WebRTC World Feature Article

May 16, 2014

Q&A with OnSIP CTO John Riordan on WebRTC

As technologies like WebRTC and HTML5 continue to grow and adapt to the changing Internet landscape, it’s evident how important real time communications will be in the future of the Web. Websites are no longer restricted to static webpages, and are becoming more of a collaborative platform for engaging, sharing and communicating with others.

OnSIP is one of the main providers of real-time communications services to businesses. The OnSIP Network offers a reliable and scalable signaling Platform as a Service for companies to rapidly and affordably develop WebRTC applications. Developers benefit from simple and intuitive APIs, including open sourced SIP.js, to easily add signaling to their real-time communications applications without the burden of building their own stack.

We caught up with John Riordan, CTO and head of engineering at OnSIP, to talk about the WebRTC industry, adoption and awareness and how OnSIP is playing in the development of real time communications.

Riordan comes from a background of computer science and cognitive science at MIT. After spending a few years as a software engineer on Wall Street, he cofounded a New York City-based Internet Service Provider that was later acquired by RCN. In 2004, John continued his career as an Internet entrepreneur and engineer as he cofounded OnSIP, which now serves over 20,000 businesses.

 “WebRTC has broken down barriers for developers to easily add real-time communications to their apps, but they will find they need a signaling network to route the communications. We now offer OnSIP Network and an open sourced JavaScript SIP stack to help developers get their apps up and running quickly,” Riordan explained.

The company also leverages WebRTC in its hosted PBX offering to create new features like InstaCall, which enables developers to place buttons on existing websites and filed calls from customers.

“This solution empowers website visitors to contact companies directly from their business website.  We’ve fully integrated WebRTC with our service such that InstaCalls can be answered on any desk, mobile, or software phone. We suggest OnSIP customers answer via InstaPhone, a WebRTC-based phone in the browser that is capable of receiving video calls and contextual data about the caller,” Riordan said. “We are also working on third party integrations with OnSIP and WebRTC that are coming soon.”

The need for video and voice integration into browsers and applications come from early adopters who understand the importance of making communication more seamless, easy and accessible for end users. Riordan says the likely early players will be contact centers and any area that deals with significant remote communication, because WebRTC provides a higher performance real-time communications experiences at a lower cost than the PSTN.

“WebRTC’s ability to merge the ubiquity of popular browser interfaces with our existing PBX offering represents a powerful opportunity for OnSIP. After being fully integrated with our mature SIP platform, WebRTC ultimately represents a new and effective way for our customers to communicate,” he explained.

Some of the most well-know examples of WebRTC today are with Google Hangouts and Amazon Mayday. Riordan says Google Hangouts are a great example of WebRTC making inroads into mainstream tech, but ultimately it doesn’t affect OnSIP’s service offering. “We are happy to see leading companies such as Google foster the potential of WebRTC,” he said.

One of the biggest topics over the last year in WebRTC has been the lack of support from Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Some believe the technology will not be fully developed until the two get involved, while others say their involvement isn’t important and develop workarounds to enable WebRTC in those browsers.

“Our implementation works smoothly on the browsers that support WebRTC,” Riordan said. “We have designed our solution InstaCall to recognize when a visitor is using an unsupported browser and alert them accordingly to visit the application in a Chrome, Firefox or Opera. Of course, we look forward to further WebRTC adaptation so visitors can use the browser of their choice and experience the benefits of InstaCall.”

WebRTC is an HTML5 technology and together can work to eliminate native apps. There are some companies working to enable development of native mobile apps with WebRTC or Google’s Media Engine. OnSIP is one of those companies.

“Today, developers can write native mobile applications and leverage The OnSIP Network using a mobile SIP stack. As WebRTC is expected to be supported in HTML5 mobile development frameworks such as Apache_Cordova, we plan to ensure SIP.js is compatible with these environments,” he said.

Another hurdle in the development of WebRTC has simply been awareness. I’ve talked to many companies that are developing applications and services that fall right in line with WebRTC’s mission and capabilities, but they have never even heard of WebRTC before. It’s interesting to get the perspectives from companies on the levels of awareness their customers have.

“We have a large amount of WebRTC-based information on our website and blog that highlight essential information and industry speculation about WebRTC. It can be important to educate potential customers about the underlying technology so they understand what differentiates our platform’s architecture from that of other service offerings— key differences that lend to our service’s features, interoperability, and reliability,” Riordan said. “The most essential part of education is highlighting how WebRTC will benefit a potential customer’s interests. The ultimate test of any feature is usability and effectiveness. Even if customers are unaware of what WebRTC is, they understand that we are doing innovative work with our platform simply because the products we’re offering are novel and interesting.”

OnSIP will be attending the WebRTC Conference & Expo, happening June 17-19 in Atlanta, Ga. as an exhibitor, sponsor and speaker.

“The WebRTC Conference & Expo is a great way to connect like-minded product innovators who share a communal interest in this exciting technology,” Riordan said. “The event speaks to the staying power of WebRTC as people are willing to travel across the country to showcase and discuss the unique problems and solutions that come with it.”

The event features keynote speakers from companies like Dialogic, Temasys, TokBox, Google, Vidyo, Requestec, Avaya, Oracle and GENBAND, as well as numerous conference sessions for topics ranging from media services and IMS to browser plugins and industry focuses.

“People will most likely discuss when WebRTC will be fully standardized in the W3C. While it is important to speculate on such matters, the bottom line is that WebRTC has developed a significant momentum even without official approval. The knowledge and innovation displayed at this Expo prove that WebRTC is thriving without the channels of bureaucracy. “

OnSIP will be exhibiting its latest WebRTC venture, InstaCall. Riordan is speaking about “Deploying WebRTC Successfully - The Big Issues” (9:30-10:50am Tuesday - 06/17/2014) and “Using WebRTC to Deliver Enterprise Services.” (9:10-9:50am Wednesday - 06/18/2014). Will Mitchell, OnSIP’s lead developer, will be speaking as a panelist on “New Conferencing Options” (1:30-2:10pm Thursday - 06/19/2014).

“The topics I plan to discuss are important because WebRTC is ready and capable of delivering real world, production-ready services, but not everyone is aware of these capabilities. WebRTC offers, as some would say, a seamless way to initiate communications on a vast scale. But successfully deploying these WebRTC architectures may not be as simple as it first appears. I am interested in helping people learn to do just that.”

“The WebRTC Conference & Expo is one of the premier conferences of its kind, and it simply made sense for us to be there. It’s a great place for us to meet and network with others in our industry and potential customers,” he said. “I hope attendees learn that my organization is currently providing quality, enterprise SIP signaling services for WebRTC products.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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