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What Microsoft Adoption of WebRTC 1.0 APIs Signals

Excitement is in the air! As you may have read on No Jitter earlier this month, Microsoft has given WebRTC its seal of approval, introducing the WebRTC 1.0 APIs into Microsoft Edge for interoperable real-time communications.

WebRTC has transformed the requirements needed to support real-time voice, video, chat, and file sharing built directly into browsers and mobile apps, and Microsoft's decision is a huge step forward on its real-time communications roadmap, a clear signal that it sees a bright future for the technology (some may say that the writing has been on the walls with Microsoft's acquisition of WebRTC companies such as Beam and Talko within the last year), and great news for the industry in general.

WebRTC has come a long way in a short amount of time. However, it is important to appreciate that it has also faced its fair share of scrutiny. WebRTC started out as Google-led initiative; then following its 2010 purchases of On2 Technologies and GIPS for their VP8 and OPUS codecs, respectively, Google open-sourced WebRTC in 2011. Although WebRTC quickly became a shining star among real-time communications professionals, no one was certain whether it would ever become a truly interoperable solution working across all browsers. Mozilla quickly integrated WebRTC into Firefox. However, it took a few years before Microsoft decided to incorporate it into the new Edge browser, and Apple has been slow to follow, only starting to show signs last April (see "Apple Jumps on WebRTC Bandwagon").

WebRTC gives us the ability to communicate in smarter, more efficient ways by adding real-time communications capabilities to applications through the use of live audio and video streaming, screen sharing, secure document sharing, traditional telephony integration, and much more. Now this technology is gaining traction and strength in some of the largest companies in the world. Some of the most notable companies implementing WebRTC include the likes of Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Ericsson, Amazon, Intel, Facebook, Snapchat, Slack, and Blackboard.

With Apple being such a latecomer to the industry, experts such as UC analyst Dave Michels began to question the validity of WebRTC, as he wrote a year ago in his TalkingPointz post, "WebRTC is a Distraction." As the fight for WebRTC adoption with Apple's Safari browser began to heat up, a few in the industry decided to give Apple a helping hand with a new initiative to bring WebRTC to WebKit. We can't say for sure the impact the initiative had on Microsoft's decision to adopt WebRTC 1.0, but it has been clear to those who closely follow the industry that Microsoft has been quietly integrating WebRTC for some time now.

Also clear is that those businesses that dared to be innovative early on and embraced WebRTC have a head start on their competition. The WebRTC market is expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 51% from 2015 to 2020, according to a MarketsandMarkets report. In 2015 we saw over $1 billion in funding go to WebRTC-related companies and more than 40 mergers and acquisitions take place. In 2016 we saw almost triple that of 2015 with more than $2.7 billion in funding going to WebRTC-related companies, plus more than 20 mergers and acquisitions. As you can see, early adopters have been the first to reap the rewards of WebRTC's rapid growth.

Interestingly enough, we believe that those companies that hadn't implemented WebRTC because Apple was missing from the picture were misguided and uninformed. In the beginning, major debate centered around applications not being able to use WebRTC through the browser on iOS devices. It brought about uncertainty to developers using the technology because solutions were considered incomplete or lacking full interoperability. Now we have official support from all the major players -- Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple -- further cementing that WebRTC is here to stay. We don't have a timeframe defining when Apple will fully support or implement WebRTC but for now it smells like warm "Apple" pie baking in the oven.

Perception of the future technology landscape drives business decisions and Microsoft is a front runner in setting the climate of the tech community based on its approval or apprehension to accept certain technologies. Previously, it has been the perception of many companies and organizations that WebRTC would not stand the test of time without the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

Over the past five years, the WebRTC community has unified in the effort to navigate through major hurdles and obstacles while evolving into a stronger entity. So it will be interesting to see how the pace quickens now that Microsoft is supporting WebRTC 1.0 APIs. We are enthusiastic about where this momentum will take us!