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When browsers change

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

EWT27ShadowTail.jpg.displayEarly in the summer, Mozilla and Tokbox announced a level of integration between Firefox and Opentok (the service). Probably like you, I didn’t pay much attention to this. The integration was only in the nightly development version of Firefox (playing to a small theater at best) and elements of it tinged of some business development deal with perhaps other non-public elements (as tends to happen). Both Tokbox and Mozilla have been great supporters of WebRTC and since I couldn’t think of anything nice to say, I said nothing. But I kept thinking about this.

We all consider a browser to be neutral territory. A browser is my choice but they should all function the same way and render everything perfectly following the HTML standards to the letter. Microsoft incurred the wrath of the US government when they too tightly integrated into Windows. Perhaps they were indeed right, just bad timing. Innovation and standards don’t always ride on the same bus.

What we know is that no one has figured out how to be solely in the browser business. Simply put it’s not a stand alone business. Which by default means, Mozilla may be dead man walking (or already is, I told you the Zombies were coming).

However, if you think more about it, perhaps we are entering a new phase. A phase where the “browser” isn’t doing a simple ask to a server, getting the information and figuring out how to display it, but rather the browser & server are actually becoming more integrated. This is particularly acute in real time 2-way communications.

As the odd man out, Mozilla might simply offer up a worldwide network of WebRTC capabilities, ready to go, on a moment’s notice at whatever scale you need and at the exact right price point – free. This might instantly kill off all kinds of WebRTC hopeful service providers. Suddenly, Firefox would be the browser of choice for any real time communications. In fact, it’d be the ONLY browser for some applications.

I often endure end customers questions about when Microsoft will support WebRTC and I make hand puppet dinosaurs on the wall about how this is coming soon. I hope the meeting is over because the next question is inevitably about when Apple will support WebRTC (which requires singing and dancing).

If you think about what’s next beyond this well established browser/server mentality. Perhaps in the future I will have my own web server which proxies everything I want from the Internet and processes, reformats, parses, churns and digests and tosses whatever I want (or don’t want) and present it seamlessly to me in what you might consider a browser, but is really a server or is it a server trying to be a browser?¬†Flipboard is kinda of already there aren’t they? May I won’t interact ever again with the Internet directly, letting my proxy do all the work.

So after thinking, the effort of Mozilla and Tokbox shows neither are standing still and both have a willingness to experiment, change or challenge the paradigm, success or not, it’s definitely not a fail.