WebRTC Expert Feature

February 03, 2017

The WebRTC Edge is Coming

For the last three years, the first comment that the naysayers have made is that Microsoft and Apple do not support WebRTC. Never mind that Chrome and Firefox are gaining in popularity, the fact that Edge and Safari did not support WebRTC was always presented as a reason to continue with proprietary implementations, often based on last decade or even last millennium technology. Microsoft announced yesterday that they are stepping up to provide WebRTC 1.0 support, while increasing the drive for the additional functionality in ORTC.

Today, Microsoft announced that “the preview availability of the WebRTC 1.0 API, and support for the H.264/AVC and VP8 video codecs for RTC in Microsoft Edge, enabling plugin-free, interoperable video communications solutions across browsers and platforms.”

The new features are available immediately in Windows Insider Preview builds and will be in stable releases beginning with the Windows 10 Creator’s Update.

Microsoft has provided ORTC support in Edge in EdgeHTML 13 (Windows 10 version 1511). The company states that the goal of the WebRTC 1.0 API implementation is provide interoperability with legacy WebRTC implementations on existing websites, which leverage the WebRTC API as previously deployed in other browsers.

The Microsoft Edge WebRTC 1.0 API implementation provides support for peer-to-peer audio and video based on a subset of the W3C WebRTC-PC API circa 2015, prior to the addition of the WebRTC object model.  The Microsoft release of WebRTC 1.0 is focused on legacy interoperability (including mobile applications built from early versions of the WebRTC.org source code), there are no plans to further update the native WebRTC 1.0 API beyond this release.

While this release will enable Edge users to interact with users in the current WebRTC world, Microsoft remains committed to making the ORTC capabilities part of the standard and will focus there going forward.

Both the H.264/AVC and VP8 video codecs are supported in the Microsoft Edge RTC stack, providing interoperable video communications between Microsoft Edge and other major WebRTC browsers and RTC services. Microsoft indicates that they have implemented specific congestion control and robustness mechanisms for both H.264/AVC and VP8 video codecs.

However, while the Edge H.264/AVC implementation supports hardware offload within both the encoder and decoder, VP8 is implemented purely in software, and thus, may exhibit higher power consumption and CPU load.  While most modern PCs running Edge will have plenty of horsepower, Microsoft recommends caution on older or lower powered devices.

Microsoft indicated an ongoing commitment to open communications in the Real time Web. They are adding support for the W3C Screen Capture specification, as well as improved support for enterprise scenarios. Microsoft has made the WebRTC 1.0 preview builds available today, and is looking for adopters to test the release and provide feedback.

Of course, WebRTC in Edge addresses the rapidly growing segment of the market that has upgraded to Windows 10 or Edge, for users or organizations still using Explorer, there are plug-ins available from companies like Temasys. However, I hope that many Explorer users see this as a valuable reason to upgrade to Edge.

Bravo Microsoft. I look forward to using Edge and trying the WebRTC implementation with all of my favorite WebRTC applications and to test interoperability with other WebRTC browsers and mobile apps. So, now there is just one hold-out, here is looking at you Apple!

If you’re interested in learning more about Real Time Web Communications I’ll be speaking during numerous panels at ITEXPO in Fort Lauderdale next week. The Real Time Web Solutions virtual track will deliver an introduction to this hot topic and include everything you need to know about the next revolution. There's still time to register - Hurry!

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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