Five Common Questions About WebRTC That Developers Are Asking
Posted On March 6, 2017 by Sherwin Sim in Blog, Media
Just recently, I had a conversation with a senior-level software engineer about Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) — an open source Web application programming interface (API) that allows users to send and receive real-time media over the internet, between web browsers.
I asked the engineer if he ever builds WebRTC-powered features into his websites or applications. He had no idea what I was talking about. So if you’re just reading about it now, you’re in good company!
WebRTC has been around for about five years now, and yet it’s still not a household name. It’s even been in the news a few times over the past few months: When Twilio purchased WebRTC enabler Kurento and when Microsoft selected CafeX to provide real-time customer support. And still, WebRTC remains relatively unknown to many top software developers outside of the contact center arena.
Here’s the thing: WebRTC is a reliable, cost-effective way to turn your digital channels into active communications hubs. There are many different uses for WebRTC — like two-way and multiparty audio and video conferencing, peer-to-peer data transfers, and real-time chat messaging. WebRTC is also useful for sharing files and enhancing connected endpoints (like ATMs). Many healthcare facilities are even using WebRTC to communicate with patients.
So, now that you know at least a little bit about WebRTC…
Here are five common questions about WebRTC I often hear, and which you may have next:
- Are businesses really using it? Many are, in fact, using WebRTC. Companies like Amazon, Comcast, Facebook, Vonage, and Google. And as we mentioned above, Microsoft recently joined this list. Also, a report from Persistence Market Research states that WebRTC adoption is headed for significant growth over the next few years.
- Is it secure? As you research WebRTC, you’ll find conflicting messages about whether WebRTC is secure or not. WebRTC is no less secure than using any other real-time data transfer application. By default, WebRTC offers end-to-end encryption between connected endpoints, over most servers. Check out this article on Github for a complete technical rundown on WebRTC security.
- Will it replace other communications channels? Probably not. The opportunities for WebRTC adoption are enormous but don’t expect to throw out your phones or ditch email anytime soon. For example, you might think of WebRTC as the perfect technology to support smooth, instant conversations with your customers when they visit your website. You can use it in addition to or to replace existing “chat box” widgets if you’d like. The key is that WebRTC is an enabling technology which can help augment and add value to online services. It’s disruptive not because it’s going to replace other modes of communication (like telephones), but because it can be added easily to almost any application, on any device, and at any scale.
- How will customers respond? Your customers will love it, even though they may not know it’s there. Imagine being able to speak with an agent online, instantly — over video, nonetheless — instead of waiting on hold over the phone. It helps solve problems faster and more efficiently. Access to support will differentiate your company from others in your space who lack sufficient communications capabilities.
- Is it difficult to set up or maintain? It can be, and most likely will be if you DIY. Let’s assume you are competent in software development for websites and mobile apps. You see that WebRTC is an open source API — the basic package is “free”. So far so good. You can build a very basic proof-of-concept or app and get to a point where you have two people in a video call within your in-office network, pretty easily. The real fun starts when you try to scale up the number of users or deploy your new service to the cloud, or need to make the service work across different and mixed networks. There’s no 24/7 “WebRTC Helpdesk” you can call for advice. You need to choose and deploy significant infrastructure components that WebRTC doesn’t give you “out of the box” to roll out your application (or this “feature” of your app) at any scale. And the additional time to market and resources (people and money) spent on all of that, might be put to use in other ways. Even deployed successfully, any disruption of service will directly impact the customer experience.
Okay, I’d like to know more. Where do I go now?
Yes, that’s the sixth question. The good news is that WebRTC services don’t have to be overly challenging to build, deploy, or manage. Even if “communications” is a core feature or the sole product of your business, it might be more cost-effective and satisfying to work with a third-party partner who has expertise in WebRTC and other video and audio technologies. A full Platform-as-a-Service vendor typically offers SDKs, APIs and managed infrastructure services, with dedicated end-to-end service and support for your application.
Several companies have launched excellent platforms and support services built around WebRTC. They aim to make it a breeze to develop, deploy and scale embedded real-time communications features inside apps. They do this very cost-effectively, and this is Temasys’s business. That is why we love to write about this!
I would be happy if you checked out the Temasys Platform for Embedded RTC (ERTC). Our team has worked hard to build a highly scalable infrastructure-as-a-service solution that runs entirely on AWS. We also provide well-regarded client APIs and SDKs to help developers embed ERTC in web and mobile apps.
If you have questions about WebRTC and how to make it work for you, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.