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September 10, 2013

Will WebRTC Replace SIP? Probably Not

WebRTC has become one of the hottest topics recently in online communication, and for good reason. The ability for people to make calls through their browsers without any proprietary plug-ins like Flash is a major innovation. Will it replace SIP? That’s the question that Andrew Prokop, writing in his blog SIP Adventures, is trying to answer.

“Over the past weeks and months I’ve had a number of people ask me if WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is going to replace SIP,” he wrote. “It’s a good question and the first time I was asked I didn’t have a good answer. That’s because like many people, I really didn’t understand what WebRTC was. Chances are you don’t, either.”

WebRTC allows users to communicate through their browsers in real time, as the name suggests, with both audio and video. It’s similar to programs like Skype but without the need for an additional client. Both the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome support it. The idea isn’t exactly new, but it’s the first time real time communication is part of an open Web-based standard.

In the past, communication through the browser has been handled by Adobe Flash. It’s worked reasonably well, but most mobile devices, including Apple’s, don’t support it.

While WebRTC can use a devices camera and microphone, they still need a way to get to the other person. Since SIP is already widely used, it could be a perfect solution with a Web-based front end using WebRTC.

Prokop thus believes the two technologies complement each other.

“Something needs to ring the far end. Something needs to answer a ringing call. Something needs to eventually release that call,” said Prokop. “While that something doesn’t have to be SIP, it’s a pretty good option. WebRTC is responsible for the media flow between the browser and the far end (which could very well be another browser, but it doesn’t have to be) and SIP could be used for session management. This isn’t too different from what SIP does today. SIP does all the call control stuff, but Session Description Protocol (SDP) is used for the media aspects of those calls.”

Edited by Alisen Downey
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