Every so often someone asks us if WebRTC is ready for prime time and with the acknowledgement last week by Apple of their support, we thought it was a good time to see what barriers might still exist. For those following the space, Apple’s announcement wasn’t so unexpected. It’s about time Apple (Safari) joined in with Google (Chrome), Firefox and Microsoft (Internet Explorer) to support it. Apple’s adoption of WebRTC moves mainstream adoption further along because it solidifies the value this technology can play in simplifying integrated communications—after all, the browser is such a ubiquitous application.

WebRTC 101 – What is It and Why is It Important?

WebRTC is a standard that enables real-time communications (voice, text, video, and data). The realtime communications engine is embedded directly in the web browser. Its presence in the browser means it is available in any client device and will interoperate across platforms and operating systems without requiring the installation of proprietary applications.

WebRTC technology can also be embedded into mobile apps through a WebRTC Software Development Kit (SDK). WebRTC enables application developers to incorporate rich, real-time communication capabilities (e.g., click-to-call buttons, chat rooms, video conferencing, screen share, file share etc.) to apps and websites with just a few lines of Java Script code. Developers don’t need telecommunications experience, the engine embedded in the browser or SDK does all the heavy lifting.

Developers don’t need telecommunications experience, the engine does all the heavy lifting.

For the first time, WebRTC provides a non-proprietary layer of functionality that developers can use without being encumbered by the limitations of one application or platform.

Let’s Look at Numbers—Projected Market Growth Bodes Well for Early Adopters.

It’s expected that the WebRTC market will reach $4.45 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 51% from 2015 to 2020, according to research published in March 2016 by MarketsandMarkets. In 2015, we saw more than $1 billion in funding go to WebRTC-related companies and over 40 mergers and acquisitions take place. Strong market activity and signs of market consolidation, so early adopters are positioned to reap the rewards of this growth.

Daitan has been active in WebRTC since the beginning. We’ve always believed WebRTC adoption would generate a wave of creative uses of communications in the context of existing websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. The existing model of communication based on proprietary applications shifted the control to mobile (IOS, Android) and social (Skype, Facebook, Google, etc.) platforms, with all of their inherent coverage limitations. WebRTC technology frees communications from platforms and creates the possibility of universal coverage for peer-to-peer communication, eventually replacing landline and cell phones.

So Are We There Yet?

We took a look back at a whitepaper we published in 2014 that outlined some of the major issues that were slowing down the adoption of WebRTC to see which ones were still real today. At that time we highlighted the battle of the video codecs, the fact that only Chrome and Firefox were committed to WebRTC, lack of mobile support, the need for QoS and network control, signaling and interoperability.

Even with these limitations back in 2014, we were still comfortable recommending the WebRTC experience on the basis that it’s better to improve the user experience for some (that have compatible browsers) than to deny it to all—although from a product management perspective it did create a few issues.

Today most issues are on the way to being resolved.

Today though most of these issues are on the way to being resolved with acceptance of VP8 and H.264 codecs, stated “support/compatibility” from/with Microsoft and Apple, several available mobile SDKs, and PaaS offerings such as Tokbox, Twilio, and Kandy offering solutions to address QoS and more complex scenarios.

Interoperability Remains the Challenge

As we are seeing more and more companies buy into WebRTC, the one obstacle that repeatedly needs to be overcome is interoperability. When the whole world is WebRTC it won’t be a problem, but until then if your great new widgets and apps won’t integrate with existing Enterprise infrastructure, you will have a problem.

Interoperability is not a new issue to communications. When talking to one of our engineers the other day,  he explained the reason why—Communication standards are so great that everyone wants one (humor).

At Daitan our first WebRTC project was a gateway and client, and though we have executed several different WebRTC related projects, this type remains a popular line of enquiry for us today. We see this as a good sign because it means people are progressing, they are building new apps that incorporate WebRTC, getting people to use their services and running into the next level of challenge. Like the previous challenges we have had to overcome with WebRTC, we believe it is one worth solving (and it is certainly solvable).