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WebRTC Is About The Web

Let's do a thought exercise together.

We already know what the status of WebRTC is today. In order to understand the implications of it and the level of disruption, let's take a step back: Assume that Google had acquired GIPS and simply open-sourced their product, instead of transforming it into WebRTC.

Where would the industry be now? How about 5 years from now?

What did GIPS have to offer anyway?
Prior to the acquisition, GIPS was all about voice and video engines: wrappers around codecs that took care of all the nastiness of realtime processing of media. This came with a set of C APIs you could integrate with your application.

GIPS supported a wide variety of chipsets, with the ability to port it for you if the price was right.

At the time, you had two options where it came to developing a VoIP product:

1. Build your own media engine
2. Buy from GIPS or one of its competitors

Building a media engine is hard work--I know. I have been a part of such initiatives in the past. It requires skills in different levels of software development and a unique set of talents. Outsourcing the work to a vendor like GIPS was the selected course of action by many.

Google with GIPS and without WebRTC
A Google with GIPS simply meant that the knowhow of developing world class media processing solutions would be Google's.

Google had been using GIPS in their Google Talk service for its voice parts even before the acquisition, so acquiring GIPS meant being able to move forward faster and without needing to compete for their resources. It would throw competitors and would put competitors into a frenzy of looking for alternatives.

And this is where it would stop.

You'd have Google Talk, Google+ Hangouts and Google Voice all using GIPS resources, but there would be no additional benefit to the "world at large".

Which is exactly what Microsoft has done with the acquisition of Skype. Or Cisco with the acquisition of Tandberg. Or Avaya with the acquisition of RADVISION for that matter.

Just another acquisition of technology/market share/product.

The status quo would have remained the same.

WebRTC is different
With WebRTC the story is different.

WebRTC is a platform of innovation for the web browser. I guess the reason this was important for Google was because they live on the web.

The web was missing media processing capabilities that can be used for communication--not the streaming kind you see on YouTube. And WebRTC was there to plug that hole.

But there's more: On mobile, things are harder to achieve. There’s Apple FaceTime, Skype and Tango; as well as Viber if you also count voice-only solutions. They are all downloadable apps.

Investing in a new app that uses media capabilities is difficult on mobile operating systems: it requires a lot of hard work to get going, with the same two options:

1. Build your own media engine
2. Buy from GIPS or one of its competitors

Only this time, the number of operating systems and devices that need to be supported has grown considerably.

WebRTC reduces these efforts in two ways:

1. It will be embedded into the browser of the mobile operating system in the future, making it available on any phone
2. It can be used today as an SDK when developing apps (one of my ideas about business opportunities around WebRTC)

WebRTC essentially democratizes access to media processing for real time communications, enabling any web developer to integrate it into his one website/service/application.

GIPS alone was just a successful company. WebRTC open sourced by Google is an innovation platform for communication services.