Dave Stein

Dave Stein | June 24, 2013 |


WebRTC: Who Really Cares?

WebRTC: Who Really Cares? A panacea? More like an incremental improvement.

A panacea? More like an incremental improvement.

One cannot attend an enterprise communications conference, meeting, webinar, presentation, etc. these days without being inundated with WebRTC. What's the big to-do? Well, according to some of my industry colleagues, WebRTC is no less than the answer to all that plagues this industry (In other words, WebRTC = 42).

Our friends at Wikipedia define WebRTC as Web Real-Time Communication, an API definition being drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to enable browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat and P2P file sharing without plug-ins. It is the last word (plug-ins) that seems to have everyone in a titter.

Who hasn't experienced the joy of incompatible Java releases, "your browser version is not supported" or failed plug-in downloads that you need for a crucial web conference? So although I am a cynic, I do see some value in eliminating plug-ins. Personal user productivity will certainly increase if we don't have to go through that nonsense. It should certainly help software developers. But a panacea? More like an incremental improvement.

So on to the meatier topics. We all know that the WebRTC standard is not supported by all of the industry giants and those different versions of WebRTC will likely appear in different browsers. The solution...(drum roll please)...plug-ins! Over the past few months, I have spoken to several WebRTC developers as well as UC&C vendors and this is a fairly unanimous prognostication. So one of the main reasons for doing WebRTC is somewhat questionable. (I expect to get a lot of messages on this point).

I won't address the issues of peer-to-peer communications in the Enterprise in this space, but do humbly suggest that the marketers cut and paste the SIP peer-to-peer literature of the last decade to save on time and expense. I also suggest that the functions performed by Session Border Controllers (SBCs) are going to be key to actual enterprise implementations.

But it gets better! Remember last year when Facebook re-tooled their development away from HTML5 to native platforms due to what most thought was quality of the user experience? Although this was based around mobile platforms, I think some of these same issues may apply here.

And now to what I see as the biggest issue not even being talked about: What about WebRTC for mobile devices? Anyone? My recent conversations with developers indicate that many are thinking about this for 2014/2015. Why not now? Because the mobile devices just don't have the horsepower to deliver that quality user experience.

So let's recap:

* Will run on some browsers as intended, plug-ins required for others (kinda like today, huh?)
* Will have different versions/capabilities and will likely require session mediation (much like SIP today)
* Has no support for mobile devices

So, as that little old lady so famously asked on the Wendy's commercial many years ago, "Where's the Beef?"

Dave Stein is principal at Stein Technology Group, an independent consultancy based in Orange County, CA.


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