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October 21, 2013

WebRTC Could Make Video Conferencing Ubiquitous

Video conferencing has gotten a lot easier the past 10 years, but its evolution thus far could pale in comparison to what might happen once WebRTC catches fire.

WebRTC, which stands for Web real-time communications, is a technology that promises to remove the final level of complexity and pain when it comes to video conferencing.

Even though video conferencing has gotten a lot easier, there still are things like software to install, or plug-ins to use, or usernames and passwords that are required.

With WebRTC, however, that looks set to change.

Image via Shutterstock

All WebRTC requires is a modern web browser, whether the latest version of Chrome or Mozilla. With just a browser, users can then video conference with friends, partners, coworkers, vendors or customers. All it takes is the press of a button.

The technology is still being hammered out, but many companies have already rushed to adopt it.

Once WebRTC really catches on, it could be the technology that finally makes video ubiquitous.

That’s because of a thing called Metcalfe’s Law. The law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.

Basically, the more people that use video conferencing, the more it will pick up speed in adoption.

Think what happened with Facebook, for instance. At first it was just one of many social networks, but eventually it became “the” social network because everybody else already had a profile on it. Even if users don’t like Facebook, they have to use it because everyone else is. The more people, the more traction.

Adoption of video conferencing works the same way. If everybody has the ability to easily video conference, more people will start using video conferencing.

WebRTC and its growing ubiquity, coupled with the inclusion of video cameras in mobile devices of all types, could push video in the same direction as Facebook adoption.

WebRTC still faces some challenges before it is standardized and becomes ubiquitous. But there are signs that it is close to becoming the inevitable winner. There are no deal-breakers on the horizon, even Apple’s “no comment” position on the technology and Microsoft’s attempt at promoting the rival CU-RTC-Web standard.

These are thorns in the side of WebRTC, but not long-term obstacles.

Next stop, video conferencing for everybody!

Edited by Alisen Downey
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