Chris Kranky

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WebRTC: A new beginning and perhaps the final end of telephony

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

A week has now passed since the WebRTC World event in San Francisco and my fog has lifted. Silicon Valley events too often are over hyped and the group works themselves up into a frothy foam of a “we’re going to change the world” theme. So what is the deal with WebRTC, I thought. Now a safe distance away some clarity emerges.

Telephony has always been hard.  I remember patrolling a telephone conference show years ago where each exhibitor seemed to have the exact same demo whereby an incoming telephone call would create some type of pop-up on a PC. The audience would oooh and aaah as if some miracle had just occurred. This was high tech?

Voice over IP had a big promise. The principles of SIP were simple. Was this the answer? But then the telephony people got involved barking about security and quality of service but what they were really growling about was control and dominance. They didn’t want just anyone fooling around with voice and this was a member’s only club. The result, SIP got horribly complicated and mangled in sea of back-to-back user agents whose sole purposes was to preserve the Maldivian Island the telephone companies had built.

WebRTC is global warming, the sea is going to rise up, the island will disappear. WebRTC threatens to make voice simple. Similar to Android, Google with a open checkbook is working to enable virtually anyone with a mere basic knowledge of HTML to write a telephony application. The telephone guys were nervous as they milled around the event. But the power of simplicity and the sheer mass of web developers will win out.

If you don’t have to worry about how multimedia communications is transacted, you can spend all of your cycles worrying about why it needs to be transacted. Hence, I suspect a sea of new applications is likely to emerge, some will succeed, others while perhaps intersting may not. In the coming weeks, I’ll write about a raft of new vertical and horizontal applications I see as feasible.

Applications with a large number of users are likely now to find it easy to add multimedia components and with little cost so why not. It’s easy to imagine Facebook,, Google, Microsoft quickly adding in this functionality.

This is indeed exciting.