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The Evolution of WebRTC

The Evolution of WebRTC

 WebRTC

WebRTC also known as Web Real-Time Communication is an API developed by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Google. It supports browser-to-browser applications such as voice-calling, video chat and Peer-to-Peer file sharing without any additional plugins. WebRTC is an open source project proposed by Google and is now supported by several other browsers. The API is still a work in progress but shows promise for the future.

The main purpose of WebRTC is to bring:

  • Real-time communications to the web
  • Build a state of the art media stack in browsers
  • Develope a new communications platform
  • Enable P2P file sharing
  • Provide a video conferencing solution that requires no download
  • Create a faster video and audio conferencing experience 

WebRTC is supported across many platforms and other browsers have joined in for support. Currently, the following platforms and browsers support WebRTC:

  • Chrome
  • Chrome for Android
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Native Java and Objective-C bindings
  • Canary
  • Nightly

4.7 Billion Mobile WebRTC Devices to Be Enabled by 2018 Despite Lack of Open Support from Apple and Microsoft, Says ABI Research

MarketWatch.com

WebRTC is a very handy platform and provides several benefits for the end user. Below are some of the benefits of the API for the user:

  • It is convenient to use because it does not require any third party plugin to work.
  • WebRTC encrypts both the media and the signaling which makes it more secure compared to other telephony services.
  • Saves costs of toll-free numbers and uses a VPN to connect home offices and remote branches.
  • Eliminates the need for servers to communicate with your customers or employees.
  • Voice and video calls are not interrupted while browsing so users can start a call from within the browser.
  • Mobile operators can enable users with their VoIP call service on the go without requiring any applications.

However, there are a few concerns regarding WebRTC as well. A while ago, some people reported that browsers supporting WebRTC suffer from a serious security flaw which compromises the security of VPN-tunnels. VPNs are used to hide the user's IP address but this flaw allowed others to see the actual IP address. This is a small security flaw which can be fixed in future updates.

Canary

Chrome

Opera

Nightly

Firefox

Browser

IE

Safari

PeerConnection API

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

No

No

getUserMedia

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Marginal

No

dataChannels

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

No

No

No

TURN support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

No

No

Echo Cancellation

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

No

No

MediaStream API

Support

Support

Support

Marginal

Marginal

Support

No

No

Multiple Streams

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Support

Support

Support

No

No

Simulcast

Marginal

Marginal

No

No

No

No

No

No

Screen Sharing

Marginal

Marginal

No

Marginal

Marginal

No

No

No

Media Constraints

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

No

No

Stream re-broadcasting

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Support

Support

No

No

No

getStats API

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

No

No

No

ORTC API

No

No

No

No

No

No

Marginal

No

H.264 Video

No

No

No

Support

Support

Support

No

No

VP8 Video

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

Support

No

No

Solid interoperability

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

No

No

srcObject in media element

No

No

No

Support

Support

No

No

No

Promise based getUserMedia

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Support

Support

Support

No

No

Promise based PeerConnection API

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Support

Support

Support

No

No

WebAudio Integration

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Support

Marginal

No

No

No

Canvas Integration

No

No

No

Marginal

No

No

No

No

*Note: Support= Complete Support , Marginal= Not fully integrated, No= Not Supported

WebRTC is a very promising innovation and it sets new standards in online communication but this service is still in its early stages. The technology is still in development stages and has a long way to go before it can be enabled as a default for everyone. The table below shows how far behind WebRTC is at the moment when it comes to development. The API needs support from Apple so it can be implemented in its browser. Millions of people use iPhone and Mac products which utilize Safari as the primary browser. Secondly, the browsers supporting WebRTC still lack many of the proposed features such as screen sharing, H.264 video, canvas integration and so on.

WebRTC looks fascinating as a demo product but there is still plenty of work left to do before it can compete against existing video chat standards. The table below shows exactly which features are supported by which browser and what is left to work on. 

Where WebRTC is Today...

WebRTC is an excellent platform for customer services. Similar to Amazon's Mayday, companies can utilize WebRTC and provide essential support to their customers. This can either increase or decrease the average cost of an interaction with the customer. The cost of  implementation can be surprisingly low because so much support and documentation is available as open source. 

Presently, WebRTC deployment seems unlikely to take off as a alternative to established players like Skype for Business and GoToMeeting who still only provide partial support for the technology (using it in variations but the core product). It will all depend on the use case and business value it delivers for various service providers. We will see more all/only WebRTC solutions like Talky.io and other in the near future. The platform still has a long way to go so it is too early to judge. Once all the issues have been taken care of and the API has adequate support from all browsers then a finalized product can certainly portray a better image. 

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