Now that WebRTC is starting to happen, what is Skype to do?
[This is another one of them WebRTC posts here. If this is your thing, you might want to look at my WebRTC posts series.]
I planned to have a post about WebRTC and smartphones, but I had to write about Skype first. That’s because Zach Walton wrote about Skype’s possible demise due to WebRTC:
If Google and Mozilla can work out this WebRTC thing, Skype may just become obsolete. Of course, Microsoft isn’t going to let that happen as it’s working on a WebRTC version of Skype as well. But will WebRTC, even if Skype is along for the ride, kill off the traditional Skype software? I think it’s too early to tell.
So, is Skype relevant when WebRTC becomes stable? Should they just close shop and go home?
WebRTC is a technology. It enables developing web based video calling products and services. But it lacks the network. Skype has the network.
When Skype came to be, it had two main technologies working for it:
- iLBC, its voice codec that included error concealment embedded in it, which made its voice quality better than the rest of the VoIP solutions out there at the time.
- P2P, their peer to peer network, which allowed them to scale nicely with little additional servers on their part.
With time, both technologies lost their shine: iLBC is outdated, and has been replaced by Skype and others with HD voice codecs that give better voice quality. Servers cost less today, and Skype uses more of its own server power these days to deal better with outages and network issues.
What they still have on their side is a solid user base and the network to back these users.
Skype has made two interesting moves lately:
- Opting for VP8 codec, which is used in WebRTC. This might change yet again, but I doubt it makes any sense at this point in time to switch.
- Partnering with Facebook, to offer Skype calling through Facebook
The moves indicate that Skype is warming up to a pure web based service, but more importantly it means that Skype are not afraid to change bits and pieces of their technology in order to fit the changes in the market. And in this case, the biggest change of all is WebRTC.
To me this means that Skype can and will adopt WebRTC when the time comes. They will do the necessary changes in their network architecture to fit WebRTC right into their story. This will be done in phases:
- First, migrate to the WebRTC video codec – a move that already took place to some extent. This will allow them to run multiple signaling protocols in their network without requiring to transcode the media.
- Then, they will develop and offer a WebRTC gateway from their current signaling protocol to WebRTC. This will allow joining their network from native web browser, and still connect to any installation of current Skype client application.
- Then they might switch their whole infrastructure to WebRTC, though I doubt this will be necessary or that it will happen at all.
Skype is here to stay.
WebRTC will allow more interactions and additional services to rise. It will also let Skype grow even further.