How WebRTC is Being Used Today
What used to be a technology exclusively used by a handful of companies in the telecommunications industry, WebRTC is now widely available as an open source project for anyone to access, develop and make daily use of. The technology consists of the following telecommunication APIs:
- GetUserMedia (enables microphone and camera access)
- PeerConnection (enables sending and receiving of media)
- DataChannels (allows non-media to be sent directly between browsers)
Some real life examples of WebRTC might include one click buttons on mobile phones that take the user directly to their service provider’s customer care line without being redirected or having to dial any numbers. Similarly, a business website might use WebRTC in the form of a live chat facility, where the visitor can speak directly with an agent over their browser.
In a nutshell, WebRTC is enabling real time video, voice and data communications for all internet users all over the world.
The Rise of WebRTC in the Mainstream
Web Real Time Communication was developed as a result of Google’s efforts to connect their Google Chrome browser with a user’s desktop. Google realized that at the time, the only way of achieving this was by using Flash or plug-ins, both of which were problematic for this type of project. Flash offered low quality experiences and plug-ins were often difficult for users to install and for developers to create in the first place. So, in June 2011, Google released WebRTC as an open source project. They acquired two companies; On2, who created the VP8 video codec and Global IP solutions, which had already started developing usable components for WebRTC a year before. Flash forward two years, and as of 2013, there were over 1 billion endpoints that supported WebRTC and that number has been increasing ever since. Since Google released the project, several other companies have become involved in developing the technology including Mozilla, Ericsson and AT&T. Since then, we’ve since a huge increase in the number of services, applications and products now using WebRTC technology. Some of the market leading products include Tokbox, PubNub and This is Drum.
The Challenges of WebRTC
WebRTC relies on a number of technologies in order to function at its best and for this reason there are a number of challenges associated with it. First of all, some browsers have yet to embrace WebRTC and so some users with non-compliant browsers can’t make use of real-time communications. For example, Safari and Internet Explorer users still can’t access WebRTC without installing plug-ins first.
And of those browsers that do use the technology, there’s the issue of which video codec should be used. Other than Google and Mozilla, most web browsers use different codecs, typically VP8 or H.264. Although both codecs work on mobile phones, the devices also need to have hardware installed in them to ensure optimal real-time performance and quality.
Security is also an issue with WebRTC and in January 2015, filesharing blog TorrentFreak reported that browsers supporting WebRTC have a major security flaw. They reported that WebRTC compromises the safety of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which are used to connect two PC’s over the internet. The security flaw means that a user’s IP address can currently be read by anyone who wants the information, for example advertisers.
The Future of WebRTC
There’s little doubt about the huge potential of WebRTC. Despite only having been around publicly for the best part of 4 years, the technology is already proving revolutionary, changing the way we communicate in our everyday lives and in business. As companies start offering more real time products and services, the technology’s use in everyday communication will only increase.
Of course, WebRTC still has some way to go in order to be truly revolutionary and there are currently many challenges facing the technology. However, as more companies contribute to the open source platform, its shortcomings will gradually be resolved and its true potential will undoubtedly be realised.
Resolving WebRTC Challenges with Netscan
In order to help companies who use WebRTC technology provide a better service to their customers, we created Netscan, a browser-based network diagnostic service that you can seamlessly embed into your product. With Netscan, you will have access to your customers’ full browser profile including their Operating System, so you can cross check compatibility with your product and offer detailed troubleshooting advice.