WebRTC 101: Web Real-Time Communication
Perhaps you’ve been hearing about something called “WebRTC” being discussed by Google. It is said that the search giant is looking into integrating the WebRTC framework into its Chrome web browser, and alas the recent beta incarnation of Chrome already comes with it. Let’s get you up to speed on what this is and what it means for people on the Web.
What is WebRTC?
WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. It’s an open framework built for the HTML 5 markup language core technology. Opera, Mozilla, Google, and Microsoft have all endorsed the inclusion of WebRTC into the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium.
Google Chrome actually isn’t the first browser to put WebRTC in action; Mozilla has already integrated the standard into its Firefox browser’s recent alpha build earlier in 2012. The Firefox iteration was only for media stream audio mixing, though, compared to the Chrome applications.
The WebRTC Group expects the framework to evolve quite a bit over time as it gets tested and experimented upon by a bigger number of people over a longer span of time. The feedback from people will play a large role in the development of WebRTC, as would the issues that may arise on the privacy front.
The best part of all: the WebRTC is entirely free. No need to pay licenses or royalties for using the framework, so if you’re afraid of making Google even richer than it is today, don’t worry. You can roll out open-source and even proprietary software with only minimal restrictions on the use of the framework. Of course, there are more complicated and specific licensing and patent implications, but don’t worry—the WebRTC website clears up practically any questions you may have.
What It Means for Other Tech
While WebRTC has the potential to be an all-in-one hub, this doesn’t mean that other technologies will fall by the wayside. It’s always good to have easy access to services and features, but sometimes, dedicated applications can’t be beat that easily.
For example, if your business or office a subscription to hosted services like the RingCentral virtual PBX, you definitely have to use the bundled software for your computer or install the appropriate mobile app for your phone instead of using the WebRTC built into your browser. Not only are certain apps designed for certain services, they also provide a fuller set of features.
In addition, it’s not entirely impossible for third-party service providers to adapt or use the WebRTC framework for their web applications. It’s a versatile tool with an accessible API, so there’s nothing that should stop developers from making their own web-page-based video chat app.
While WebRTC might not be the game-changer that can supplant many existing technologies we have today, it’s clear that the framework has a ton of potential. With more and more services going to the cloud and people increasingly turning to web-based apps for their many needs, the development of WebRTC is something that is definitely worth watching.