Chris Kranky

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When will Google add Echo Cancellation to WebRTC?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

fig1How about never. “WebRTC is an open source project that enables web browsers with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple Javascript APIs”, quoting from the website. The word to hang on is “open source.” 

WebRTC is not some product where Google is the owner and you and I are the buyers.  It’s open source. Indeed Google contributed a massive amount of intellectual property to the technology, indeed they’ve held a strong leash in the early days and indeed they continue to support and champion the technology. But it wasn’t their intent to hold the car keys forever.

Thus it with some mild concern that we as an industry show up at the Google feature request window and demand to know when they’re gonna fix our problem. The word to hang on is “our problem.”

The “our” is the open source community. The system works when the Internet community works together contributing both their working knowledge and intellectual property back into the pool – the ‘net result is things get better for all of us. That’s the theory at least and it’s worked well for other emerging technologies. But it’s slow going for WebRTC at the moment.

Troubling is a number of companies appearing with purported “open” WebRTC solutions, but only open to the extent you happen to use their paid service or other type of framework. Equally so are folks who introduced WebRTC solutions, brazenly saying that they fixed a lot of things in Google’s reference code and yet contributed nothing back to the community at large.

This is not to say there is no contributions, indeed WebRTC is lucky to have a number of active non-Google voices hard at work to make WebRTC better. Similarly, WebRTC is indeed a core browser component and since Google effectively owns the Chrome development, no great surprise that many issues land on their door step, equally not surprising is developers “at large” don’t see any benefit to making Google any more successful than they already are. It’s never too early to money, but I’d argue it’s a bit early for nascent market players to busy themselves clobbering each other. I’d opt for a bigger pie.

It’s easy to reason that Internet is changing, people are more self serving and the kill or be killed mentality reins, but perhaps there is a simpler answer.

The simpler answer is that the WebRTC gene pool is too small (at least for the moment). WebRTC events are like a high school reunion, too many familiar faces and oh dear, did Joe die (when some company slips beneath the waves). The challenge coming up is to cross this first chasm. Many interesting technologies have withered into obscurity, not because they weren’t great, but because they failed to ignite the 2nd stage of the rocket at the right moment broadening their interest base.

Whether WebRTC dies as a technology is largely immaterial, the notion of browser communications is likely here to stay and a new era of P2P connectivity is perhaps upon us. What will ignite the 2nd stage are applications but  at this juncture we’re all learning about how the motor of this car works and open sharing is a way to expand the gene pool, bring more novices on board and improve the quality of the engine.