I have a phone on my desk and know how all the buttons work (my mother is very proud). I have a familiar experience with the telephone both for making & receiving calls. Like you, I don’t make many traditional phone calls anymore with more of my communications are happening on a ‘smart’ device. However, I’m typically using some other familiar interface (Google Talk, Skype, Viber, one of many soft phones of my own choosing) or simply a dial pad. I know the ‘buttons’ here as well.
WebRTC is fixing to upend and even reverse the entire experience of communications.
Imagine if every person you called, the experience was different. This is in fact what WebRTC is offering. Me, the called party, has total control over how communications will be presented and what you (the caller) see on your screen. I will define the experience. As the caller, you’re likely to get a different experience with every person or company you contact using WebRTC. Different buttons, fonts, colors, graphics, look n’ feel. There will be no standardization.
Your immediate thought is, “this is gonna be damn confusing“. But stop for a second and think.
Isn’t this just how the web works today? Are all websites alike? Well no, they’re not yet you and I and the world have great abilities to quickly navigate websites and extract the information we want. So imagine then that WebRTC offer the ability to easily offer mass personalization of our communications to a level far beyond simple fonts n’ colors. It’s the ability to customize the caller experience to your own tastes & requirements. Think of it as a Myspace for communications.
Perhaps when calling me, I might choose to display a headshot, recent Tweets, recent blog posting titles, video window, chat screen, recent postings on Slideshare, upcoming travel from Tripit, Linkedin updates. Or I might simply present a blank screen with a microphone. The choice will be entirely mine. Think of it like WordPress with Widgets (in fact, it may well be WordPress).
I could also have different URL’s that I publish. One for business and one for personal. For security, I might require you have a PIN to call me (so just having my URL won’t be enough) or a Captacha code to eliminate telemarketers. Before allowing you to connect to me, I might ask why you’re trying to call me with a text input box. Again, I’m control of the experience.
The current phone system doesn’t offer you much control. You can either answer my ringing phone or not. If you’re lucky it might should you the caller ID (and even more lucky a name) and you can figure out who this person is and what they want.
This is a lot to take in and there will be many naysers. Similar to early websites, the first WebRTC deployments may be initially “off the mark” . There will be security & use issues to be solved (how do you provide inbound calling line ID when you’re IP address changes all the time?). But the simplicity of deployment, ability to make speedy changes and sheer innovation on this front will hopefully power communications to a new level.
Jaron Lanier (blog) is likely the first geek, having termed the phrase “virtual reality” some years ago and been involved in all sorts of bleeding edge technologies. He’s written the book, “Who Owns the Future?” which proves to raise some interesting questions about how technology, while improving our lives, is increasingly reducing the need and value of the human worker. Voice communications has had a long tough ride.
Years ago, a service provider voicemail system could be sold for $80 a port (concurrent call). Today, a handful of extremely thin and scrappy vendors are happy if they can get $0.15 a port. In the beginning, the solution was highly integrated. We sourced our own special hard drives. Wrote our own O/S. Installation of these often room size systems was measured in months and required highly trained specialty personnel. The company died off because it’s nearly impossible to downscale a company to operate at 1/100th of the original selling price
With every death, there is a birth and with this new technology, there will be new business opportunities and a new sense of value. Jaron points out that at it’s pinnacle, now mostly defunct Kodak had a market cap of $28 billion and employed 14,000 people while Instagram (the face of new era digital photography) was bought for $1 billion and had a mere 13 employees. It will be very difficult, or more likely impossible, to drag existing business models to compete adequately into this new age. Several large telco types, Telefonica and Orange amongst the names, have created venture groups who are looking to fund start-up ventures who in fact are looking to compete with the mammoths at their own game. This is smart exercise and every service provider worldwide should have a similar effort. While it won’t likely save the jobs of all the employees, it does provide hope for longer term continuity.
The Chrome browser is fairly stealthy, silently it works to automatically upgrade itself, the user not even aware that it’s happened, no nag messages, you simply have the latest all the time. So there in Chrome 26, hidden away deep under the chrome://flags page, a place that only true geeks dare to go, was the option
“Enable screen capture support in getUserMedia().”