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WebRTC - The Good and The Bad

The semi-annual WebRTC World event (love-fest) just came to a close here in Atlanta – with me looking at my chicken-scratched notes – some with notations of "Good" and others with less-than-flattering notes jotted next to them. What were my takeaways? Here's my list of "the Goods and Bad" of the state of WebRTC:

GOOD: Greater Understanding of Where WebRTC "Fits" – A year ago, WebRTC was a technology looking for an application, and frankly, some of the proposed uses were nothing more than replications of already existing applications. Do we really need another peer-to-peer voice and video application? (Skype, Facetime, etc. already exist and have millions of users) This event showed that developers now have a greater grasp on reality, proposing use cases that create something new, and that better leverage WebRTC as an integrated and affordable media capability that will be easily available.

GOOD: Maturing Development Toolkits – It seems like the toolkits needed to develop WebRTC applications are now within reach of far more developers, with less complexity and better sample applications that can be replicated and customized for specific use cases. A year ago, the "WebRTC 101" sessions were suited for only the most capable Java and Web developers to get the most basic features working.

GOOD: "Glimmers" of Customer Use Cases – I heard evidence of real customers actually using WebRTC. Most are in early trials, but it's a start to have genuine customers that hopefully will share their stories in the future.

BAD: Over-Used "Concierge" Contact Center Applications – (I swear if I see one more demo of "click-to-video call" into a contact center with a pretty young girl on the other end, I'm going to scream! ) These demos are targeted to the contact center developers, but frankly, it shows me the toolkit vendors don't understand how contact centers really work. First, customer service centers will do everything in their power to have their website handle as many transactions/questions as possible, and only after all else is exhausted would they would offer up a human. Then you'll end up waiting your turn. A "help me" button on the home page is just not realistic. And finally, have you ever seen the current staff at the typical contact center? As the saying goes, most "have a face for radio."

GOOD: Microsoft Showed Up! - Bernard Aboba, Principal Architect at Microsoft, delivered an in-depth keynote session, explaining some of the WebRTC-related developments occurring at Microsoft (more on this later).

GOOD: Growing Attendance –Outside of the usual vendors, I saw plenty of evidence of new developers and end-customers that were researching, asking questions and shopping for solutions to their unique challenges.

BAD: Still No Clear Browser Roadmap from Apple or Microsoft –The browser gap persists with neither Microsoft nor Apple giving any clues on if/when they will support WebRTC. This has the largest negative impact on the ubiquitous adoption of WebRTC. Flopping between browsers or downloading plug-ins to use WebRTC is confusing for users and fraught with technical "gotchas." Once the browser gap is closed, WebRTC will get the runway it needs to take off and reach potential heights.

So what is the state of WebRTC? Much good progress was made in achieving WebRTC's vision, but there is much yet to do. I'm looking forward to the "GOOD" list growing.

Continue the conversation with your comments or suggestions below - Alan can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @AlanDPercy