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Developers, Not Dial Tone
I experienced a jarring conversation at the WebRTC Expo last week in Atlanta. Digium has been an avid proponent of WebRTC, and we sponsored a booth at the show in support. I spent most of my time during the conference in the Digium booth talking with participants. A majority of the traffic stopping by the booth were peers in the telecom space. We talked a lot about SIP, VoIP, and very traditional Asterisk use cases. Being at a conference centered on new Web technology, these were not exactly the types of conversations I was hoping to have, but they were certainly expected. Then a gentleman stopped by who was different. When I asked him what he did, he told me he was a Web developer and my ears immediately perked up.
I was excited to connect with someone who lived and breathed Web technologies. Here was someone who was capable of understanding what WebRTC is all about at a native level. I asked, "What do you think about WebRTC?" The answer caught me off guard. He said:
"Well, I'm excited to learn more about WebRTC, but I'm having trouble understanding telecoms. It seems that if I want to get into WebRTC, I have to know all about telecommunications."
This was a disappointing response that couldn't be further from the truth.
The point of WebRTC in particular and Web communications in general is that it makes communications simple. WebRTC jettisons the cruft and complexity of telecoms in favor of a streamlined approach.
Simplicity is part of what makes the Web such a powerful development platform. Leveraging Web frameworks and APIs allows for rapid movement and agility. Google's Serge Lachapelle gave an excellent keynote at the conference in which he pointed out that WebRTC solves the hard problems of actually making video work. This frees developers up to focus on creating great customer experiences. This is why Web communications is so exciting. Repackaging my telephone and sticking it on the Web is just milquetoast.
Some tweets from the show gave the same sentiment:
The rest of my conversation with the Web developer went great. We discussed some of the more Web-centric elements of WebRTC, and I could see the excitement setting in as the possibilities became clear. During the rest of the conference, I was happy to talk to several more Web developers, as well as non-developers whose viewpoint favors the Web. They understood that if we focus on developers and make the technology accessible, then we will drive adoption.
In the end it's important that we are communicating the full power of the Web in WebRTC. If enterprises are going to adopt new technology, we can't strip out everything useful making it look exactly like yesterday's tech. If that's the impression being sent, then there's no impetus to change, and you might as well stick with what you've got. I'd rather talk developer than dial tone.