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WebRTC Makes Sense Even if You're Not a First Mover

October 10, 2014

I admit: Sometimes I am skeptical about WebRTC, even thought I write about it regularly.

The numbers are hard to argue with, like Disruptive Analysis’ prediction that there will be 4.6 billion devices supporting WebRTC by the end of 2016, or how there will be 1.8 billion people using it by then. And of course the idea of browser-based, plugin-free unified communications has to warm the heart of anyone who has ever participated in a video conference or chatted online.

But sometimes the lack of support for WebRTC from Internet Explorer and Safari gets me down, and the lack of standardization has me worried.

A recent blog post by WebRTC evangelist Tsahi Levent-Levi really put my concerns to rest, however. He covers five of the biggest concerns about WebRTC, including that it doesn’t work natively on iOS, it doesn’t work on IE, it doesn’t use H.264. and G.722 codecs, it doesn’t handle multipoint out of the box, and the questions around WebRTC standardization. A good list, and he had some compelling rebuttals to these concerns.

One of his rebuttals got me thinking, though.

In his dismissal of the concern that WebRTC has not been standardized yet, Levent-Levi basically suggests that while it is true that a 1.0 standard is still being hammered out, two of the major web browsers and a boatload of companies are already using it. Feel free to wait, he noted, but at the cost of competitive advantage.

While competitive advantage is good and all, I am not sure that businesses need to use WebRTC ahead of the competition for it to have a strong value proposition today, 1.0 standards or not.

If a business has remote workers or does much with video conferencing currently, the advantage of WebRTC is already there and it doesn’t matter if the competition is using it already or not—regardless of whatever anyone else is doing, it saves time and headaches.

Gone may be the days of dedicated video conferencing solutions for some, but even if you use off-the-shelf video solutions you’ve probably encountered the situation where half the time allocated for the meeting goes toward getting everyone on the conference properly.

Even if you need to tell someone to switch to Google Chrome for the conference, though, it is hard to argue with the simplicity that already exists with WebRTC and irregular users. Everybody can use a web browser, and the “it just works” quality of WebRTC for conferences with the casual user is worth the price of use even if Chrome was the only browser that supported the technology (which it is not, of course).

Chrome is easy to install, plugins are not always that easy. UC solutions can sometimes be confusing, but the easy video from WebRTC blows even Skype out of the water.

You don’t need to look for competitive advantage for WebRTC to make sense, you just need to be fed up with video conferencing setup that never quite works as advertised.

Yes, when all browsers support WebRTC and the standards are there, and there are so many solutions for multipoint that is a non-issue, WebRTC will be even better. But it is good today, too.

That’s why, as Levent-Levi noted, there are more than 500 vendors already committed to the technology and more WebRTC projects on GitHub than SIP projects. WebRTC rocks right now, here in 2014.

But WebRTC in 2016  - will be pretty cool, too.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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