With everyone still trying to get their head around SIP and the amazing benefits of it, you would be forgiven for thinking that innovation in the telecommunications industry could take a bit of a breather. But we all know that change is relentless and instead, a new technology is starting to make a lot of noise and looks set to change the way we think about interacting with each other and our devices. That technology is WebRTC.
WebRTC allows for real time communication in your browser. That means voice and video calls in the same place you do Google searches. A question was posed on LinkedIn recently that asked, “Isn’t WebRTC just Skype?” On the face of it, that looks like a pretty apt summation, until you drill down a bit. The first thing to understand is that WebRTC is not an application. It’s not something that you install and use to start making video calls. It’s a technology, a means of transportation for real time communication within a web browser. This means that you can develop your own killer communication applications and let WebRTC do the heavy lifting to set up calls and transport media.
Imagine, you are on a company’s website and you’re having difficulty filling out a form. In frustration you might send an email and get no response. You return to their site and use Skype’s Click to Call function to talk to someone who answers your questions and then you return to their site to finally complete the form. Now imagine the same scenario, except that this company has deployed WebRTC and you can click a button on their website to make a video call to a support rep. Now you can see who you are talking to, you haven’t had to install any software on your computer, it hasn’t cost you any Skype credit, and crucially, you haven’t had to try several different methods to get the information you require. We can take this a little further, though, thanks to the underlying data transportation in WebRTC. Now you can let the support rep take control of your browser session and complete the form for you!
The only question remains then, why aren’t we seeing this everywhere? Two words, Microsoft and Apple. Both these companies have their own investments to protect at the moment. Microsoft has spent vast sums to bring Skype and Nokia in to its portfolio so are unlikely to rush out and support a technology that impinges on the feature set of these. Ironically, if Microsoft embraced WebRTC it would probably help them gain market share in the mobile space that they are desperate for. There are rumours though, that Microsoft will support a version of WebRTC in the next release of Internet Explorer. To what extent, remains to be seen. Apple, however, seem unlikely to utilise WebRTC any time soon as they push to dominate peer-to-peer video with FaceTime and have restricted WebRTC use in the App store.
We also have to remember that WebRTC is an infant. SIP was developed in 1996! 18 years and it’s only just being accepted as mainstream communication choice. WebRTC traces its history back only three years. Chrome and Firefox might be the only browsers that support WebRTC but given that they dominate the browser market and Google is the main driver behind WebRTC we expect a much quicker take up than that.