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Does WebRTC spell an end for services?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

telephone_poleAs a half geek, I learn by doing.  I like to look at bare technology and start to imagine what could be built. I’d been looking to trial out WebRTC on a bare bones basis. I’ve played around with a number of ‘things’ floating around on the Internet. Some I got to work, others were a train wreck. All required me executing a bunch of Linux commands (something I’m not an expert at).

Thus I was stoked when I figured out in only a handful of steps to get demo working from Github with nearly no effort. I ping’d a friend on the other side of earth, sent him my URL and we started talking about 30 seconds later and quickly forgot about the technology. But it got me thinking., I just created my own personal Skype service. Why do I need a service provider at all? Why can’t I be my very own telephone/video company with a $10 a year domain?

While the telephone companies argue about the relevance of telephone numbers (failing to recognize that no one knows anyone’s phone number anymore), the element right before our eyes may be nothing more than cheap webhosting and an inexpensive domain name Perhaps my IP address is the 22nd century new telephone number.  Wanna reach me in the future? Well you’d just dial my domain

Perhaps I would host it myself. Perhaps there will be a WordPress equivalent of WebRTC that appears that will be easily installed or hosted. Before you scoff at that, remember WordPress represents about 60 million websites and adding about 100k per day or roughly 15% of all websites worldwide. The power of open source.

You can imagine the ease of customization, numerous plug-ins, themes and widgets that could be developed on a personal telephone company-for-1 WebRTC package.

Hence when I call you, I’ll get the experience you want me to have. Perhaps showing me recent photos, tweets, articles, maybe share your current calendar, Facebook status or whatever. This will make Caller Line ID look like a telegraph wire.

Now let’s twist it even further, you call me and I control what you see. But similarly – you control what I see.  Thus each calling party might well have a slightly different experience. Another notion, you might have different views or even personalities. Your friend calls and you share a ‘friend communication view’ and outbound unknown may be a more private version.

WebRTC is clearly the death of telephony as we know it. But it’s also clearly the birth of an entire new business segment.

The industry is busy right now just trying to make it work and having various arguments about how to do what and when. All perfectly normal. But thinking past these initial stages, WebRTC enables some very fundamental P2P pipes, namely media, signaling and data. It’s all very simple but the immense power is in fact it’s simplicity.

NOTE: I’ve been using DigitalOcean to test out WebRTC with their $5 a month virtual server. It’s cheap and it’s great for testing stuff.