On Openness, FaceTime and WebRTC
WebRTC kills the physical barriers the over-the-top players like FaceTime rely on today--paving the way for newer, leaner startups to join the VoIP game.
If it isn't clear that FaceTime is a failure in Apple's standards, then it should be.
It wasn't that long ago (2 years now) that Steve Jobs introduced FaceTime, a video chat service based on "open standards." Fast forward to today, FaceTime may be using SIP, RTP, H.264 and AAC-LD--but it isn't open. Or standardized itself.
A bit over a year ago Zach Holman complained about FaceTime on his blog:
"There's certainly a possibility that FaceTime may still be ratified as an open standard. Maybe Steve just misspoke when he gave concrete dates and steps to open up the FaceTime protocol. Maybe it happens the day after I publish this blog post. But regardless of the reason, we are stuck here more than a year later, with FaceTime siloed strictly to Apple devices and (to my knowledge) zero standards bodies reviewing a proposed FaceTime protocol spec."
Well, we're now two years later with FaceTime siloed strictly to Apple devices--which only goes to show that OTT VoIP solutions are based on lock in: get as many users as possible into the service, but make sure they never get out. Unless it is to a PSTN phone, where we can charge for it.
WebRTC is probably the lost opportunity for FaceTime (not for Apple mind you). WebRTC is open in a way that was never before seen--not only do we have a spec for it, but we have an open source implementation, open codecs (for now), and it all comes from the browser.
Next time you get pitched about an standards based, open service from an OTT vendor that claims to be using SIP or XMPP, check out how he monetizes his solution. I guarantee that in 99% of the cases, it will be based on you making all your calls within his walled garden.
And this is why WebRTC is such a huge threat and a disruptor to OTT vendors: it obsoletes the need of a sign up process and an application download to work between people. It kills the physical barriers OTT players rely on today, paving the way for newer, leaner startups to join the VoIP game.