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Lots of WebRTC Players, But Only 4 Really Matter

If you are looking for companies important in WebRTC, then you can stop at Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla. Dismiss the rest as white noise.

That may seem harsh. WebRTC, after all, has attracted a large number of players (I am personally tracking more than 580 vendors and services, a number that is growing on a daily basis).

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To get attention, vendors large and small are trying to claim ownership of one WebRTC component or another. Some examples from recent years include:

  1. Vidyo partnering with Google to incorporate Scalable Video Coding (SVC) technology in VP9, the next video codec destined for WebRTC support. With SVC, WebRTC becomes more viable for use in multiparty sessions
  2. Cisco open sourcing H.264 in an attempt to force H.264 as the mandatory video codec in WebRTC. Its efforts didn't work, as the standards-setters selected both H.264 and VP8 as mandatory video codecs for WebRTC
  3. Hookflash positioning itself in the same line as Google and Microsoft for Object-RTC, the next version of WebRTC
  4. Telenor announcing a competency center in partnership with Mozilla to "advance WebRTC and help standardization"
  5. Temasys, with its recent AWS of WebRTC branding, which comes with a bear hug for Amazon
  • Vidyo partnering with Google to incorporate Scalable Video Coding (SVC) technology in VP9, the next video codec destined for WebRTC support. With SVC, WebRTC becomes more viable for use in multiparty sessions
  • Cisco open sourcing H.264 in an attempt to force H.264 as the mandatory video codec in WebRTC. Its efforts didn't work, as the standards-setters selected both H.264 and VP8 as mandatory video codecs for WebRTC
  • Hookflash positioning itself in the same line as Google and Microsoft for Object-RTC, the next version of WebRTC
  • Telenor announcing a competency center in partnership with Mozilla to "advance WebRTC and help standardization"
  • Temasys, with its recent AWS of WebRTC branding, which comes with a bear hug for Amazon
  • The list goes on.

    These vendors and others bring value to the WebRTC ecosystem, but they have little control or capability to move the needle on quality and adoption of this technology.

    At the end of the day, the only relevant players in this game are the browser vendors -- but not all of them. Notice that Opera Software is not on my list as its Opera browser has too small a market share and, at the end of the day, it serves as a user interface layer on top of Chromium, the basis of Google's Chrome browser.

    If the company isn't a browser vendor, it has no real seat at the WebRTC table. Since WebRTC is a browser-based technology, the companies that can make a difference are those deciding which features to pack inside browsers. The rest rely on what the browser vendors decide on doing with WebRTC -- and then build their solutions and services on top.

    Take for example that H.264-VP8 video codec decision I mentioned above. As I've questioned elsewhere:

    1. Will Microsoft implement VP8 in Internet Explorer or only focus on H.264?
    2. If and when Apple decides to join, will it go for VP8 in Safari or just ignore it and implement only H.264? Will it introduce H.265, as it did for its FaceTime service?
    3. Will Google add H.264 to Chrome or focus most of its efforts on getting VP9 into the browser?
    4. Without knowing the intent of browser makers, it's difficult for an enterprise to decide on which codec to focus their efforts.

  • Will Microsoft implement VP8 in Internet Explorer or only focus on H.264?
  • If and when Apple decides to join, will it go for VP8 in Safari or just ignore it and implement only H.264? Will it introduce H.265, as it did for its FaceTime service?
  • Will Google add H.264 to Chrome or focus most of its efforts on getting VP9 into the browser?
  • Without knowing the intent of browser makers, it's difficult for an enterprise to decide on which codec to focus their efforts.

    Notice how the only companies that will affect video codec use decisions are the browser vendors? Neither Cisco, which contributed H.264, nor Vidyo, which added SVC, have any advantage here.

    To understand where this technology is headed, look no further than the browser vendors -- they're the major players, and analyzing their roadmaps and intentions will put you in good stead.

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