Project REBOOT: WebRTC is Definitely For Winners!

While traveling to London for the WebRTC Summit, I read Dave Michels’ post “WebRTC is for losers“. After three very interesting days there, I can not disagree more.

To put my comments in context, lets step back for a moment and remind ourselves what is WebRTC? Do you use the web? Do you need to download anything to read text, view photos, fill out a form, pay with a credit card, chat with a friend? No you don’t. Well five years ago Serge Lachapelle and a few other people asked the question why can’t you communicate with voice & video on the web? Why do you need special clients and/or extensions?

Out of this question was born the WebRTC (RTC = Real Time Communication) Project which is currently a opensource project supported by Google (and others…). As Serge put it in his presentation last week

When we started WebRTC it wasn’t a telco play it was about making innovation on the web.

The idea is simple. Audio and video communications are a built in function in the web browser. There is no need to install anything. For a great example on what you can do with WebRTC go to www.vline.com to setup a video conference call in a few seconds.

WebRTC is disruptive. Everyone has browsers. Millions know to program web based services with HTML5. Services that would take carriers a year to launch, a web programmer can do in days or less.
When you first see WebRTC in action it is shocking. I demoed it last week to a MVNO CEO, in his words

If this is true, we are out of business.

Now lets see why Dave Michels says that WebRTC is for losers… His main points are that WebRTC did not live up to its claims of to be ubiquitous, plugless and free. I think it is too early to make such a statement. As the English like to say it is still “Early Days”.

Is WebRTC Ubiquitous? In my mind it is. Any desktop user should have access to Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers that support WebRTC. OK, MS IE doesn’t support it yet – I emphasize the yet) How about Mobile? Well it is supported on Android and Android is 80% of the world market. How about the 12.9% of you that like to overpay and use Apple smartphones? Well there are a number of fallback solutions available until Apple openly comes out with WebRTC support. Besides in the Free Dictionary Ubiquity is defined as “Existence or apparent existence everywhere at the same time… :-)

Dave also mentions that there are distribution and legal issues concerning the codecs. Yes, but hey, hasn’t it been a similar situation with VoIP codecs since day one? There will be some kind of solution.

Bottom line – WebRTC is not the cure for cancer, unfortunately. But it is a major disruption of the telco world. Time will tell how the innovators and incumbents will handle this disruption. Interesting times.