Getting to the Point of WebRTC
Let's talk use cases, not technology ins and outs.
If No Jitter site traffic is any indication (and we like to think it is), then interest in WebRTC is strong and getting stronger. Over the last several weeks we've featured posts on a variety of WebRTC-related topics, and none have suffered from a lack of attention.
No surprise, the biggest attention-getter of them all was last week's piece about WebRTC showing up in development for WebKit, the engine that powers Apple's Safari browser. That Apple had done so wasn't so much news, as in a breaking news event, but it was still news to many. And good news at that, most seemed to agree. Rightly or wrongly so, any positive perception about the power of WebRTC gets blurred by the lack of browser ubiquity. Any sign from Apple that it's getting even somewhat closer to supporting WebRTC in Safari gives people much reason to hope.
Optimistically, Apple won't dash those hopes, but that is very much a possibility, as Erik Lagerway, co-founder of Hookflash -- as well as a keynoter at the WebRTC Conference-in-a-Conference at Enterprise Connect last month -- was quick to note on our comment board. He wrote: "Just a word of caution here folks, the fact that Apple is developing for WebRTC in WebKit does not necessarily mandate that they will ship it in Safari."
Delivering a further dose of realism, he continued, "We certainly hope they will, and soon, but it's entirely up to Apple to do so and they tend to move at their own pace."
I hope that Apple rounds out the major browser quartet so that Safari can play nicely along with Chrome; Edge, in which Microsoft has said it will support the technology; and Firefox in the WebRTC game. But I'd have to agree with independent consultant Robert Welbourn, who takes issue with the idea that companies wait to deploy WebRTC until the majority of browsers support it (read his No Jitter post, "WebRTC Is Not Losing Steam"). Would it really be so "mean" to ask Safari users to fire up Chrome or Firefox?
Mean -- no, I don't think so. Inconvenient, maybe. But when it comes to getting what they want from the online world, users can be pretty adaptable. Perhaps enterprises just need to get over it.
I talked about this the other day, more or less, with Iago Soto, CMO and co-founder of Quobis, a Spain-based WebRTC solutions provider. He told me how one of Quobis's clients, a big bank in Spain, handled the browser issue.
This bank wanted a way to bring on new customers without requiring them to ever step foot in a branch to open accounts -- and yet, it needed to comply with government regulations. Quobis developed a WebRTC solution that allows potential customers to place video calls to the bank's customer service center and present their national government-issued ID cards to the camera for verification and all the legal mumbo-jumbo. Once the agents have visually verified the identities, they can email the customers their new account information. The video calls are recorded, with copies not only saved by the bank for regulatory compliance purposes but sent to customers as well, Soto described.
WebRTC works perfectly in this scenario because this is a one-time customer engagement scenario, requiring no longer-term nurturing. And it's meant to be fast paced, an "impulse purchase," if you will, with special offers for new customers delivered via ads that run during weekend "futbol" matches, say. "It's critical to make this work in seconds -- and if you need to install something in a browser, or restart your browser to work, people aren't going to do it."
When the Quobis solution detects Safari, it triggers an alert requesting the user either switch to Chrome or Firefox, or download a plugin. The bank felt the major convenience for many customers outweighed whatever nuisance Apple users might feel, he said. "It wanted to make sure the call was quick so customers didn't have to think twice," he added.
C-level executives, however, were insistent that the team support iPhones, and so forced a parallel strategy for its mobile banking app. In this case, when new customers get to the login screen, they're prompted to download a plugin. Soto, who I was speaking with at last week's Oracle Industry Connect conference, said Quobis used the WebRTC capabilities within the Oracle SDK to make this happen.
"It's an approach for today... and for the bank -- today -- it's enough," Soto said.
And fact of the matter is, the business decision makers behind this video-based customer engagement strategy have no clue that they're using this thing called WebRTC technology, he added. "They're just interested in the use case."
And isn't that the point, after all?