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November 18, 2013

VP9 and Other Innovations Help WebRTC Reach Its Promise

The promise: Free voice and video calling from any device or browser with the click of a button. No software to install, no compatibility issues, no plugins and no hassles.

This is the hope around WebRTC, the emerging standard to make VoIP calling through any Web-enabled device. But this hope is not yet realized—like many emerging standards, universal is not exactly true until all the major players have adopted it. And since WebRTC is new, relying on HTML5, that hasn’t happened yet.

In the meantime, companies such as Bistri are bridging the gap with a variety of solutions that enable businesses to leverage the technology today while adoption is still taking place.

“WebRTC is open, part of the HTML5 standard, written in the W3C and IETF working groups,” noted Bistri co-founder and CEO, Arnaud Budkiewicz. “The audio and video codecs are open-sourced. Seriously, why would the major browser vendors resist?”

Market pressure will fuel adoption.

“In the next months, the ones resisting will look old fashioned,” he suggested. “Because in the mean time, the end users will start to use crazy frictionless services like Bistri that works on the Web, but also on the Mobile Web, on Native apps, ChromeBooks, Google Glass, set-top boxes, TVs.”

One limiting factor for WebRTC at the moment is that it requires relatively new hardware. That’s because the video standards used in WebRTC, VP8 and its newer cousin, VP9, are soft codecs.

“But in 12 months, most devices will include a compatible GPU to reduce CPU usage and save battery life,” he said.

With VP9, WebRTC technology is making a big leap because it consumes less bandwidth over VP8, and it gives better video quality at the same time. Budkiewicz noted that VP9 represents a boost for WebRTC adoption, especially on mobile devices where the resources are limited.

H264 is not supported by Firefox so far, he said, but thanks to a Cisco library it should be released in the next version. The roadmap with WebRTC for Google’s Chrome is not known, but it also is expected to offer support soon.

“I hope that VP9 will be available at the same time on both browsers,” he said.

There also are other issues to work out as adoption for the technology rises. Such as a seamless calling experience on mobile phones.

Currently WebRTC calls can’t wake a smartphone, so an app is needed to give WebRTC full functionality as a mobile calling solution. Bistri already has an Android app for this purpose, with an iOS one on the way soon. It is showing off these apps at the WebRTC Conference & Expo that starts tomorrow in Santa Clara, Calif.

The future of WebRTC is bright. But right now companies are working hard to make this promise a reality.


Want to learn more about the latest in WebRTC? Be sure to attend WebRTC Conference & Expo, Nov. 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif. Stay in touch with everything happening at WebRTC Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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