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January 08, 2016

State of the Market: 2015 Was a Big Year for WebRTC

What a year 2015 has been for WebRTC. The technology has arguably been fully commercialized over the course of the year, thanks to several major milestones.

Kicking off the year with a bang was AT&T’s January announcement that it would formally support WebRTC as a new option for mobile calling. By August, the carrier had gone full commercial with its AT&T Enhanced WebRTC API for developers, who can now add real–time voice and video communication to their Web apps. They can enable calling directly from a browser to a mobile phone (and vice versa), or can provide virtual numbers. Another option is Account ID, which allows developers to call-enable an email address (i.e., Customer [email protected]) associated with a domain name.

So that was a big deal—but the market got a further big push in 2015 with the announcement of Cisco Spark, Facebook adding WebRTC support to Messenger, and Comcast adding a video-sharing service based on WebRTC to Xfinity.

Spark is an operating system that enables WebRTC-based media and signaling in apps and in browser-based configurations. In the latter instance, Cisco is partnering with Apple, which some industry-watchers say will certainly push Apple to include WebRTC in Safari.

In April, Facebook announced video extensions to the Facebook Messenger, using WebRTC. The release of video calling in Facebook can be seen as both a simple change to the existing Skype integration and as the first real salvo in creating the next generation communications system. The big news is that 600 million Facebook users will instantly get real-time video, with a simple click, added to the app they use daily—an enormous boon for WebRTC’s momentum.

Meanwhile Comcast, the cable MSO behemoth, launched a WebRTC-based feature for Xfinity TV customers that have the X1 Entertainment operating system, which is its IP- and cloud-based platform. Subscribers can livestream content (or send photos and recorded videos) over the Internet from their smartphones to televisions across the Comcast footprint, via the Xfinity Share app.

Another indicator of a healthily developing market is funding activity. Cisco picked up two WebRTC specialists: Tropo and Acano. And, Twilio snagged $130 million in Series E funding round back in April, which catapulted it into the “Billion Dollar Unicorn” club.

The San Francisco-based company, led by CEO Jeff Lawson, specializes in providing an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform for creating software-embedded, contextual communications using WebRTC. As such, it provides APIs for Web developers to build cloud communications applications using carriers’ native voice and SMS network capabilities.

Most important for WebRTC update are its relationships with over 100 telephony carriers around the world, and its platform that routes phone calls and text messages in the cloud. Earlier in 2015, the company improved the offering by building video call capabilities into the platform.

There were also important ecosystem happenings in 2015 that are set to bear fruit in the coming year. The Alliance for Open Media launched in the fall as an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies. The Alliance’s founding members are Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix—all of which support the theory that WebRTC is positioned to create a new wave of communications services with an ecosystem comprised of communications service providers, many vendors, enterprise, startups, open source entities andend-users.

Going into 2016, the landscape promises more commercial activity and market movement. Mind Commerce sees WebRTC growing at a brisk pace over the course of the next five years, even within developing countries in the Middle East and Africa. In Western Europe and North America, user total will hit 24.5 million by 2020, up from just 7.5 million today. In northern and southern Africa, totals will hit 4.3 million and 3.6 million, respectively, up from 1.3 million and 1.1 million each.

With this kind of growth, developers will be incentivized to innovate in features and functionality.

“WebRTC supported services will usher into the ICT ecosystem a next generation services ecosystem of communications, applications, content and commerce,” the firm said in a research note. “WebRTC will allow for a significantly enhanced communications experience; one that will integrate voice and data communications with various multimedia content and services. Various media and broadcast companies will benefit from WebRTC as it represents a multimedia, multimodal way to reach customers with free, premium, and freemium content that is highly interactive and personalized.”

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere
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