark creativity in ways to use the technology,” he said.

PubNub will be speaking about the data channel capabilities in a session, “Using the Data Channel for More than File Sharing,” as well as exhibiting the PubNub Real-Time Network at the upcoming WebRTC Conference & Expo, happening Nov. 19 – 21 in Santa Clara, Calif.

“We are passionate about creating an easy way to utilize the data channel in production applications today. We will also be teaching developers about how the data channel works and how to use it,” he said.

PubNub initially attended the 2012 WebRTC Conference & Expo to explore a fit between the PubNub Real-Time Network and WebRTC, where it won the WebRTC “Best-In-Show” and the “Audience Choice” awards, and was further honored at the Atlanta 2013 event with the “Audience Choice” and “Beyond-the-Call” awards.

“It’s these accolades that have signaled the great fit between PubNub and the WebRTC community, and we’re committed to participating in its continued growth,” he said.

PubNub is looking to “connect the dots” for as many people as possible, and help them understand the most effective ways to deliver real-time collaborative apps. It is also aiming to demonstrate how PubNub enable developers to dramatically reduce the cost, complexity and delivery time of real-time apps.

Green said, “If previous WebRTC Expos are any measure, PubNub expects to drive another set of happy customers from the attendees at the show!”

Want to learn more about PubNub? Then be sure to attend WebRTC Conference & Expo, Nov. 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif., and visit the company at booth #204. Stay in touch with everything happening at WebRTC Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker




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