You have to hand I to Google – they had some great news for us last week.
If you are looking to poke holes in the WebRTC story then the best ways would be to tackle its weakness around mobile and video codecs.
This is why the news last week coming out of Google is so important:
Chrome for Android
If you wanted to use WebRTC on mobile, there were 3 ways to do that up until now:
- Port it on your own based on the source code provided: here’s work involved here
- Use a 3rd party API platform to do that – Twilio, Voxeo, Plivo, TokBox and AddLive come to mind here: you marry into their platform in the process
- Use Bowser, Ericsson’s half-hearted attempt at mobile WebRTC: you won’t have enough users with less than 5,000 downloads on Google Play
And then came Google with their WebRTC support in Chrome beta on Android. To contrast with Ericsson’s Bowser, Google Chrome has 10-50 million downloads on Google Play; Chrome Beta has 100,000-500,000 downloads.
It is currently the browser with the largest reach on Android that has WebRTC support, and once it goes for a GA release the pressure will be on for other mobile browsers to support it.
The only concerns?
- On mobile, Chrome isn’t always preinstalled, so there’s an action required from the user to decide to switch from the default browser – not an easy decision
- Android users have a harder time upgrading operating system versions than iPhone ones, as a lot of the times they are reliant on the device manufacturer and the carrier
All in all, very positive news.
Royalty Free VP8
This is the real game changer. I’ve written last week about the difference between VP8 and H.264 – which is staying with us for the next round of VP9 and H.265.
What made this picture a bit misleading is that VP8 was said to be a royalty free codec, but MPEG-LA, the group of companies behind H.264′s patent pool stated that this is not the case and made noises of wanting to ask for licensing for its use.
Google solved that, probably through handsome payment to MPEG-LA, making VP8 free for all. This made the picture complete, and in a way, it is going to make Google’s position easier to approve through the standardization body, making VP8 the mandatory codec for WebRTC.
It isn’t a done deal yet, but this is an important step in the right direction.
There’s a need for a single mandatory video codec – without it, we are left with transcoding, which in turn increases barrier of entry into this field.
At its heart, WebRTC is a real time communication solution targeted at eliminating barrier of entry for vendors, developers and end users. The two announcements from Google are huge achievements. Kudos to the Google teams that make it happen.
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