2 Common Misconceptions about WebRTC
WebRTC's promise in terms of quality and service enablement need to be understood more precisely.
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around WebRTC. Some call it hype and complain about it, but I just believe it comes from little knowledge. It also causes a lot of people to dismiss the power that WebRTC brings.
Why is this an issue? Because it shifts discussions to the wrong places. It creates a wrong basis of comparison, which leads to more noise than substance.
The two main areas where this is happening?
1. Exaggerating what WebRTC does in terms of quality
2. Treating WebRTC as a service and not as a technology building block
There are people who believe WebRTC is better than [place your favorite service here] because it provides better voice quality or better video quality; because it works in lower bandwidths better, hence enabling communications where it was impossible before; etc.
WebRTC uses codecs that are on par with whatever is out there. And these codecs are free for use elsewhere. Opus, as a voice codec is great. The best there is today I am told. It is part of WebRTC. But it is also part of what AudioCodes does in their SIP IP Phones.
On the video front, VP8 is just as good as H.264. Its advantage is being free while its disadvantage is lack of an ecosystem when compared to H.264.
As for the perceived quality of the users--that varies so much that it is hard to tell. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of what you can squeeze out of a network today in terms of quality, I'd place WebRTC at 8. There are better solutions, but not many. And most people don't really care--they just want to communicate.
WebRTC is great, but it is just a modern media engine when you look under the hood. Its disruption comes from how it is wrapped and not from what it contains inside.
2. Service vs. Technology
Ever heard of the suggestion that WebRTC will kill Skype? I've written about it more than once last year. While I still think it is true--it isn't accurate.
WebRTC won't kill Skype, but vendors who use it might end up killing Skype. WebRTC is just a technology--a media engine that lacks a lot of other capabilities to get the job done.
When comparing WebRTC to services--be it Skype, Lync or a Cisco Telepresence system--keep in mind that they too can adopt WebRTC (though don't expect that to happen until late 2014 at the very earliest).
This should actually be considered good news, as it allows for WebRTC to be used as a building block, one that can fit in a lot of areas that previous solutions with similar media processing capabilities couldn't. It does that by lowering the barriers of entry and enlarging the developer base with access to these capabilities.
Next time you want to praise WebRTC--make sure you do it with better understanding of how and where it fits in the world.