Cloud Communications, Brought to You by WebRTC

“Wait — let me download that plugin.”
“I’m waiting for the Webex client to install — I should be in the meeting in about five minutes, or maybe an hour.”
“Oh wait, I don’t have the right version of Flash installed. What the hell is Flash?”
“I think Skype just crashed.”
“I have to install a SIP what? I don’t want to install anything else.”
“Of course my computer is plugged in! Oh, you’re saying I need a plugin.”
“Screw this, I’ll send an email.”

These are typical statements users make when trying to communicate on the web today. It’s just too complicated. This is why businesses and consumers will run, not walk, to WebRTC, which lets developers add real-time media communications to browser-based applications. If it’s done right, users shouldn’t have to know the term WebRTC — they should only know that their ability to communicate just became simple. (This is my plea for marketing departments to not blindly copy the engineers; hopefully we learned from DSL.)

What’s great about WebRTC is that it brings voice and video to the Web natively. Cloud communications will truly exist for the first time with WebRTC. It’s now in the hands of web developers who will do for communications what they have been doing with information.

Costs will come down as a result of WebRTC, which is unavoidable and scary to the establishment. But that is not the story of WebRTC. The story of WebRTC is innovation. It will change the way businesses communicate. It will democratize communications and change the way people in Third World countries communicate; it may even give some the ability to connect to the world for the first time, ensuring that their voices are heard. In the next major social protest, when a government blocks traditional voice and SIP calls, it will be WebRTC that enables protesters to be heard and seen by the world, in real time.

While many have talked about the death of the PSTN, it isn’t dead yet, and I’m not going to say that WebRTC will put the nail in the coffin, but it does deliver a serious body blow.

While throwing its fists about, WebRTC also smacks SIP around. That amazing technology, which has led to a great deal of innovation, now has to share the stage with something simpler and more powerful. Some like to say SIP is dead now as well. I’m not ready to go there yet, but I believe that WebRTC will finish what SIP started.

At the WebRTC Conference and Expo in November I saw a number of people from stalwart SIP companies with a bit of a concerned look on their faces (one could even say a deer in headlights expression). It was all fun and games when they were driving the revolution of SIP against legacy TDM networks. I hope they understand that turnabout is fair play, especially in the world of technology.

Are there issues for WebRTC? You bet. While all the major players are at the table, some disagree about the best way to advance the standard. Some, like Microsoft, are proposing alternative technical models. Apple is following closely but with cards held tightly to their chest. There are numerous security and privacy concerns. The patent trolls are gearing up to do what they do best. I believe these issues will work themselves out. In fact they have no choice but to work themselves out; the WebRTC train has left the station and there’s no turning back

Plivo has some exciting plans for WebRTC in 2013 — stay tuned!

Thanks, Mom — I’m sure you’re the only one who made it this far.

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