WebRTC Expert Feature

December 10, 2012

The Benefits of WebRTC

The benefits of WebRTC can be expressed in two ways, from either the Web server or the user point of views. Together, these two benefits define the way WebRTC will affect the communications environment.

  • WebRTC enables any Web server to deliver a unique real-time communications experience, with simplicity and reliability, without dependence on service providers or other services.
  • WebRTC enables users to participate in a communications experience as delivered by any website without downloads, registration or general cost.

In order to better understand these benefits and how they relate to the impact of WebRTC, it is important to understand the meaning of them. First, the elements of the server side benefit.

1) "WebRTC enables any Web server to deliver a unique real-time communications experience." The critical point is that with WebRTC any website can become a control and delivery point for real-time communications and that the website, through HTML/HTML5, controls the experience the user receives. With tens of millions of operating websites, this opens up communications in a major way. This is fundamentally different than today for most communications experiences where the near end control defines the experience, regardless of the destination. 

Further, that experience does not have to reflect traditional telecommunications values. For example, an image of a walkie talkie could represent the initiation of communications, rather than a more traditional telephone. And real time can now be added to any website. For example, if I were to tag an image or other point using Pinterist, that pin could now have an easy representation that I am willing to talk about that interest point. The initiation of communications is now through Pinterist, not through a phone call.

2) "... simplicity and reliability," WebRTC delivers simplicity, and through that reliability and availability in two ways. First, by putting the elements of communications into the browser in an open standard it eliminates the complexity of developing separate soft clients for each device. With many devices, operating systems, and even in Android skins, the challenge for anyone deploying a platform today is that complexity of support. Every time an OS changes, the client must be re-certified. With WebRTC, that challenge moves into the browser realm, where the number of touch points is dramatically lower and there is an eco-system of interoperability that has been established.

The second critical element of simplicity is that the WebRTC client is stateless and uses stimulus input through the graphic side of the browser to the server to initiate state change. When we started to deliver VoIP in the mid 90s, the model for real time on the IP infrastructure was H323 operating between PCs. In this case the end point was stateful (it understood its own state) and capable of local state changes. As we developed the initial VoIP systems, this option was considered and rejected as introducing huge complexity and unreliability. The telephony system had been developed in a model where the end points were not independent units, but rather presentation level interfaces of the core.   All of the initial developers of VoIP followed this model, not the H3232 model.  Unistim from Nortel, Skinny from Cisco, and "H323" from Avaya all did the same things, inputs at the device were sent to the server and the server instructed the device what to do. The state of the devices was maintained on the server. 

As SIP developed, the concept of an intelligent independent end point as driven. In SIP, each end point is both stateful and capable of self state change. This has led to increased complexity and the general lack of interoperability that exists in SIP today. WebRTC is a return to a stateless implementation where the stimulus input is through the visual browser interface and the WebRTC media engine is under the control of the web server. This dramatically simplifies the implementation.

3) "... without dependence on service providers or other services." In the pre- WebRTC world, the ability to engage in communications is dependent on one of three elements: participation in the PSTN, membership in a separate IP based community, or separate applications with clients. IN the case of the PSTN, membership through a service provider is required, and the PSTN only delivers the most rudimentary of LCD services: an assurance that each telephone number is a unique representation of a physical location, a mobile device associated with a user, or some service, and voice communications that cannot exceed the G711 standards, can only be degraded. IN the case of communities like Skype and Lync Federation, communications requires buying a product or subscription. 

Finally, services such as WebEx and Go-to-meeting require that the participants download clients for the experience. In all of these cases, the requirement for a third party to be involved in the communications system limits the scale and diversity. With WebRTC, there is no such requirement. Each website is essentially its own "service provider," without a requirement of any relationship to a party outside of itself and the user it is enabling to communicate.

From the user perspective, the benefits are similar.

1) "WebRTC enables users to participate in a communications experience as delivered by any website" with WebRTC a user can go to any website and immediately have that website deliver a communications experience that is unique to that website. Instead of having communications options defined by a few service providers and applications, now the user can literally choose a website and have the experience be unique to that site. In this way, communications is no longer a separate event, but part of the overall experience of visiting that site.

2) "... without downloads"   Not having to download a client or plug-in form each communications experience is an obvious benefit, especially when the emerging number of devices, both private and public are considered. With televisions, cars, appliance, kiosks all becoming Web-enabled, having a client or plug-in is virtually impossible to maintain. For each service a separate plug-in would mean one for each site. Most of us have pages of identities for each of the sites we visit, imagine if each of those sites offered their own communications client? With WebRTC, whether a site is visited daily or once in a lifetime, the user does not need to undertake any separate activity to enable real-time communications.

3) "... registration or general cost." WebRTC is not a service or a vendor; it is a standard. As such, when websites are WebRTC enabled, any user can participate in the communicants experience at that site without separate registrations or cost. The user is now free to immediately use real time from any website without having to join a group like Skype or have Lync for federation. The gatekeepers of communications are moved from a position of control and mandatory tolls to optional when require

Edited by Braden Becker


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