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WebRTC – a microbe in the world of HTML5

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

css-previewFor my previous P2P article, I asked Sophia/Brie – what % of Stanford computer science students were aware of WebRTC. They guessed the answer was ~ 25%.  What? If only 25% of students at the leading technology university in the center of all things technology know about WebRTC, Houston we have a problem.

It’s easy to understand this low awareness level. WebRTC is but a small function amongst many new functions that are part of the ecosphere we know as HTML5. Take a look at this 65 page online presentation by HTML5Rocks which shows the “highlights” of HTML5. Highlights? If you’re a programmer in Peoria, this is a lot to consume. Web workers, Canvas 3D, new file systems, speech rec, new form types, web sockets, offline storage, CSS3. The list of new things to learn is nearly endless and somewhere in that mix is our beloved WebRTC.  We have to remember that rounded boxes CSS seem like an Apollo moon launch to the typical HTML developer.

As an interested person (that would be you) it’s easy to engage in a heated battle with another WebRTC’er about such ‘you are so wrong’ topics like Offer/Answer or the please not again topic of video codecs. We’re all on this island together and I’m voting it’s time move this party to the mainland.

What this means is that you and I have to evangelize WebRTC beyond the borders of those who accidentally wandered in to our fiesta. We have to talk in simpler terms, make the technology approachable and glow about the prospect of not simply re-doing a stupid telephone call, but in fact, upping the ante on the entire way by which we communicate.  We have to illustrate those early adopters who launched WebRTC-powered applications. The affable Craig Walker with his newest venture, Uberconference, is a WebRTC powered conference service is a good example of this new thinking.

Craig is not trying to replicate the big yawn 30 year old telephony conferencing service that we’re all too familiar with, but introduce a different experience to how groups meet and collaborate. That’s powerful. That’s WebRTC.

I’m thinking, you be thinking, “how do we inflate this balloon further?” (comment, tweet or just open your window and scream it out).  More demos, more libraries  and more talking beyond borders is a start. If 2013 was spent trying to get the technology to work, this year (and we’re already a month into it) should be introducing WebRTC to a broader audience.

Comments 4
  • Lisa Larson-Kelley
    Posted on

    Lisa Larson-Kelley Lisa Larson-Kelley


    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve made it a personal mission to get people excited about (and developing apps with) WebRTC. I come from an FMS background, and I feel that same excitement about WebRTC that I had when I first got two webcams communicating in Flash back in 2002. But this time it’s different. It’s available to everyone, not just those who can afford a $4k+ license!

    The hurdle now with WebRTC is it’s accessibility, as you point out (as well as the standard itself, but we’ll have to work with that for now). When I started diving in, I found myself up to my eyeballs in telecom-speak, poorly (or not at all) documented code examples and libraries with no easy entry point. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Sam Dutton’s “simplest” examples to get me going.

    So I’m taking up your challenge to evangelize and bring WebRTC to the masses. I’ve got an intro online course publishing soon, a workshop at Fluent Conference, and 3 other talks lined up in the coming months.

    Here’s to WebRTC for everyone! 🙂

    // Lisa Larson-Kelley

  • Nick Vrtis
    Posted on

    Nick Vrtis Nick Vrtis


    My frustration with webRTC is I have not been able to find a simple, clean audio only example code. I don’t want to drag in some framework, or fancy HTML. The documentation looks pretty straightforward. It should be fairly easy. Looks might be ugly, but that’s fine. I have lots of examples on how to make things look pretty.

    My other frustration is that there is no server (send the audio out of the browser as a stream) side to this. I would love to use it to capture the microphone from the PC, ship it off to ‘something’ that forwards it to an audio processor (LiquidSoap for example) to broadcast.

    Or a Raspberry Pi with a microphone (and ‘server’) to send the stream via webRTC to a browser (nice baby monitor).

  • John Shpika
    Posted on

    John Shpika John Shpika


    Hi Chris, we’re trying ‘to inflate the balloon’ by using WebRTC. To be honest the technology still has a number of restrictions but it evolves. You can check our service, that’s one of live examples. I hope we will see more services using this technology and that will push browsers to implement better support of this great technology. Thanks for spreading a word about WebRTC.

  • Sam Dutton
    Posted on

    Sam Dutton Sam Dutton


    Hey Chris! Good post.

    Shame about the HTML5 Rocks slides not mentioning WebRTC. The slides are over two years old, but we should update them.

    We do maintain several WebRTC articles on HTML5 Rocks, which get a lot of views: Getting Started with WebRTC, WebRTC in the real world: STUN, TURN and signaling, and so on.

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