WebRTC has garnered plenty of attention for its ability to enable websites for voice and video. But the technology has a third trick: it also enables websites for data sharing. This feature could make WebRTC particularly useful for companies looking to communicate online, says Brent Kelly, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“It’s a critical element,” Kelly says. “I think it will be as or maybe even more important than voice and video.”
WebRTC lets developers create websites where users can share files, such as photos, documents and presentation decks. Kelly suggests a number of scenarios in which WebRTC’s data sharing capabilities might boost an organization’s online communication. Imagine enhanced government services on the web. A government department could easily give website visitors the ability to speak with a department representative, and the representative also would be able to call up documents and share them with visitors. If someone’s having trouble filling out a passport application, for instance, a Passport Canada representative would be able to show the person what to do.
Think of field services. Imagine an oil pipeline inspector discovers a problem at a specific point in the conduit but doesn’t know what to recommend for the fix. By contacting HQ via a WebRTC-enabled site, experts at the office would be able to show pictures and diagrams to the inspector for potential solutions.
WebRTC could have a long reach. “At the end of this month, there will be more than a billion devices that this technology will work on,” Kelly says. WebRTC is enabled on the 750 million computers that run Google Chrome already, and by June’s end Firefox v22 will arrive with WebRTC built in as well. “In one fell swoop you have all this capability built into browsers. You don’t need Skype. You don’t need Google Hangouts.”
So is this the end for Skype and other web-based communications service providers? Will people simply bypass those companies and contact each other through WebRTC directly? Kelly doesn’t think so. Organizations such as Skype provide online directory services, without which communication would be more complicated.
WebRTC does, however, pave the way for other firms to provide directory services for web communication. A big web player such as Google, Facebook or LinkedIn could start a service to compete with Skype. So although WebRTC’s effect on online service providers won’t happen immediately, “over time I think you’ll see an impact,” Kelly says.
WebRTC may still be a while away. In the meantime, transform your network for the near-term future by registering for Allstream’s Webcast on its Hosted Collaboration Solution.