WebRTC still has a lot of growing up to do

Five years on, few IT market watchers are talking about WebRTC in action — and some pundits believe the technology behind website videoconferencing is losing steam. But progress has been made, though it’s ‘quite raw and still evolving.’

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It’s been five years since the introduction of WebRTC — technology designed to transform business websites into videoconferencing communication hubs, where customers can reach contact centre reps, product specialists or anyone else required to ensure top-notch face-to-face client relations.

So where does the IT industry stand with respect to WebRTC development and deployment? Judging from various reports, it’s easy to conclude the sector is not much further down the tech-implementation road than in it was way back in 2011.

As they were a few years ago, the tech media and analyst communities are discussing WebRTC’s details, such as which underlying technologies may be used in the WebRTC architecture, and which WebRTC variant is superior.

Few IT market watchers are talking about WebRTC in action, about case studies of organizations implementing and learning about it. And now, certain pundits are starting to sound frustrated. “WebRTC is losing steam,” writes independent analyst Zeus Kerravala.

But progress has been made. For one thing, Google, Microsoft and others have been collaborating through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on a WebRTC iteration known as Object Real-Time Communications (ORTC).

This cooperation among at least two of the web’s biggest players indicates that Microsoft and Google want to make sure their browsers not only support WebRTC, but also work in a similar fashion, which is good news for organizations that want to implement the technology.

Just this month, The Register and other news outlets reported that Apple plans to integrate WebRTC into its browser Safari. In the past, Apple was conspicuously absent from the list of companies supporting WebRTC. Now, browser support is practically universal.

Meanwhile, organizations certainly are rolling out the technology. According to Webtorials’ 2015 WebRTC State-of-the-Market Report, 15 per cent of the 191 IT professionals surveyed said their organizations use the technology in production. The 2016 report should arrive this summer; it will be interesting to see how WebRTC adoption has changed year over year.

No Jitter columnist Robert Welbourn says WebRTC is most definitely not losing steam. He tears into some of the WebRTC misconceptions, such as the idea that the technology is unsuitable for mobile applications. As Welbourn points out, Amazon uses WebRTC in the help function of its Kindle Fire tablet. And American Express uses the technology to power video communications in its iPad app. Clearly, WebRTC is mobile friendly.

Progress might be slow, but WebRTC is advancing. “It would be foolish to pretend that WebRTC is a plug-and-play technology, as it is evidently quite raw and still evolving,” Welbourn says. He acknowledges challenges such as the trouble with getting WebRTC to traverse NAT and firewalls efficiently. But often enough, technologies take time to mature. SIP did, he points out. Now, it’s one of the go-to technologies to support enterprise unified communications systems.

WebRTC’s future as a practical and ubiquitous technology isn’t assured, of course. Nonetheless, it’s still poised to play an important role in the communications industry.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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