Top 5 Excuses for NOT Adopting WebRTC (and Why They Make no Sense)

October 6, 2014

FUD is in the air?

There are many reasons why not to use WebRTC.

Excuses for not using WebRTC

I like what David Danto wrote about WebRTC lately:

Nobody asked me, but I’m finding myself supporting the little boy who points out that the emperor has no clothes – the emperor in this case being WebRTC. The gap between the promise of WebRTC (universal, plug-in free rich media in every browser) and the reality that nothing of the sort is even close to happening is as big as ever. The gap just plain will not close until Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Apple and the 381 other members of the W3C completely agree on all the technical standards involved. These are the same firms that won’t agree on the hundreds of other things involved where they compete head to head – so I wouldn’t be holding my breath. It just makes me shake my head when I read another article about how great a new application is that doesn’t require me to download a plug-in…when it would require me to download a new browser I don’t use (or a browser that downloads new updates itself whenever it feels like it.)

While most of the text is all true, the conclusions make no sense to me.

When first I saw WebRTC, I went to the general manager of the business unit I worked at. My idea was to stop wasting efforts on the media engine we were building on our own from scratch and instead take what’s inside WebRTC and use it.

The idea around this concept was that someone else takes care of media quality, and that someone is GIPS – the company Google acquired and then open sourced as WebRTC. GIPS was one of the best commercial options around, so why not leverage on it?

The R&D team was smarter. The first Chrome browser just came out with a preview release of WebRTC. They installed it, tried it once, heard echo and decided to pass on WebRTC.

What a shame.

To those who don’t want to adopt WebRTC, in Introduce the top 5 excuses:

1. It doesn’t work on iOS

iOS is the biggest thing out there. Especially with the new iPhone Plus device. With everyone going mobile first and iOS first, not having WebRTC on iOS means it is useless for most.

Until Apple embraces WebRTC and puts it in iOS, there’s no future for it.

Why this makes no sense:

What’s the alternative? Flash???

Most of the consumption on iOS and mobile is done via apps anyway. With apps, you can embed whatever media engine you see fit, and WebRTC just happens to be an open source media engine that fits nicely into iOS. If you don’t believe me, then just ask Gruveo who decided to switch from Flash to WebRTC because of iOS. For me this was an eye opener.

2. It doesn’t work on Microsoft IE

Internet Explorer isn’t supported, hence WebRTC can never live up to its promise. How can a technology be useful in HTML5 if not all browsers support it?

Why this makes no sense:

Same as above. What’s the alternative?

  • The quality of Flash isn’t the best, and it won’t really work on mobile (packaging it as an app is a headache)
  • Using a plugin, which can also be done with WebRTC for the browsers that don’t support it natively

On top of that, there are many use cases which either don’t require support for IE and would be happy with Chrome. There are also use cases where what we are trying to achieve is reduction in end user friction – if I can achieve that for some of my end users, this will still be considered useful.

3. It doesn’t use H.264. And G.722

The current deployments out there use H.264 for video and wideband is usually done with G.722 or some other HD voice codec. This means that adding WebRTC into the mix means transcoding, which is both complex and expensive. As such, there’s no real use to WebRTC.

Why this makes no sense:

Existing deployments are about VoIP. WebRTC is about the web. Your system isn’t the target market of WebRTC.

If your use case doesn’t require existing deployments, or most of it is going to be new and WebRTC anyway – then who cares? Connect to the edges using gateways and be done with it.

If your use case depends on existing equipment, then ask yourself what the competition is going to do with WebRTC:

  • Google Chromebox runs Hangouts which uses WebRTC, and it targets the enterprise video conferencing market directly
  • Acano, Pexip, Blue Jeans, Vidyo and many others are embracing WebRTC – each with its own twist – all targeting enterprise video conferencing
  • Talko is using WebRTC to reinvent voice calls. They are not alone in that. I can think of a couple others who are down this road as well

4. It doesn’t handle multipoint

Video requires multipoint. If you try using WebRTC you’ll end up with no multipoint support. Without it, this technology is useless.

Why this makes no sense:

WebRTC is just a technology. Multipoint requires infrastructure. You will need to build your own multipoint architecture for WebRTC. But then again, you’ll need to do that with any other VoIP technology.

With other VoIP technologies, there are MCUs available. If you search, you will find out that there are also MCUs and many other server side solutions available for WebRTC already.

WebRTC isn’t about being lazy and doing nothing. It is about yielding a technology to build your own solution.

5. WebRTC hasn’t been standardized yet

WebRTC 1.0? It doesn’t exist yet. And until it does, which won’t happen anytime soon, there’s no need to invest any time in it.

Why this makes no sense:

While WebRTC hasn’t been standardized yet, we have 2 browsers supporting it, 2 open source client side stacks that implement it, around 500 vendors and projects using it, and more WebRTC projects than SIP projects on github.

WebRTC is alive and kicking. It is here to stay. Feel free to wait, but then again – what would the competition do in the meantime?

The need to jump into WebRTC early is due to the stark differences in mindset it brings to the table when it comes to VoIP and video conferencing. You have to touch it, play with it and experience it before you dismiss it.

I am using WebRTC on a daily basis to interact with people. Not only because I write about it so much. It just works. And works well.

Why is it important?

If you are at a stage when you need to select a technology, or decide if you want to use WebRTC or not, then make sure you make an informed decision.

Take the time to tinker with it. Ask around. See what others are doing. Understand how it changes perspectives and how it enables companies to achieve their goals.

Then make your decision.

I know of WebRTC services that make more video sessions a week than most enterprises do. Dismissing this isn’t smart.


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  1. On point 5/standardization:

    Many are probably from the telecom industry and don’t understand how Internet standards from W3C or IETF work. IETF has a motto: rough consensus and running code.

    The W3C or IETF first creates drafts, the vendors start creating code for the things that won’t change in the drafts while they are being written. So a couple of vendors put it out in the field and only after it works as expected will it be standardized.

    So if you think it matters that it isn’t a standard yet: it does NOT.

  2. Great post and thank you for bringing clarity to so many who simply “don’t get it.”

    Already Vonage (amongst others) has embedded WebRTC into their iOS client so I don’t see that as a hurdle, vs. development time and interest.

    1. Andy, that is correct.

      The interesting story about Vonage is that they started when WebRTC had abysmal support for iOS, and they still found it the easiest path to VoIP on mobile.

      Vendors taking that route today have considerably easier work in front of them with WebRTC.

  3. Agree with the post. Specially I liked the ios one. Some argued to me this pretext when I was presenting an implementation of webrtc to Sakai LMS, and I answered wit the same response. “Good luck with flash.”

      1. Yes, it’s not in their web page, you have to dive deeper to find it.

        We implemented for the portal chat that Sakai already included.
        Students and teachers can now talk with any of their University connections using WebRTC.

        Here are the presentation I did for the S2U Conference in Madrid ’13 where I got that question:

        https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1vMa3EHQBkAP9eOxXrAPW9NZNE4sW9Q_DOzERcnQy8mw/edit?usp=sharing

        Implementing WebRTC for Sakai made me to fall in love with WebRTC and started with another guy a opensource webconference platform based on that technology. (loowid.com)

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