WebRTC – A Personal View

WebRTC is one of the hottest topics in the VoIP/Communications space at the moment.  Although still in its infancy, interest is increasing and gaining traction so I thought I would add my views on the topic here:

What is WebRTC?
There are visionaries who ‘get’ WebRTC, or at least they share my view of what WebRTC really is:

  • WebRTC is a client-side media engine.  It enables a host of converged Web and real-time communication use cases, not currently feasible with existing video, VoIP or PSTN technologies.
  • It is not a stand-alone solution, a PSTN replacement, or a drop-in alternative for VoIP technologies,
  • It has the potential to be a game-changer in the way that real-time telecommunications can be blended with applications and delivered to the consumer.

At Drum, we believe WebRTC will transform the delivery of communications and elevate the humble web page into a converged, multimedia communications platform.  Only time will tell how prophetic that view is.
My current observations are:-

WebRTC’s disruptive potential is not about technology

The disruptive power of WebRTC does not lie in some new or clever invention in the technology itself.  It lies in the new use cases it enables.  Users are not interested in the technology, they only care about applications and services which solve problems, or make their lives simpler and more effective.  WebRTC makes it possible to create new converged real-time applications and services in a way not previously possible.  It does so without introducing additional complexity or cost and as a result, by-passes the traditional barriers to consumer adoption.

SIP is the new legacy

SIP once promised to revolutionise telecommunications by enabling the delivery of converged multi-media applications to consumers and consumer devices.  Ultimately it failed.  That is not to say SIP has no place in VoIP or that it will be replaced by WebRTC anytime soon.  SIP still has a place in the core of telecoms networks but the revolutionary role it once promised is now firmly in the hands of  the WebRTC community.

Telecomms service providers are confused by how to deal with WebRTC 

Many see WebRTC as a threat that they would like to turn into an opportunity.  In doing so they are attempting to find ways to make it fit their regulated, standardised, sanitised, sterile and homogenised world.  This may be a a way of embracing WebRTC, but it’s the kind of embrace that could end up being the same crushing bear hug that suffocated SIP.

WebRTC is already under threat from those who don’t “get it”

By design, the WebRTC standard lacks the “service surround” of authentication, authorisation and accounting (AAA) upon which  traditional communications service providers have built their businesses.  Those traditional CSPs are already attempting to position themselves as being able to supply that same service surround for WebRTC.

In my opinion, this is the wrong approach. WebRTC should be kept as simple as possible.  AAA is an application issue and there are already Web-based AAA mechanisms that would work better with WebRTC.  If service providers want to contribute constructively, they need to expose their AAA for use by WebRTC application developers and not force their current solutions into the WebRTC standard.

Here at Drum we have embraced WebRTC.  We believe it is one of the most exciting things to happen in telecomms since the invention of the telephone itself.
In future posts I’ll be sharing further opinions on WebRTC.  I’ll be discussing its use cases, the opportunities, the threats and the pit-falls to avoid if WebRTC is to evolve to its full potential.
What’s your opinion about WebRTC? Is it a threat or opportunity?  Will it be a game-changer or is it all just hype? 
 Mike Bardzinski is the Chief Architect at Drum.  He has a hands-on role in developing real-time multimedia solutions and is responsible for the technology choices and the design and implementation decisions that ensure Drum is scalable, highly available and performant.
With over 20 years experience in the telecommunications industry, Mike has worked in various R&D roles, on the bleeding edge of award winning CTI and SIP solutions, including co-writing the world’s first carrier-grade commercial SIP Application Server.

2 thoughts on “WebRTC – A Personal View

  1. Mike,
    I share most of your views about WebRTC, but I think carriers do have a place in offering an identity system or authentication mechanism for WebRTC. I just don’t think it needs to be standardized as part of WebRTC itself – it fits into some of the use cases, but why limit us to these use cases?

    1. Hi Tsahi
      I totally agree that carriers DO have a role to play in exposing their identity & authentication mechanisms to developers of WebRTC applications.
      It’s the forcing it into the WebRTC standard itself I object to – I think it has no place there.
      I also believe that carriers need to offer those mechanisms to the WebRTC application development community in a way that is Web-friendly, or they fail to capitalise on the opportunities which WebRTC presents them.
      I will be posting more about my views on this exact topic soon.

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