WebRTC Marches Toward Cloud Communications Platforms
Posted On April 20, 2015 by Nathaniel Currier in Blog, Ecosystem, Media
WebRTC marches toward cloud communications platforms
As an emerging standard of web communication, WebRTC has all the right highs and lows to revolutionize how we communicate. The promise of the technology is its ability to bring high-definition, high-resolution, low-bandwidth video, audio and peer-to-peer data transfer to your browser, application, mobile platform and even IoT connected device. WebRTC is now supported on over a billion devices, and has the potential to be on over 6 billion by 2019, as estimated by Disruptive Analysis.
Simply put, there is a clear trend with technologies moving to incorporate WebRTC. Its development and adoption are being driven by the likes of Google, Mozilla, Opera, Ericsson, Microsoft, Facebook and Citrix, among others.
With the most recent announcement of its adoption by Twilio, a cloud communications IaaS player, WebRTC marches toward cloud communications platforms and growing adoption. Twilio has just announced a new WebRTC API for audio and video, with client libraries and software development kits (SDKs) for web and mobile, limited to Peer-2-Peer (P2P) with up to four users in a conference at a given time. It is now available as a beta. Twilio’s recent WebRTC foray has been highly publicized.
All of this begs the questions; why is this important, what is the impact, and what does this all mean?
Why is it important?
Its importance can be gauged by looking at three key stakeholders: investors, the ecosystem and the market.
Investors: Twilio is considered a heavyweight in the Telco API space. Twilio has raised over $103 million from Bessemer Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Union Square Venture Partners, and is valued at around US$500 million. It has a US$100 million revenue run rate and is expected to go public soon. Twilio has worked with prominent companies and brands, including Uber, Walmart, Airbnb, Coca-Cola, eBay and Salesforce, among others, helping them expand globally through adding communications capabilities to applications. This is seen as the 800lb gorilla in the room for many investors looking to fund next generation communications companies, including those specialising in WebRTC.
Ecosystem: The impact of this announcement holds significant weight for the ecosystem. Whether we refer to the purist WebRTC ecosystem, which may see Twilio as a “new” competitor, or the telephony API for web ecosystem (Nexmo, Plivo, Tropo, Voxbone etc.), who need to be able to have a WebRTC-powered answer to stay in competition with Twilio. This adds a new dimension to competitive dynamics, with WebRTC forming the newest battle ground.
Market: This is yet another validation for WebRTC. It is the right technology to bet on; it is the future of real-time communications.
- Cloud-based RTC worth US$4.5 billion by 2018 (Smith’s Point Analytics)
- WebRTC will be accessible on more than 6 billion devices by 2019 (Disruptive Analysis)
- This follows a trajectory of 1 billion devices in 2014, and 4.6 billion devices, with over 2 billion unique individuals by the end of 2016.
- Proliferated from being a “browser technology” into consumer and web apps
- Growing use cases among business users (Software as a Service-hosted unified communications, conferencing and collaboration) and telecommunication users in the VoIP, telco Over-The-Top Content (OTT) and in television.
- Well-positioned to serve the US$ 23 billion unified communication, the US$30 billion OTT, and the multi-billion-dollar videoconferencing, VoIP and telecommunications sectors.
It’s incredible what a difference four years makes – this certainly was not the case in 2011.
Bringing the “leading edge” to Twilio’s offer
It is likely that every vendor in the WebRTC and telephony API for web ecosystem have been bunked in their respective crisis rooms. Many are trying to read through the announcement; understanding what it means and how they should respond to it. To Temasys, meaning can be derived and better understood by looking at the offer, interesting missing pieces, and threats versus opportunities.
1. The Offer. Taking Twilio’s announcement at face value, the offer consists of the same features as the open source code provided by Google (AppRTC). Essentially, what’s being offered is web and mobile SDKs on client side, and signaling server (with TURN and STUN support we guess) on the back end side. While it is difficult to assess the claims made about the API, as it is not open for public access, even if everything that is announced was available, it does not appear to be competitive versus other players already in the market today. The key features to compete with existing PaaS (scalability through usage of multipoint control unit) and to bridge with telephony (interoperability) are missing. Even relatively small PaaS players (APIdaze) have more complete solutions. Temasys is far ahead in terms of functionality. The timing of the news during WebRTC Global Summit 2015 in London, one month before the WebRTC Conference & Expo 2015 in Miami, one month before Twilio Signal 2015 in San Francisco could also be perceived as opportunistic.
2. Interesting missing pieces. What strikes us is that a leading player of telephony API does not link its different APIs together, to increase the value of its proposition to its customers. For example, though Twilio has an API for SMS, and an API for voice (phone calls), and offers SIP trunking (VoIP to phone bridge), their WebRTC audio and video offer stands separate and distinct from those other services. This seems to imply that their different APIs leverage different and detached infrastructures, and potentially different external providers, while dealing with carriers, to have telephony access is mandatory. This would mean that consolidation of their API to address the most requested features like call in and call out, would be difficult and needs to happen at the application level, placing the burden of implementation and execution with the client. On the contrary, Temasys’ offering is constructed so that everything is handled at the infrastructure level. The original investment in building the entire system on in-house technology, providing more control over the stack, better integration and scalability, seems to be paying off.
3. Threat or Opportunity? Globally, the announcement is a harbinger of good news for WebRTC players, including Temasys. Twilio holds significant clout in the developer community, and this helps bring WebRTC functionality to them.It also emphasizes the fact that WebRTC is mature and that the industry is adopting it. Lastly this puts pressure on a lot of vendors and Twilio competitors to find a WebRTC solution as soon as possible. More importantly Twilio’s offer will help raise the bar a bit, perhaps kill off a few smaller vendors, which means less noise in the ecosystem. The promise of WebRTC is tremendous. The technology has the potential to bring an online communications experience that is second to only the physical, in-person, and offline world. However, for WebRTC to truly be real-time, with multi party calls, no latency issues, have a truly optimized stack, and to offer WebRTC functionality on the underserved Internet Explorer and Safari browsers, more needs to be done at the infrastructure, the back-end, to ensure that the front end delivers. This is something which Temasys is well placed to deliver.