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Musings from WebRTC Conference 2012

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Here we sat this week, some 330 of us, as the rain poured outside and the ideas flowed inside at the first ever WebRTC Conference held at the nondescript South San Francisco Conference Center. A monumental event, I expect to see nearly 1000 at the next event as various industries start to realize the potential power here. WebRTC promises to unleash a new level of multimedia communications by adhering to the basic principle if you make it simple, free and easy — people will flock to it and flock they will.

The entire telecom industry was built on the basic premise that communications was extremely complex, requiring all sorts of sophisticated back office systems to monitor and control and row upon row of specialized hardware (otherwise known as boxes of blinking lights) tended to by highly trained (read expensive) technicians. WebRTC washes away all of this.

The Google personnel spent considerable time, nearly always repeating themselves, that by merely inserting 12 simple lines of javascript into your HTML code you suddenly could make a point-to-point multimedia call. No complex systems or servers. It just worked. Google, the platinum sponsor, calmly spent the event in education mode about the underlying hooks that WebRTC and how a developer might interact with them. Another 12 lines of code and who knows what could be built.

The contrast was a spokesperson from Ericsson who bored the audience with a long diatribe on how Ericsson was one of the first to be looking at WebRTC (they presented a Powerpoint timeline which looked like some legal discovery document) yet Ericsson offered up very little on what exactly they were trying to offer. I was left with the impression that Ericsson desperately wanted to be considered relevant. However, the power of WebRTC is the lack of boxes in the middle and that is in fact the core of Ericsson’s offering — boxes in the middle. It was a marked contrast from Google.

There was a¬†euphoric¬†incense in the air with a “we are going to change the world” scent and indeed WebRTC just well might. Like most disruptive technologies, there will be new players who emerge and succeed (as well as those that don’t) and old players who struggle to reach this new plateau and are simply fond memories.

I am still processing the real “so what” from the event and this technology, the euphoric incense still affecting my senses but clearly change is afoot.