WebRTC World Feature Article

March 14, 2013

For Online Communications, WebRTC is the Future

The concept of Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) has been flying around a lot lately, but the sheer potential of this technology is leaving users wondering about its overall implications to communicating online.

For many, however, it is clear: WebRTC represents the future of Web-based communications, and services like Skype and FaceTime will have their work cut out for them to keep up.

The idea of WebRTC is comparatively simple: it's geared to take Web browsers and turn them into fully realized communications devices, in real time, using a set of JavaScript APIs to unlock a wide variety of functions that weren't previously available, like video chatting, file sharing, voice calling and more – all from a browser. As impressive – and ambitious – as this sounds by itself, it's not the end of the line. It’s merely the beginning.

Developers are already working on ways to integrate this kind of technology into other applications, even in gaming, to make the system even more robust than its introductory level called for.

Before WebRTC, explained Alan Johnston, a Distinguished Engineer with Avaya who wrote a book on the subject, bringing such technology to Web-based applications was possible but extremely difficult. Developers needed to understand things like communications protocols and selecting stacks.

Worse, in many cases, working with stacks required licensing, which only made things more complex and difficult. But with WebRTC, the standards are much simpler, and can be implemented with API calls.

This lowers development costs, speeds up development, and improves the level of interaction for websites, making users happier overall.

Perhaps best of all, these features can be accomplished without the need for plug-ins, which have been shown historically to be a way for malware to get into a system. The fact that all these features can be made available right on a browser, without plug-ins, also improves overall functionality; it was reportedly quite common that users would plan a conference call for a certain day only to discover their plans could not go off as scheduled because one user in the chain – possibly more – didn't have the necessary plug-ins to get the call rolling.

Eventually, WebRTC will likely go mobile as well, and that too will likely shake up the face of mobile as we know it even further. It's not that the idea of WebRTC doesn't have some problems with it; there are some challenges brewing in the form of what video codec to use – some backing VP8 and others backing H.264, each for different reasons – but even these problems are likely to get solved and boiled down within the coming months.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of WebRTC is that it's a system still in a comparative infancy. This movement is just starting to move, and has serious potential to be the next big thing in communications before long.

With a lot of benefits on its side, users will likely be very interested in getting to work with WebRTC, and an interested user base covers a multitude of problems.

Edited by Braden Becker


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