Signaling? Stardandizing it? For what purpose exactly?[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]
I used to work in the signaling business. Developing protocol stacks, marketing them – explaining their value to customers. That need to follow a certain spec. To implement a well-known set of features. To follow industry use cases.
Those days are long gone.
You can look at 2013 as the year signaling died.
It was a slow death, so there’s no exact date, but I think we’re there.
The notions of interconnectivity, federation and interoperability were used to be important. They were laws of nature. Things you just had to have in a VoIP product. And now? They are tools to be used when needed, and they are either needed by the architects, to tap a specific ecosystems of products and developers or by business people, deciding how to wield them in the battlefield.
The decision not to add signaling to WebRTC might have been an innocent one – I can envision engineers sitting around a table in a Google facility some two years ago, having an interesting conversation:
“Guys, let’s add SIP to what we’re doing with WebRTC”
“But we don’t have anything we developed. We will need to use some of that open source stuff”
“And besides – why not pack XMPP with it? Our own GTalk uses XMPP”
“Go for it. Let’s do XMPP. We’ve got that libjingle lying around here somewhere”
“Never did like it, and there are other XMPP libraries floating around – you remember the one we used for that project back in the day? It is way better than libjingle”
And here we are, sometime later, debating why did they not include signaling – it can be as simple as realities of meeting a deadline, a decision not to decide, or not to fight another religious battle about which protocol to use – or it could have been a guided decision.
It was one of many similar decisions that have been taking place lately.
A few other notable decisions that are killing signaling?
- Apple, selecting SIP for FaceTime; and then including their own proprietary push notifications, not standardizing it, and locking the service down
- The rise of WhatsApp, Line, iMessage and a slew of other IM apps – all with no notion of what exact signaling protocol they use (the fact that I don’t know or care…)
- Tango? Viber? Do they use a proprietary solution or a standardized one? Would that make a real business difference to them?
- Skype… which is now got its connectivity to Lync. Skype – proprietary. Lync – “SIP”ish in nature
- And last, but not least, Google dropping XMPP support from their Hangouts service
Notice a pattern?
Signaling is now a commodity. Something you use as needed. It also means that islands are now the norm for communication services, and openness on the protocol level is the exception.