WebRTC World Feature Article

April 30, 2014

The WebRTC Opportunity with Facebook f8 Announcements

Facebook hosted its f8 Developer Conference today, and in the midst of plans for mobile development tools, mobile app engagement and a mobile ad network, I couldn’t help but make connections to WebRTC and opportunities for developers to really push the real-time communications technology forward.

For those who may have missed it, Facebook’s conference today focused on mobile: tools for cross-platform applications, inter-app link integration, increasing mobile app engagement and creating mobile ads.

The first part of the presentation is critical for the future of mobile development. Just today, VoxImplant released its Android SDK, which supports exactly Mark Zuckerberg’s point: The mobile ecosystem is siloed. Developing an application should not have to involve building an app and then rebuilding it five different times to cater to different operating systems and platforms. Facebook Platform aims to bridge the gap between this platform fragmentation, offering tools to make mobile app development easy.

WebRTC is an HTML5 technology spearheaded by companies like Google and Mozilla that brings peer-to-peer, real-time communications to the browser. This means you can video chat, audio call, send files and screen share all in a browser without downloading any plugins or software. It’s commonly referred to as a communications disruptor because it completely merges the old – telephony – with the new – the Web.

App Links, the Parse inter-app integration tool that was presented at f8, is awesome. It means you can seamlessly move from app to app instead of getting lost in a whirlwind of mobile browsers. Ok…but I just told you all about how WebRTC is about communications in the browser, and now it sounds like App Links basically eliminates the mobile browser. Maybe not exactly, but it definitely encourages and points toward more app engagement than the mobile browser. WebRTC functionality can also be embedded into applications, which is where a lot of the current success stories – and quite frankly, it seems, demand – are in WebRTC.  There can only be good things for WebRTC if applications and mobile experiences are designed to be more seamless, simple and integrated – it means users will be ready for the WebRTC features that offer the same things.

Developers should probably take note of the three Parse products – Parse Core, Parse Push and Parse Analytics. The team focuses on simple coding to bring sophisticated features, like push notifications, open APIs and data analytics. The focus on “only a few lines of code” to produce these features seemed like an echo of countless WebRTC demos at the WebRTC Conference & Expo events. (Parse joined the Facebook teamed about a year ago, and is behind the new developer and mobile focus.)

Facebook unveiled its ad network, Facebook Audience Network (FAN), which enables developers to integrate code to run FAN in banner ads or work directly with Facebook to create native ads. Backing up just a little bit, Facebook also has Engagement Ads, which offer an easy call-to-action button in an ad that targets users and aims to bring them back into an app. As soon as I saw examples – there could be a “Listen now” button for music sharing companies or a “Book now” button for travel and hospitality companies embedded right in the ads – I immediately replaced them mentally with click-to-call buttons, something WebRTC companies have been providing for a few years.

It’s important to note that today was not all about Facebook – many partners, including companies like Spotify, Goodreads, Rdio, Venmo, Hulu, Pinterest, iHeartRadio, StubHub, Groupon, Samsung, Sesame Street, Showtime, Mixcloud, Orbitz and YPlan, are benefitting from Facebook’s push for a better mobile experience. This impacts any company working with WebRTC, and it also opens up doors to make WebRTC a valuable part of mobile development.

Today’s announcements at f8 are exactly what WebRTC aims to achieve – seamless, integrated communication in real-time that aims to give users quick and easy access to what they are looking for. In WebRTC’s case, that’s getting in touch with a customer support agent for contact centers or retail organizations, contacting a doctor or healthcare provider remotely, communicating with a professor over an online course or just being able to connect with someone from an application or website. 

Edited by Alisen Downey


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