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Why Google Hangout Adoption of WebRTC is Irrelevant

Google Hangout is a group video chat service from Google. Those who are in the know are aware of the fact that it doesn't use WebRTC, Google's VP8 codec or even the standard H.264 codec, but rather an H.264/SVC (Scalable Video Coding) variant of it.

There are those who are waiting for Google to make the shift--replace the codec and media libraries they use in Google Hangout, and with it the need for a plugin installation, with WebRTC.

While this may seem like a noble cause, and also an obvious move for Google, which has been the driving force behind WebRTC, it is actually rather irrelevant to the future success or failure of WebRTC itself.

Why? Because

You can already find five types of companies who use WebRTC:

1. Those that acquired a company that uses WebRTC: Telefonica, Jive and Yahoo.
2. Those that were in the VoIP business already and simply added WebRTC to their arsenal: Vidtel and Blue Jeans come to mind here
3. Those that are hosting their own service that uses WebRTC: Drum, TenHands, frisB and a few others
4. Those that are offering telephony APIs based on WebRTC so others can implement their own service
5. Those that are using telephony APIs that rely on WebRTC for their own services

Some of these companies do only voice.

Some do video.

Others do multipoint video, which in effect validates the Google Hangout use case.

The fact that Google hasn't released their own Hangout service over WebRTC yet is an internal Google issue and I don't believe it reflects on WebRTC's viability for such a service.

Sure--there might be some technical issues there. Others have resolved it with their own techniques. Google will as well.

But we need to remember: there are a lot of point-to-point use cases out there that WebRTC fits well, and a lot of multipoint use cases that are already taken care of by vendors who use WebRTC.

It would be nice to have Google Hangout as yet another WebRTC implementation, but that's about as far as I'd go with enthusiasm about that fact.