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WebRTC: Is it the Panacea for the Video Conferencing Industry?

July 22, 2013 | Telepresence Options

webrtc question

Story by William McDonald / NoJitter

For the industry, WebRTC presents more problems than it solves.

I'm all for instant gratification and taking WebRTC at face value if it offers just that! WebRTC is all about "right now" and allows anyone to reach anyone by video without downloads or plug-ins. It also promises to enable anyone with a computer to join video conferences that are being held on traditional equipment. So you'd think that with WebRTC's potential to spread video calling and conferencing out beyond the confines of current systems, the video conferencing industry would be enthralled and proclaiming it as the best thing since sliced bread.

Yet, sliced bread it isn't, since for the industry it presents more problems than it solves. Let's look at some of these in a small amount of detail:

1. Ubiquity
Despite all the hype around WebRTC, it pays to remember that it is still emerging and not yet completely baked. Which begs the question, "Will it provide all that is needed to ensure its universal adoption?", particularly as today it is only released for Google Chrome, and it is in beta for Firefox. Microsoft is backing a competing standard called CU-RTCWeb, and Apple has no stated position, nor has it announced any plans for adopting WebRTC.

By current browser market share, this means that 40% of end users' browsers may never support WebRTC--making it entirely possible that we will all continue to struggle with connectivity, and still be required to install different things based upon our chosen browser. Consequently, the promise of ubiquity falls flat on its face and WebRTC ends up making no difference to a very large minority of users.

2. Quality
There is a question mark over the quality of video when it comes to WebRTC. Given the technology involved, there is no way that it can deliver a comparable experience to that provided by video conferencing devices or software, most of which offer high-definition, screen sharing, multi-party meetings and packet-loss resiliency. This is because the video conferencing industry and its developers have complete control over their technology versus WebRTC, which will always remain at the mercy of a web browser and its native capabilities.

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