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WebRTC primer: Using Web browsers for calls and video conferencing

April 3, 2013 | Telepresence Options


Story and Images by Sally Johnson / TechTarger

In its simplest form, Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) allows you to use a Web browser as either a telephone to talk, text or chat; or as a video endpoint. The technology accomplishes this by adding a snippet of JavaScript code to Web browsers.

WebRTC is already fully enabled in the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox Web browsers, although these are prestandard implementations today.

Google+ Hangouts is an early, popular WebRTC-based application. But other companies are also embracing it, most notably TenHands for video conferencing through Facebook, andAddLive for simple video conferencing.

Enterprise WebRTC opportunities: Direct customer engagement

One of the most promising aspects of WebRTC is customer engagement on websites.Companies running websites often look for ways to engage visitors through pop-up chat windows and other methods. With WebRTC, visitors can click a button to call or video chat with a call center agent immediately -- no more waiting.

Potential impact on the network

From a Web developer's perspective, being able to add call or chat features to the front end of the application means that someone sitting at their desk can call a co-worker with a browser-to-browser connection. The call no longer needs to route through the phone system, so calls could require fewer hops; they also lack the quality control or security policies normally associated with enterprise voice calls.

From a network perspective, this might sound scary. "This is one of the most interesting considerations for the enterprise: potential battles between those running networks and those running applications," said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director forNemertes Research.

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