The Disruption, and subsequent innovation from WebRTC, part 1

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

The Disruption, and subsequent innovation from WebRTC, part 1

Over the course of my career, I have worked with many disruptive technologies. Perhaps the most disruptive so far have been Voice Over IP (VoIP) which has literally changed the telecom industry, and WiFi since it was the first to untether us from our desks.  

But there is a new technology on the horizon which has the potential to be just as impactful- Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC).  Perhaps you’ve heard of it and thought it was just a new API? Or maybe this is the first time you’re reading about it?  If you are an end-user, you won’t even notice it (after providing permissions for the browser to use your microphone and camera) since it’s behind the scenes of how you are communicating, but if you are a vendor or a creator of telecom applications, WebRTC is a big change.  

So what is WebRTC (Web Real Time Communications)? Essentially WebRTC is a framework consisting of several APIs such as HTML5, Java, etc., but it’s about what it changes that makes it so important. The WebRTC API enables voice and/or video calls to be made as part of a web browser. Yes, you could make voice and video calls through the web before WebRTC (or, shall I say, today), but those calls are made through more elaborate means, such as tying adjuncts (that enable click to call for instance) into the solution, or through proprietary means. Basically, one needs to know SIP / VoIP to enable web calls today. 

So what is the big deal? With WebRTC, the capability is simply a standard and an open standards part of the browser.  Anyone who knows how to program websites / Java can enable these calls.  The API handles the hard signaling and media stuff.  The programmers just need to program these calls to the API.  People who have never even heard of VoIP can now create communication applications!  This could enable millions and millions of new communications developers to get into the act-  if you assume any Java developer could program these calls.  And THAT, my friends, is GIGANTIC!

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And what is the impact of a browser-to-browser call?  I’m sure there are many.  But the one I can think of right away is that if you are consuming content from a specific browser, then whatever device you use to enable the browser is what you watch or listen to.  So if you subscribe to a service, then you can watch it on your Internet TV, your tablet, your smartphone, or your smart microwave –anything you have with a browser.  You just log on.  And THAT, my friends, is also GIGANTIC!  This non-device specificity changes the nature of the way one thinks about a communication application.  You wouldn’t call your cell phone or your home phone. You wouldn’t watch TV at home.  You would just log on!
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