Tsahi Levent -Levi
Tsahi Levent-Levi is an independent analyst and consultant for WebRTC.Tsahi has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications, VoIP,and...
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Tsahi Levent -Levi | May 01, 2012 |


WebRTC Video Conferencing: In What Browser?

WebRTC Video Conferencing: In What Browser? We thought the division would be between the "free world" and the "walled garden" advocates (i.e., Microsoft and Apple). The reality isn't so simple.

We thought the division would be between the "free world" and the "walled garden" advocates (i.e., Microsoft and Apple). The reality isn't so simple.

Editor's Note: For an update on browser implementations, see this post from November 2012.

If you are dealing in any way in the video communication market or even in VoIP and haven't heard about WebRTC, it probably is time for you to get acquainted with WebRTC. It is going to change everything and anything you know about your market.

While I have written a series of posts about WebRTC already, I didn't cover the topic of who is actually driving this forward. Well...besides Google that is.

When Google announced WebRTC and outlined their plan, it was quite easy to draw the lines in the sand: where the forces for and against such an initiative will be placed.

On one side, we'd have Google's Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera browsers.

On the other side, we'd have Apple's Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The "free" world on one side and the "walled garden"/"commercial experience" on the other side. Guess what? The story is a bit more complicated than that.

Google Chrome
Google has had a head start over the rest of the pack. They practically control WebRTC. It is no surprise then that they were the first to introduce WebRTC support in their Chrome browser.

This support is still in alpha stages. It is available on the latest releases of Chrome, but you need to enable it in your browser to get access to the WebRTC APIs.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla has started showing off WebRTC support in their browser. Nothing stable enough to be able to release it in their main branch of the browser, but this is positive progress.

Opera hasn't captured a large audience on desktops, but is an important player on smartphones. In Opera Mobile 12, WebRTC APIs are available and working.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
In the last IETF meeting, the status of WebRTC was provided. Guess what? Microsoft has indicated interest in supporting WebRTC in their IE browser--most probably in order to support Skype in maybe in some future version of Lync as well. This is really good news.

There are a few questions here left open that are important:

* Will they offer it in their official first release of Windows 8?
* Will they add support to Windows 7 and Windows XP for WebRTC?
* Will their Windows 8 support be limited to desktops or will they also provide it to tablets and smartphones?

Only time will tell.

Apple Safari
Now, only Apple is missing in action. They will probably skip WebRTC for now, as they have vested interest in their FaceTime walled garden of video chat service and in H.264, which isn't part of WebRTC at this point in time.

Expect Apple to ignore this technology in the next couple of years.

While supporting desktop browsers is interesting, it is not the important side of the story. If you look at Horace Daidu's rise and fall of personal computing, you will see how personal computing is shifting to tablets and smartphones, and this is where video conferencing is going to shine (at least on the tablet).

The interesting thing here is that no real progress has been made on mobile so far when it comes to WebRTC except for Opera Mobile. None of the other players has been showing anything on mobile: not even Google. Will the next release of Android (code-named Jellybean) support WebRTC? I am not sure.

Microsoft will roll out Windows 8 for tablets soon, but I think it won't have WebRTC in its initial release--they have too much on their plates for this release as it is.

And Apple--well, Apple will pull some other rabbit out of their hat for the iPhone 5 (or the new iPhone?) and for their new new iPad. They will leave WebRTC for the other players. Someone else will need to provide a WebRTC SDK for their platform--and there are those who are working in that direction already.


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