WebRTC World Feature Article

April 16, 2014

WebRTC Meetup with Lisa Larson-Kelley

Last night I attended a WebRTC Meetup at the Stamford Innovation Center in Stamford, Conn. A little background: WebRTC World has been covering the WebRTC community , and I travel to conferences, tradeshows and other events to talk to companies that are not only implementing WebRTC solutions, but telling me why WebRTC is going to be one of the most disruptive things to happen to communications. These people are heavily involved with the WebRTC working group, standards development and various WebRTC implementations, so it was refreshing to meet a room full of developers learning the basics of WebRTC, just as I have been doing over the course of the last few years.

Lisa Larson-Kelley was the presenter at the meetup, who brings a background in Flash and HTML and is a prominent name in the online developer community, speaking in sessions, hosting workshops and authoring books. (More on Larson-Kelley at www.learnfromlisa.com)

She started out the session by explaining what it was like as a developer when WebRTC first began – you were either a telecom engineer or staring at tutorials trying to figure out how the different pieces fit together. So, in the meetup, she broke down WebRTC into its parts to help the audience understand its potential and capabilities.


What is WebRTC?

WebRTC enables video, audio and data sharing right in a browser without any plugins. The big thing about WebRTC is that it is peer-to-peer, so it takes loads off servers. It’s still in development – codec standardization is one of the biggest debates today – so even these developers just learning about it are early to the game.

Where did WebRTC come from?

Before WebRTC, there was VoIP, XMPP/Jabber and Flash, which really revolutionized online communications and development. Larson-Kelley explained how she built a solution called iFox Cam from scratch, that was essentially a nanny cam before nanny cams were big and was for daycare centers. The problem, however, was actually making it work: It cost about $4500 per server, and their team never knew how many servers they needed because each stream was different. Which leads her to testifying, “Open source is good.”

In 2010, engineers from Google, Microsoft, Ericsson, Mozilla and Apple all came together to discuss the possibilities of supporting real-time in the browser, and started a working group. Today, that working group works on the development and standardization of WebRTC, such as the codec war previously mentioned—between video codecs VP8 (which Google supports) and H.264 (which Microsoft is spearheading support for).

Larson-Kelley went on to explain the current state of browser support, the structure of a WebRTC app, the breakdown of a WebRTC API and how to build a multiparty chat room.

Companies and WebRTC examples mentioned throughout the meetup include:

  • talky.io
  • Zingaya
  • Peer5
  • Cube Slam
  • apprtc.appspot.com
  • Face off
  • Amazon Mayday
  • Google Chromecast
  • AddLive
  • vLine
  • vsee.com
  • TokBox
  • Vidyo
  • RTC
  • Xirsys

Overall, the event was educational, informative, engaging, and I think the developers left with a good idea of how to get started; more importantly, some of the reasons why they should get started. There are more than one billion WebRTC endpoints today, and that number is expected to grow to 6.2 billion by 2018. As found in the WebRTC World Outlook report this year, the biggest barrier to adoption is awareness, so meetups like these are definitely a push in the right direction toward WebRTC growth and development. There was a video taken throughout the meetup, so I would check back to Stamford Innovation Center’s website to see when/where that gets posted. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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