Is WebRTC Browser Agnostic? Here’s The Answer
Posted On February 15, 2017 by Sherwin Sim in Blog
Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) is an open standard. It’s used for things like embedding real-time voice, text and video capabilities directly into a web browser — any web browser — so that users can access those communication functions without having to first download, install or configure software or plug-ins. But is WebRTC browser agnostic?
The technology is “yes”, technically speaking. In other words, WebRTC is not designed for use with any one specific browser. However, that doesn’t mean that all browser or technology providers have adopted the standard yet. Thankfully, non-supported browsers can support WebRTC service through the use of (sigh) the download of a plug-in to access the technology (more on that below).
The browser-to-browser (aka peer-to-peer) connection is conveniently available to almost any device with an internet connection. Some examples of well-known applications already using the technology include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Skype. Businesses can improve their customer interactions, boost employee productivity and contain costs by adding WebRTC-based communications to corporate unified communications (UC) systems and contact center applications, or by incorporating its capabilities into applications, wherever it makes sense to enable real-time communication between users.
WebRTC browser support
What makes one browser compatible and another incompatible? It depends on whether or not the browser or technology provider has adopted the common set of accepted standards—including protocols, codecs, and APIs—made available by Google about six years ago. Created through the collaboration of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), WebRTC’s adoption is accelerating as the standard itself evolves.
Browsers that currently support WebRTC technology “out of the box” include Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. A couple of other popular browsers—Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer—are not compatible … yet. Microsoft just announced last month that it will support the WebRTC standard and what most think of as version 2.0 of WebRTC, Object RTC (ORTC), in its new web browser, Edge. But then again, it appears that this only applies to audio and video capabilities. Who would be surprised if Microsoft’s main objective is actually to enable plug-in free, download free, Skype calls in the browser?
Microsoft and 80 other collaborators are working with the W3C and IETF to contribute and approve standards like WebRTC 1.0 and the ORTC API. The primary goal, today, is to influence how the 1.0 version of the WebRTC API will function, though Microsoft still hasn’t confirmed when or if it will implement WebRTC to full spec, including support for the data channel, in its browsers.
The W3C ORTC Community Group has issued a “Call for Implementations,” which means the ORTC specification has reached significant stability. Twilio has responded, for example, by providing ORTC support for Microsoft Edge with its Twilio Client SDK v.1.3, which also supports WebRTC, as expected, on Chrome and Firefox.
If you love the potential of WebRTC, but you or your customers are using browsers not currently supporting WebRTC, don’t give up hope. Here’s how to remedy the situation:
First, you’ll need to find a plugin to support the WebRTC service you want to use and download the right version for your platform. Singapore-based Temasys—a startup committed to extending WebRTC usage—offers a free plug-in for OS X and Windows, called “The WebRTC Plugin”, which brings WebRTC to Safari and Internet Explorer. Click here to access the plug-in.
If the service you’re using has been configured to support the Temasys WebRTC Plugin, and you install the plugin for your web browser, then you can continue on and use the service just like any user of Chrome or Firefox. It’s important to note that the server side of the application must be configured to recognize support for the WebRTC Plugin. Other than that, installation of the plugin is a breeze, taking less than 30 seconds, and Temasys regularly releases updates and even offers customization and support for additional features beyond the WebRTC spec, like screen-sharing, for paid subscriptions.
Potential Applications? The Sky’s The Limit
For businesses, WebRTC provides the opportunity to enhance support for customers. Browsers can be used to find information on products and services or to resolve customer issues. Imagine, for instance, initiating a live video session with a customer browsing your website for product assistance, for example. Your customer could easily show your agent how he or she is using the product. Then the agent could provide the customer with a hands-on demonstration of proper usage.
Potential uses for WebRTC within applications are practically unlimited. For example, consider how Pizza Hut is using WebRTC. Their contact center provider uses a LiveOps’ WebRTC solution to take pizza orders. Pizza Hut has extended its use of in-home agents to increase pizza sales, using this solution. Another use case comes from Blackboard, which is a leading education technology company. They employ what was Requestec’s WebRTC platform to support the Blackboard product portfolio. This is done through collaboration protocols, video codecs, and a media server. Blackboard acquired Requestec in 2014. Now they enable hundreds of simultaneous users to connect to a single conference or virtual classroom.
With WebRTC, the sky’s the limit for providing an excellent customer experience and so you should use it to gain a leg up on your competitors!