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WebRTC Expo – what did you miss (and what did I see)

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

coke-vs-pepsi2-300x265WebRTC Expo in Atlanta is over. So if you didn’t manage to get here, well, you’re too late now.  The conference attracted ~ 700 attendees and this is a huge increase from the 300 at the first SFO event. A fall event in Santa Clara is in the works and I’d imagine the audience will be nearing 2,000. Excellent event and Phil Edholm deserves special thanks for his omnipresence, tireless energy and bubbling personality – Phil smells a winner in this technology and you should as well.

Now what did I see or more importantly what will I tell you in my normally unbiased or tainted way.

Firefox is on the road to being irrelevant. It’s apparent this is gonna be a Coke / Pepsi battle between Microsoft and Google for who wins the browser war. Like so many technology plays, there is gonna be a #1 and you won’t be able to name who the number #2 guy is. Google needs someone else to support WebRTC and Firefox is their cousin from Alabama.  Give me flack, but global and country web stats are supporting me. Firefox market share is flat. But there is no flat in this business, you’re either growing or dying.

WebRTC is a sideshow for Google. They clearly are on a mission with HTML 5 as their base ingredient to turn the browser into an entire environment with communications (WebRTC) being an important satellite. If you’re focused solely on WebRTC, you need to back up a bit from your Bug’s Life and see  the bigger game that’s afoot. Thanks as well to the entire Google team who were present and available during the entire event.

WebRTC is a difficult concept for the average programmer to wrap their head around and we, as the industry pundits, need to work to work on this. It’s not time to sell, it’s time to educate.

Now for some specific observations  —

Ian Small @ Tokbox, yes that was my resume in your copy of the hotel USA Today! Tokbox was clearly the darling of the event with a well executed message, compelling presentation that was fun to boot. That Tokbox is owned by Telefonica should be a strong wake-up call to global telecom companies, the game has changed (emphasis not going to change, has changed) and I’ll devote an entire article to Tokbox.

An unassuming Gil Osher from Vonage captivated the Mobile WebRTC session (where I provided comic relief as the moderator) by detailing how Vonage is already using WebRTC for their mobile voice application (both for iOS and Android, download from the respective stores).  Yes they lifted the GIPS source code redux so it’s not 100% WebRTC but it speaks to all of us that WebRTC is more about what you’re trying to accomplish than following some strict standards.

Video was over represented and like Dean Bubley, I’m equally concerned (and even more equally annoyed with these demos). Please stop the madness, this is simply not compelling. Having said that I enjoyed the crisp message and demos  from Vline, yes doing video conferencing. Ben Strong, the CEO, bristled a tad when in 30 seconds I net’d the company out as “Twilio for video”  (it’s more than that). But a strong showing.

Labinot Bytyqi, CEO of Solaborate and his team injected great energy into a new type of professional social networking. While I’m not sure they have found the spark yet, they seem quick to respond and that will be key.

Xirsys, a name you’ve never heard of, was offering a hosted TURN service with worldwide servers. Boring as all get out, but TURN will be a needed element in whatever pie you’re baking and their simple matter of fact message was of interest. Estimations are that 15% of all WebRTC sessions from the public Internet will require TURN services. Vonage indicated that 40% of their calls today (originated from mobile 3G/4G) require TURN  due to mobile networks blocking all sorts of ports (ugh – another nasty blog article for me against the mobile industry (I don’t put my resume in their USA Today)).

There were numerous SIP type companies chattering about WebRTC. Their message was not always strong and I often got the sense they were simply clamoring to say they supported WebRTC “as a feature” (another of my nasty posts). WebRTC is a twist of your head, the notion of the browser as your “environment” is equally hard and the concept that all communications will change is impossible for some to fathom. If the median age of your company is “dead” you may struggle here (BTW whoever took the tennis ball off my walker could you please return it!).

More to follow …