Alan Quayle

WebRTC is an important movement, its beyond just agreed technologies in the browser / device. Its an ecosystem of large and small, general and specialized service providers.  All vying for a piece of the market created when browsers / devices can communicate peer-to-peer WITHOUT a vendor specific download, and all the limitations that incurs.  My involvement with WebRTC started in 2010, just before Google released its code, working with a WebRTC start-up painfully early to market.

WebRTC has evolved since then from a collection of libraries into a unified global standard, where even the video codec issue is more or less resolved.  WebRTC takes care of many issues: ICE, STUN, TURN, IPv6, DTLS, DTLS-SRTP, RTP, audio codecs, video codecs, RTCP, BWE, AGC, AEC, jitter, error concealment, audio levels, FEC, RTX, SCTP, SDP, and lots more.  Its complex because peer-to-peer real time communications between browsers and all the packet processing that is applied to traffic from the device to the internet is challenging.

WebRTC is so much more than just voice and video communications between browsers.  Put simply WebRTC implements some magic (bootstrapping) to set up a secure, robust, low-latency, p2p audio, video, and data pipe.  And within that pipe anything can be sent, from measurement data from a monitoring device, through gesture and video data for a network-based game, to all the applications of communications within all the processes that now run over the internet.  Its extremely big!

BUT, there is always a but.  Its been nearly 5 years since I was pitching to VCs on how WebRTC will change the world; and it hasn’t.  All the browser / device OS providers have their vested interests.  None want to ceed advantage to the other.  Some are happy for the patchwork quilt of client-server applications to continue, where an application specific download works just as well as it has done for over a decade.  And on the practical side my experience of using WebRTC is debug, debug, debug.  Which still requires significant knowledge of what’s going on under the WebRTC hood.

And to make matters worse the marketeers have got involved, with statements like “WebRTC changes everything” or “WebRTC close to tipping point as Cisco, Microsoft announce products.”  Drawing an analogy to US history, my view on where we are with WebRTC is we’re entering the Wild West after the Early Explorers have mapped some of the landscape.  With the privacy and security issues better managed, we’ll see the big guys war it out (Civil War), and with the market deciding we’ll enter a Progressive Era where the dominant innovations from the war are consolidated into standards.  All ending in the Modern Era where WebRTC is ubiquitous and no longer really mentioned, its just there.  We still have a way to go to WebRTC ubiquity, but watching and waiting for that to happen will mean you’ve missed the boat.  We’ve entered a critical time where laying claims to markets is critical to future success – the land-grab is on!

Alan Quayle, Alan Quayle Business & Service Development