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November 28, 2012

Will WebRTC Ever Make Communication Local Again?

Phil Edholm, conference chair of WebRTC, and I had a great discussion about what changes as a result of WebRTC. Some of our friends are convinced that the legacy will remain unchanged. That the carriers are not going to feel the competition. And if you look at the history, it’s easier to see the changes that happen at the edge. That’s the point that Phil made to me in our discussion.

WebRTC probably does not change the look and feel of phone-like services; however, services that are not based on phones could change the edge use considerably. At the edge, it’s clear that IVR is dead and will be replaced by WebRTC, as context comes for the ride in the call and all the call direction strategies now become part of the cookie sent to the call center rep.

In the legacy of telecom regulation are a lot of assumptions about jurisdiction and use. Many of these assumptions have evaporated in the ether. On wireless, minutes are minutes. International calls are less expensive and bundled into some services. The Internet has made everything global but some charges still apply. International roaming is still expensive. 66 percent of your communications are within your local area.

When WebRTC is adopted by websites, does that aggregation become more local?

Before you say no, look at what is happening to sites like Facebook, Linkedin and MeetUp. Quite often, interest groups are being formed based on smaller and smaller geographies. Even ad networks are retrieving your location to add a geographic come on. If talk is cheap, it’s more meaningful when it gathers people face-to-face. So it would be logical to expect that people are going to benefit from WebRTC with a visual mapping component as well as the audio and visual.

You may be willing to chat with someone online, but if you are dating, “geographically undesirable” is a component. When I first started searching the Internet for local services, the general range was 25 miles. Today it’s rare that I get a site that is not local to me.  

In other words, the websites have already improved from a search standpoint, so we should look at the next point. If the information on the site is aimed for better local communication, what makes more sense: a voice conversation or a chat? 

I think we are going to see a new generation of chat rooms where we all actually chat on the site with our communities of interest.

Whether this starts locally or evolves into it, I am not sure, but I expect it moves that way fairly quickly because the Web adapts much faster than the phone. 

Edited by Rich Steeves
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