Chris Kranky

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Is WebRTC ready? Is the glass half full or half empty.

Technically the glass is always full.

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Dave Michels is someone I respect and known for his insightful articles on communications. Dave recently wrote this article before his attendance at the popular Enterprise Connect show in Orlando in the past week.

Dave questions whether WebRTC is fully cooked, past it’s prime or perhaps too little too late. He concludes his article with
"The other options are to make yourself comfortable and enjoy the wait for the value WebRTC will someday deliver, OR license/embed (or create) real-time technologies that work today."
— Dave Michels

I commented that perhaps he had forgotten how long VoIP itself took to emerge and the shards of glass those in the industry had to walk across for years because VoIP simply didn’t work. Many established vendors laughed VoIP off as a hobbyist technology. They were wrong and many became history.

As of today, most browsers do not support WebRTC.
The statement is true as an absolute. However, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft all support WebRTC today. Apple doesn’t but are hiring developers who explicitly have WebRTC skills. Why aren’t they rushing? Because the entire browser segment is up for change and communications is an integral part of whatever a “browser” is in 5 years. No one is saying WebRTC is wrong as technology choice, though clearly more work on the technology needs to happen. Communications will be part of browser technology.

Mobile is what really matters.
I couldn’t agree more. Mobile WebRTC hasn’t happened because the browser on mobile hasn’t reached it’s potential. The reality is most of us DON’T use the browser on our mobile as much as an app. But this is subject to rapid change. The trend now is towards service workers and non-downloaded applications. In fact, in the future you won’t know whether you’re using a browser or an application and you won’t care either. The days of downloading apps are nearing an end, if you’re focused on a WebRTC SDK, you’ve got the wrong focus IMHO. WebRTC is nothing more than a foot solider in a large battle ground that is shaping up for how we will use mobile devices. Watch for a massive change in how we use our mobile phones.

Google needed WebRTC to upset Skype, but that’s over.
Google has quietly doubled the WebRTC team in the last months (they didn’t feel a need to do a press release sic). Amazon is also busy hiring WebRTC developers.  A job’s search on a bevy of high tech companies websites turns up “webrtc” positions. I sense we are now entering the “now that it works, what can we do phase.” I expect to see the cadence of innovation to increase. While Microsoft has great financial powder to battle for decades, enterprise Skype may be warring in the era of battleships. Though I haven’t used consumer Skype in months now and the dirty secret, most Microsoft Skype for Business users don’t actually use any voice at all.

WebRTC is Dangerous
I agree with Dave. WebRTC isn’t meant to be a all-in-one solution. You have to do some work to make it your own. David continues to write.  “It’s very hard to fix something that 1) you don’t understand 2) you don’t control.” 100% agree. WebRTC is a building block, you have to create the compelling application and own the solution, in the past getting the technology to work was considered all you needed.

Dave responded to my original comment on his blog, “Organizations need to stop wasting their time with WebRTC solutions and focus on helping people effectively communicate today.

100% agree. What I have found the companies who are building and using WebRTC aren’t publishing press releases about it. They’re not complaining about how some element is missing. Instead, they’re just doing this and pushing it out there. Netflix’s customer call center today is all powered by WebRTC. Twilio announced their SIP to WebRTC service has exceeded 1 billion minutes of usage (granted that’s not a huge number but a billion here and there can’t hurt). Tsahi, part of the Kranky Geek consortium, has a massive spreadsheet of all the WebRTC deployments.

Many of companies actually doing work with WebRTC don’t see a reason to show up at Enterprise Connect. Enterprise Connect advertises they are “the ONLY place you’ll find ALL of the leading enterprise communications equipment, software and service in one location.”  The question is whether these leading providers will be the future ones as communications evolve.

For now traditional enterprise voice players, plunking down desktop telephones into businesses now offering the “same, but different” cloud based service, is a good business for the moment. Craig Walker at switch.co is unique in this group for truly trying to change the experience and has fully embraced the new realm. WebRTC is nothing more than a parlor room trick or classic trade show demo (show it but pray no one really uses it). The real risk to this audience is the unknown vendor, the one who isn’t at Enterprise Connect who changes the rules of engagement.

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Serge Lachapelle – Group Product Manager @ Google

I feel Dave’s pain. I have worked with WebRTC since 2009 and it’s certainly been a long pull to this point, however, the promise remains that we can improve the efficiency of our communications. We simply have to try.

Note: Dave and I have great relationship and often agree on many points and not trying to instill a flame war.

 

Comments 2
  • Michael Graves
    Posted on

    Michael Graves Michael Graves

    Author

    Chris,

    Dave likes to incite debate. Further, I should like to point out that he clung to, and argued for, the idea that on-premises PBX trumped hosted solutions long past it’s time. He’ll come around…in time.

    Michael


  • Michael Graves
    Posted on

    Michael Graves Michael Graves

    Author

    Incidentally, in my recent study of wine I’ve come to appreciate that the class glass-half-full-or-empty question is over simplistic. To some people what’s in the glass matters, as does it’s geometry.


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