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WebRTC's Future: A Matter of Standards

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WebRTC's Future: A Matter of Standards

December 31, 2013
By Rory Lidstone
TMCnet Contributing Writer

By now, you’ve probably heard all the nearly prophetic claims about WebRTC and how it will irrevocably change the video conferencing industry, among others, in the very near future. And, yeah, WebRTC is kind of a big deal, but the reality is that, like with any new technology, there are going to be a few roadblocks on the way to mainstream adoption.

It may seem strange that a technology as powerful as WebRTC —with it being browser-based yet still able to provide high-quality audio and video in inherently secure sessions — doesn’t just get scooped up by enterprises and individuals, but superior technology doesn’t always manage success. One of the best-remembered examples of this is Betamax.

In fact, just like with Betamax, one of WebRTC’s major roadblocks is competition. In particular, the fact that major players in the industry — like Apple, Cisco (News - Alert), Google and Microsoft — can’t seem to agree on WebRTC or how it should be implemented will hinder its adoption.

In some cases, like with Microsoft (News - Alert), it’s relatively simple: Microsoft owns Skype, and WebRTC poses a pretty significant threat to the service. Meanwhile, the company is rumored to be working on its own WebRTC platform, which might further complicate matters.

Fort the most part, though, WebRTC is being hindered by standards, particularly in terms of which video codec it will use. The two primary candidates as of now are Google’s (News - Alert) VP8 and H.264. Both offer distinct pros and cons and, to be honest, both could serve the needs of WebRTC quite well. The real problem here is that one needs to be definitively selected as the WebRTC video codec, but companies playing sides isn’t helping the situation at all.

As such, what needs to happen for WebRTC to move forward is for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to make a decision. Once this happens, all major players will have to make changes to support the official codec, whether they like it or not. After this happens, it’s hard to imagine WebRTC not taking off, especially with the growing prevalence of remote workers and BYOD among enterprises.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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