WebRTC Expert Feature

August 14, 2013

WebRTC Book Second Edition: Time For Real Code

Dan Burnett and Alan Johnston probably knew they’d have their hands full when they made the commitment to continually update “WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web,” however I am not so sure they knew how effective they’d be at delivering the most timely information possible. The first edition of the book was already quite good, but with the addition of real code and discussions of the standard revisions and adoptions the reader actually not only gains insight on how to code but also on what to look out for when coding. At the iteration of the book’s second edition we see video conferencing treated as a given, and the demo offered is an excellent starting point for anyone joining the community.

Dan and Alan point out that much work still needs to be done on data channels and streaming but emphasize that “WebRTC”s pseudo-code can help all of us to comprehend where we currently stand. Although most of this code is offered with the caveat that the APIs are going to present a problem, the bottom line is that it will take you almost 90 percent of the way there. With APIs so dynamic, though, it is clearly necessary to join the communities to remain engaged.

And engaged is one thing that can certainly be said for Alan and Dan’s effort. Delivering on the promise to keep the book updated, they have perhaps gone a little too far in not including an index page this time around (the paperback has an index, but not the eBook with the assumption being that an e-user can use the search function as needed). Chapter 1, though, answers the question “What is WebRTC?” and Chapter 2 answers the question “Why you would use WebRTC.” Chapters 3 and 4 then dig into the nuances of architecture, starting with peer-to-peer and end by tracking the possibilities of a shared state between server and client. And I do expect that with HTML5 we will see more of these shared state experiences, which will require developers to think about the media and the signals in different ways.

Chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 can be considered deep background for those readers looking to understand the reason for protocols, with Chapter 7 serving as a demo with code that includes a node.js implementation (readers who buy the book for no other reason than to run through the demo will probably save themselves hours of pondering).

Perhaps the most important chapter in the second edition of “WebRTC: APIs and RTCWEB Protocols of the HTML5 Real-Time Web” is Chapter 10, regarding security. As stated in the Preface, the area of security is a dynamic one, and with websockets stabilized for HTML5 some progress has been made. A multilayer problem, the security discussion is often stuck on a specific attack, however Alan and Dan have a lot of experience in this area and their write up presents insights and areas to consider in all aspects of delivery.

Finally, Chapter 11 is the authors’ noble effort to keep and maintain a list of all known WebRTC implementations, including academic, commercial, and open source. Of course, this chapter is already out of date – third revision anyone? – but the rest of the book is an exceptional resource for getting up to speed and becoming a peer in this new era of real-time communication on the web.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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