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November 07, 2013

WebRTC Likely to Play a Large Role in Social Media

People, it seems, have a taste for video chatting. Maybe it’s because many of us are old enough to remember how futuristic it seemed to talk to someone from a distance while seeing their face, but the longstanding popularity of services like Skype suggests that there’s more than novelty there. With WebRTC aggressively making its way onto the scene, backed by a number of major players, it seems that this functionality we all love will become more accessible than ever.

If you think this means that WebRTC brings video chatting to the browser, well, you’re half right. But think about how it could be even more easily accessible.

Mozilla has and it believes the answer is social media. Perhaps a little ahead of the game, the company best known for its Firefox browser integrated its Social API with WebRTC roughly a year ago with the dream of making social media and video chatting seamlessly connected.

Of course, if it was as easy as that, we’d all have complete video-social integration right now. But the fact of the matter is the social media networks themselves will be responsible for video integration going forward, just as they have been for some time now.

Indeed, Facebook blazed this trail back in 2011 through Skype integration. But the method it used then, and still use to this day, was clunky as it required a Skype video calling plugin and used a proprietary API. It’s hard to see why Facebook would continue to stick with Skype integration for much longer.

Google+, on the other hand, leverages WebRTC and the VP8 codec to create a much smoother, seamless experience not only in the Web browser but in the Google Hangouts mobile app as well. The end result more or less fits with Mozilla’s dream from a year ago, except for being limited to only one social network. Although Facebook likely has a lucrative deal going with Microsoft for its Skype integration, if Google ends up pulling users away, we may see a Skype vs. Facebook situation develop.

Then there’s Twitter. It’s hard to imagine the micro-blogging site extending beyond its Vine service, but with its IPO flying high, it may just turn to video chatting as a way to attract more users, increase revenue and please its backers. Stranger things have happened.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, two things are for certain. First, video and WebRTC will play an important role in social media going forward. Second, users are entering into a golden age of easy access to video chatting.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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