Real Time Communications Featured Article

The End of Internet Explorer, the Ramp to WebRTC Anywhere

March 25, 2015

After a 20 year run, Microsoft is retiring Internet Explorer (sort of, more on that in a moment).   Windows 10 will bring a new, clean browser currently called Project Spartan, with the most important feature native support for WebRTC. 

Internet Explorer (IE) had 95 percent of the browser market back in 2002, but quickly became battered by the advent of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.  As of last month, IE's various incarnations had anywhere from 17 to 19 percent of the market, depending on which set of lies and statistics you selected;  Google Chrome had roughly 43 to 48 percent.

Google and Mozilla's gains in browsers can be tied to two significant factors, sheer speed and innovation.  IE slowed down and became clunky, tied in with a lot of Windows-centric code and overhead, while the open challengers focused on a streamlined, relatively clean-sheet experience with better security. 

via Shutterstock

Real time communications (RTC) changed the landscape for the browser and telecommunications, with WebRTC integrating support for voice, video, screen sharing, and other RTC attributes directly into the browser.  The explosion of WebRTC usage and standards mirrors the first introduction of the web browser, with companies and developers embracing open standards (HTML) and ease of use (simply go to a web address) to jumpstart the world wide web in a short period of time.

WebRTC is rapidly bringing voice, video, video conferencing, and collaboration to new levels of affordability and accessibility.  People can simply start up a voice conversation or video chat within the browser without having to download extra software or play a video clip or share documents or any number of things too numerous to list here.

Microsoft's move to make Spartan the primary browser for Windows 10 goes way beyond the desktop.  Windows 10 is designed to run across everything from an Internet of Things (IoT) device to mobile phones, tablets, desktops and servers, so WebRTC is going natively proliferate into the enterprise above and beyond people simply downloading Chrome or Firefox on a Windows device.

WebRTC advocates will downplay Microsoft finally coming around to fully supporting their open source, open standards play to bring voice and video directly to the browser, but Microsoft's sheer size and embedded penetration into the business world means its adoption of WebRTC propels the standard into the mainstream and giving it a blessing so any IT department can use it without question.

Microsoft isn't done with WebRTC by simply supporting it in Spartan through Windows 10.  At some point in the not too distant future, don't be surprised to see Microsoft offering WebRTC as a service (WaaS).  The company is already moving into providing PSTN services through Skype for Business, so it's not a stretch to see it support WebRTC services to add more monthly revenue it can generate from its the big worldwide cloud infrastructure. Microsoft's motto of late has been cloud first/mobile first, and WebRTC gives it a way to generate cash through services.

Finally, the rollout of Spartan will end up dragging the last major WebRTC holdout into the camp.  Apple doesn't currently support WebRTC natively, but has its staff on the major standards committees.   Since third-parties have already ported WebRTC support to Apple iOS, it is only a matter of time and will before Apple provides native support.

Regardless of when Apple provides support, WebRTC provides a build-once/run-anywhere environment for real time communications applications.  Microsoft's rollout of Spartan effectively makes WebRTC a universal standard for real time communications applications.

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