Chris Kranky

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WebRTC: Enter Google (Part 4)

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Another in a series of articles describing the new emerging WebRTC initiative.

Now like so many things in life, just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse and then do, Google shows up at the party. What Google understands is that an army of ants can topple nearly anything. They basically have done this with Android. By giving away for free  various components and tools for Android, they’ve enabled millions of programmers to create all sorts of new innovative stuff. It’s only incidental that Apple gets injured or the dozen or so company who tried to charge for mobile operating system went out of business. The real goal is for Google to find new revenue streams amongst these ants.

Google decided they wanted to do the same thing for multi-media communications.

Most web developers have no clue about SIP, nor any interest for that matter. They don’t really want to know that much about what a CODEC is and whether it’s important or not. They’re comfortable with HTML, XML and Javascripts but mostly they’re comfortable with higher level API’s that enable to focus on the application and worry less about how it actually rides across the network.

Google saw this as well. But the problem is you do need to worry about CODECS and signalling and how things ride across the network. Worse, multimedia is inherently complex and requires specialized knowledge. How Google asked themselves, could they enable an army of ants to go after multimedia (which by the way includes voice).

Google’s team went searching for how to help themselves in this quest and there in the dark of Sweden they found this little company called Global IP Sound otherwise known as GIPS. GIPS was a group of extremely nerdy engineers who had developed some middleware software that understood how to deal with CODECS and signalling and all facets of how to ensure a VoIP call made it from one end of the planet to the other.

GIPS big victory was that Skype had licensed (albeit on very sweet terms) all of their software and Skype had quickly embedded this into their Skype client. The GIPS stuff is one of the main reasons Skype works and sounds 10x better than your typical telephone call.  What GIPS had accomplished was more than just science, there was a real art to what they had accomplished. In fact, there was no one else anywhere on the earth who had done more or knew more about this topic than GIPS.

Unfortunately, GIPS didn’t really have much of a business. They tried to license it to various VoIP folks. But these folks were poor for the most part and GIPS struggled for years to try and figure out whether they had a business model.

Well it didn’t take long for the Google team to find GIPS hiding in Sweden and out came the check book and GIPS was acquired for $68 million in May of 2010.

The telecom industry failed to realize that the crown jewel of the entire VoIP industry had just been acquired by someone who wasn’t necessarily very friendly towards them.

… continued