Adobe Flash 10.1 Adds P2P VoIP, Social Networking, IM

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Randy Savicky
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Adobe Flash 10.1 Adds P2P VoIP, Social Networking, IM

The latest version of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 (still in beta) adds support for RTMFP Groups. This is huge because it enables clients to easily communicate with other clients in a network in order to share the transport of media and communications without maintaining a connection to every peer in the group. Groups can be defined by their functionality and access can be controlled by the client application, whether it's a VoIP app, chat app or a social networking app.

They also added support for Directed Routing, which enables a developer to create communication applications and send data messages to a specific peer in the group. Critical features of RTMFP include low latency (critical for VoIP), end-to-end peering capability, security and scalability.

In the past, in order to scale you have to add additional Flash Media Servers, but with RTMFP Groups you can instead have application-level multicast for increased scalability. As seen in the graphic below, with Flash 10.1, you can have a very scalable 1-to-many (mesh architecture) leveraging the RTMP protocol, Status 2.0, and P2P communication.
adobe-stratus-p2p.jpg

According to the Flash Player 10.1 release notes, peer-assisted networking requires "Stratus", which you can read about on Adobe Labs. Because the RTMFP protocol now supports groups, this enables an application to segment its users to send messages and data only between members of the group. Application level multicast provides one (or a few) -to-many streaming of continuous live video and audio live video chat using RTMFP groups. Thus, you can imagine that you can build a scalable Skype P2P VoIP network using Flash Player 10.1 along with Status. You could even build a videoconferencing application that can scale to dozens or hundreds of video participants. Considering Skype isn't known for it's multi-party videoconferencing, this could have huge implications for videoconferencing service providers.

According to Adobe
, Stratus is a hosted peer introduction service that facilitates establishing communication between Flash Player clients or Adobe AIR endpoints using RTMFP. Flash Player endpoints must stay connected to the server during the entire time of communications. Unlike Flash Media Server, Stratus does not stream video or support media relay, shared objects, or scripting. Stratus is being made available as a beta service through Adobe Labs to allow the developer community to begin building applications using RTMFP.

No doubt you may be thinking, "What is the difference between Stratus and a Flash Media Server?" Adobe explains, "When using Stratus, all data is encrypted and sent directly from client to client without touching a server. In comparison, applications using Flash Media Server (and RTMP), data always flows through the server consuming both upload and download bandwidth from the server and clients. Stratus is a preview service that has limitations including no custom server programming and no remote shared object support."

Adobe said, "RTMFP groups let developers create interactive social experiences that can be used to increase engagement times within web applications or support higher quality media experiences within your company's network. Interactive applications like webcam chat, voice over IP, text chat can be built into solutions like live help, dating sites, company communication, marketing or advertising can all be created using RTMFP. RTMFP groups will enable new forms of communication including application-level multicast for scalable audio, video and data distribution."

RTMFP communication is UDP based. It is always encrypted, and can traverse NATs and firewalls. Alexey from Flaphone,com tipped me about the new Flash capabilities has some interesting perspectives on the new Flash 10.1 player. He said, "With new features of Flash Player 10.1 (RTMFP groups) everything changes, now peers from RTMFP group will help you to do P2P media transfer if direct P2P connection between some 2 peers from the group isn't possible. If you think a little it will become obvious that Flash Player (FP) can be used to create P2P-networks like Skype's one, root servers will only deal with signaling and will help clients to join groups with peers that can help in media delivery."

Of course, I wrote about Adobe getting into the VoIP space way back in 2006 and we really haven't seen a Flash-based VoIP application take off. Is Adobe finally going to crack the VoIP space with a killer P2P Flash Player that supports P2P VoIP, P2P IM, etc. that people actually use? It's no wonder Adobe is ticked that Apple won't allow Flash on the iPhone or iPad. Imagine a Flash-based VoIP app for the popular iPhone (or iPad) platform. That could have been a huge win for Adobe. It'll be interesting to see the adoption of Adobe's P2P technology. But for now, it'll be on the desktop only.


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