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Is WebRTC Ready Yet? See For Yourself With "talky"

October 3, 2013 | David S. Maldow, Esq.

talky

The team here at Telepresence Options has been on the lookout for good sources of information regarding WebRTC, the exciting and controversial technology powering an ever growing list of new video over IP applications. We came across the Browser Support Scorecard (above) and immediately knew we had to share it with our readers. What we didn't expect, is that the company behind this handy chart is offering a surprisingly advanced, and free, WebRTC based videoconferencing service at http://talky.io.

Launched just this June, talky managed to stay under our radar till now. We reached out to learn more about the group behind this service and spoke with Henrik Joreteg, the President of &yet, which is the boutique web software / design firm behind talky. It seems that talky is but one aspect of &yet, and their main focus appears to be providing client specific consulting support (see below).

talky

This helps explain why talky is currently free. The talky service could, and may someday, work as a paid or freemium service and generate appreciable revenue. However, it is currently serving a number of other purposes, while allowing &yet to position themselves as leading experts in WebRTC, which could bear massive fruit for them in the near future. They already have high profile clients, including AT&T, who they worked with to create a WebRTC API to support browser based telephony. As we here are more interested in visual collab, let's take a closer look at talky itself.

talky (Shown above - The entire talky meeting creation process)

The peer-to-peer "talky" service is not only free, it is anonymous. No login or account is required. You just click the "Let's go!" button and join your temporary meeting room in a new browser window.

talky(Successful Telepresence Options talky test call)

The free service supports the following features, each of which sheds a little light on the current capabilities and limitations of WebRTC at this point in its development.

  • Screen Sharing: Supporting at least rudimentary screen share is a huge differentiator between a communications tool, and a true collaboration solution. At this point, WebRTC, and talky, support it in only a limited manner. It only works in Chrome, and only if you tweak a setting on each individual browser (Google is expected to soon remove this requirement, but it is testament to how cutting edge this capability really is).
  • Group Video Chat: This is another huge differentiator between a chat app, and a potential business tool. As talky is purely peer-to-peer, we expect the size of multiparty meetings is limited to a relatively small party (Henrik stated there is no hard set meeting size limit, but acknowledged the realities of pure peer to peer scaling). Services that support larger groups, do so by hosting the meeting on a "video bridge" or MCU (which can be a hardware, or virtualized software device). By allowing at least some level of group chat, while keeping the simplicity and efficiency of a peer-to-peer setup, talky is making an understandable compromise. This is something that &yet could potentially address in a number of ways in the future, should they find a need.
  • Locked Rooms: This feature simply allows users to have private meetings and to prevent random people on the internet from guess your room name and crashing your meeting.
  • Rocket Lander: Might as well give people something to do while they wait for the meeting to start. A very cute touch and a favorite here with the TPO team.

From a bigger picture perspective, the talky project is part of &yet's larger goal to help the global community with the development of WebRTC. The &yet team is extremely active within the WebRTC community, and even puts on a WebRTC centric event. The Realtime Conference is Oct 18-19, 2013 at Portland this year and includes a one day WebRTC Boot Camp.

Keep in mind, WebRTC is open source, which means that it is strongly in &yet's interest to help the WebRTC community as it works to advance and improve WebRTC. This is why &yet is so open about their WebRTC implementation for talky.

The talky service also highlights a feedback button, and results are shared with the community here.

talky (How can you help the open source community improve WebRTC? Provide feedback on a few free calls)

In addition to their community outreach, &yet has an informal, but very friendly, relationship with some of the browser wizards at Mozilla and Google. At the end of the day, the quality, and capabilities of a WebRTC meeting (including a talky meeting), are directly reliant upon the browser's implementation of WebRTC. As Google and Mozilla get better at WebRTC, the services offered by &yet become more compelling.

So is WebRTC ready yet? Yes and no. It is not ready to be the ubiquitous answer to all of our communication needs. It is absolutely ready for certain uses. You can't argue around the fact that I have been making free, browser based, no plugin, anonymous calls on talky for the last few days, and that it works. There is no such thing as a free lunch, but if you, and everyone you are meeting with, are on capable browsers, this is about as close as you get. But remember, the big story here isn't what talky can do today, but the potentially WebRTC driven world that &yet is preparing itself to serve tomorrow.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate publisher at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.







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