Google Acquires Firebase. Is WebRTC Part of Google’s Plans for it?

October 24, 2014

What does Firebase has to do with WebRTC anyway?

Firebase acquired by Google

3 days ago the news broke in many of the technology sites: Google acquired Firebase:

For Google, this acquisition mostly seems to be about technology and talent, but it will also introduce Firebase’s 100,000 developers to its Cloud Platform.

While no word about WebRTC has been written with regards to Firebase, I do like to give my 2 cents here. I might be off by a mile (and probably am), but it is something to think about.

1. Firebase is about WebRTC signaling

WebRTC has no signaling. You either go build it yourself, use a ready-made framework for it, or consume it in SaaS.

The first SaaS platform to offer “WebRTC siganling” was PubNub. They go to the US based WebRTC events to show their capabilities, and they even provided a WebRTC chat service reference on Github that uses their platform.

Similar vendors in the alley of PubNub that placed a WebRTC sticker on their marketing? Pusher (check out their WebRTC tutorial) and Firebase (who has a Citrix case study of WebRTC).

There’s more about these 3 vendors in a post I’ve written in the past on SaaS WebRTC signaling.

I my own chats with vendors, Firebase were raised more than once as the signaling platform of choice – either for WebRTC signaling, or for the rest of the messaging capabilities that are required in the platform.

Firebase = Real time messaging = WebRTC signaling

2. The need for a WebRTC backend

When I attended the WebRTC Summit in London earlier this year (my summery is here), Serge Lachapelle, who is the Product Manager for WebRTC at Google, said something interesting on stage. He said he is still waiting to see someone taking care of the backend and doing it properly in a way that enables developers to move faster.

Google had no offering in the backend tooling of WebRTC in any way. They offered the open source WebRTC client on one end and at the other end, they offered the full fledged service that is Google Hangouts. But nothing in-between. No building blocks for developers in the backend.

But now that they have Firebase, which is used by developers… they got a WebRTC signaling SaaS solution for the rest of us.

Firebase = WebRTC signaling SaaS @Google

Why is this important?

This has nothing to do with WebRTC directly, and everything to do with WebRTC indirectly.

Firebase, Pusher and PubNub were all competing with each other on developers. Firebase is now a part of a larger outfit with a lot more resources. I am sure that the management of PubNub and Pusher are trying to come up with strategies and reasons why being a part of Google means slower innovation at Firebase; maybe even suggest that Firebase going to Google means the end of privacy for Firebase’ customers. Not sure how use will that be.

Google just upped its game in WebRTC and doing that without knowing that they did.

SaaS WebRTC signaling looks a lot more attractive now that it comes from Firebase Google than it ever did before.

I wonder if the WebRTC team in Google will now switch their apprtc demo to use Firebase signaling. Hmm…

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  1. Another piece of technology Google has acquired to “fill-in” the puzzle for real-time communications for the Google Cloud Platform for developers to innovate and deliver a new breed of communications applications that may combine text chat, voice push-to-talk, voice group call, high definition video conference calling, voice/video recording and playback, real-time collaborative whiteboarding, etc. with integrated data analytics.

    Yep! As you mentioned…”need a signalling framework”, Firebase may be the answer. Firebase is focused on creating a real-time backend to deliver real-time apps.

    You may be spot on!…this may be a killer acquisition!

    Now you only have to deal with two-tiers….the Backend and the Mobile/Web Client.

    Exciting and innovative communications applications are being delivered with WebRTC and Firebase today (i.e. Citrix GoToMeeting, TalkBoard). Many interesting innovation communications apps (i.e. Voxer, Zello, Talko) leveraging WebRTC today.

    I think this acquisition has the potential to deliver a superset of Apple’s Continuity feature in iOS and OS X on Android, Chrome OS and Chrome Browser (OS X, Windows) hosted on the Google Cloud Platform in the future. True seamless communications transitions between your computing devices (Mobile, Tablet, Laptop, Desktop) leveraging location, sensing your nearby devices via Bluetooth, sensing bandwidth and possibly other “stateful information” to intelligently enhance communications….more digital magic!

    I see a “hellfire of innovation” arriving in realtime communications in the Google Cloud Platform.

      1. Tashi,

        Nextbit just announced their product Baton with Google Ventures as a investor.

        Maybe Nextbit will extend their mobile product with real-time communications in the future? Founders are ex-Google dudes.

  2. I would welcome the WebRTC folks integrating Firebase in the sample app because when they do, they will see an interesting crash that I have stumbled upon today. At the present time, attempting to use the WebRTC code from the apprtc demo and the Firebase framework in an iOS application does not work. Both work fine alone. Place both of them together and the WebRTC code, specifically the RTCPeerConnectionFactory, blows chunks all over the place.

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