WebRTC World Feature Article

February 07, 2017

Microsoft Edge Sharpens Up With WebRTC


For a while, it seemed like the one big holdout in the Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) field would be either Microsoft or Apple. Now, Microsoft's increasingly getting on board with the communications technology, and bringing some extra WebRTC-related capability to its Microsoft Edge system.

The new updates to Microsoft Edge will not only offer preview availability for the WebRTC 1.0 applications programming interface (API), but also offer support for VP8 and H.264/AVC video codecs. That's a big start down the road of WebRTC capability, and will provide some exciting new communications options for browsers and platforms alike.

Better news, these updates are actually already available. The features in question are enabled on a default basis, starting with Windows Insider Preview build 15019. Stable releases, meanwhile, will come with the newest Windows 10 Creator's Update.

Microsoft had been working towards this position for some time now, starting with Object Real Time Communications—which some considered as Microsoft's version of WebRTC, largely developed by Google and Mozilla—back in EdgeHTML 13, or Windows 10 version 1511. Now, with more of a WebRTC focus, Microsoft is working toward better interoperability with current users, which are often using the WebRTC API found elsewhere. With the new version in place, the system can now accommodate peer-to-peer audio and video, reports note, by using a version of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) WebRTC-PC API from around 2015.

While reports note that Microsoft doesn't plan to update further from that API, there will be some developments in this vein to follow. Extra support for the W3C's Screen Capture system, for example, will follow as will some further—if as yet unclarified—“support for enterprise scenarios.” Microsoft is also opening up the doors to feedback both on WebRTC and on its current progression in that field.

It may seem like kind of a weak sauce approach to things, but there's likely some politics at play here. Microsoft going all in on what amounts to Google's technology may not be a great stand to take; it would almost be like Microsoft offering to retool the Xbox One so it could play PlayStation discs.  Not that that wouldn't be welcome, but it just couldn't be done without Microsoft looking weaker for the concession.

Still, Microsoft is clearly making some developments here that will accommodate some of WebRTC's capabilities. That's good news for everyone involved in the field, and may well get WebRTC capability to more platforms, more devices, and into more users' hands. That's a point WebRTC really needs to carry on properly.




Edited by Alicia Young




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