The Next Disruptor: WebRTC

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WebRTC enables browser-to-browser applications for voice, video, and more, without plugins as Susie Wee, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Networked Experiences at Cisco explains.

Remember 20 years ago, when getting on the web was considered remarkable? Today, we do not even think about it because of the constant flood of innovations. One of the next web advances, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), is just around the corner.

HTML, used for structuring and presenting content on the web, is now in its fifth revision. When HTML5 was introduced in 2004, it spurred a new wave of innovations. WebRTC is the latest evolution of that wave. WebRTC will invite even greater improvements on the web—and have a huge impact on the online communications world.

What is WebRTC? 

WebRTC is an open API drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It enables browser-to-browser applications, without plugins, for voice calling, video chat, and peer-to-peer (P2P) communication.

It provides a powerful alternative to other web and mobile development environments such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, as well as other proprietary plugins. And while HTML5 has brought many new capabilities to the web, it is WebRTC that is poised to be the pivotal technology.

We expect an explosion of audio and video applications when WebRTC development tools become more widely available and used by the huge web developer community. Start-ups and students who have only a basic understanding of P2P communication technologies will create these apps.

No special software necessary

By integrating real-time communications directly into web browsers, WebRTC opens up a world of possibilities. For example, we will see rich image and video apps directly within our mobile or tablet browsers. We will also be able to share files directly without a software client. And any user will be able to broadcast and share live audio, video, and data—and it will be as simple as opening a web page.

As with previous disruptions, WebRTC will completely change the way we live. Imagine citizen journalists streaming breaking news directly from their phones to news websites. Or colleagues sharing their screens in real time by clicking a button.

It will be interesting to watch as WebRTC propels a major disruption in the multibillion dollar markets of video conferencing, Internet telephony, and live video streaming.

Cisco is actively contributing to the development of the WebRTC standard and browser code implementation as part of a consortium that includes Mozilla, Google, Opera, Microsoft, Apple Ericsson, and a number of small real-time communications companies.

Already, most major collaboration platforms are using WebRTC to support interactive, instant business-to-consumer communication with voice, high-definition video, and data sharing from public websites and mobile applications.

Trend Insights

The industry is ready to build a WebRTC ecosystem.

The WebRTC market has started to consolidate through a growing number of acquisitions. In the past 12 months alone, big mobile operators and enterprise collaboration providers have acquired 14 companies. Most of those deliver development platforms and enterprise collaboration applications.

The market is also emerging through early-stage investments in start-ups developing “voice and video call” services. Most of the investments, however, are less than US$5 million.

We are seeing an interesting shift in terms of market segment from telecom and service providers to enterprise collaboration vendors. This could simply reflect the current trend to make IT more consumer-focused, a shift that is particularly strong in the enterprise collaboration market.

And WebRTC is rapidly expanding beyond simple voice and video calls to more industry-specific applications and services.

All of this movement is occurring at a time when the standard has yet to be finalised. This shows great promise—and strong business opportunities for WebRTC.

Ed Says…

I’ve used WebRTC on a call to Cyprus to 3CX the IP telephony vendor. You need an enabled browser, Chrome works and others will follow, and it was a walk in the park. Vendors such as 3CX and the latest Ipcortex IP telephony platform are leading the way with WebRTC functionality in the channel.