Why I Hate Video Conferencing Plugins and LOVE WebRTC Services

29/06/2015

Friction.

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A true story…

Browser Plugin Hassles & WebRTC

I had a meeting the other day. It was with a company that has been offering WebRTC video chat as part of its own services to their own customers for some time now, but internally, they used some other vendor for their own business meetings. My invitation was on that other vendor’s platform.

At the time of the meeting, I opened the calendar invitation, searching for the link to press.

Found it. Clicked it.

Got using my Chrome browser on my home desktop Ubuntu machine to the web page.

Clicked to join the meeting using my browser.

Was greeted with a message telling me Chrome isn’t supported due to a Chrome bug (with a link to a page detailing the issue on Chrome’s bug tracker) AND suggesting me to use Firefox.

Good.

Opened up Firefox, pasted the link to it.

Clicked to join the meeting using my browser.

Was greeted with a message telling me that only Windows and Mac are supported.

Great.

Opened my laptop to join. It runs Windows 8, so no issues there (I hoped).

Clicked the link on the email there, just to get Chrome opened there.

Somehow, the system knew this time that I should be able to use Chrome, so it happily instructed me to wait to download and then run the executable they were sending me.

Ok.

It took a minute or two to get that executable to run and start installing *something*.

But it got lost in all my windows. A bit of searching and I found the pesky window telling me to open the link yet again.

So I did.

It then went into this seemingly endless loop of trying to open up a meeting, failing and reopening.

This is when I noticed that the window being opened was an Internet Explorer one.

I cut the loop short and opened the link to the meeting on Internet Explorer.

It worked.

10 minutes later, frustrated, with another crappy installation of a client lurking around my Windows machine, I got to talk to the people who invited me.

Two were there with video – me one of them – we actually installed and executed that “plugin”.

Others joined by phone.

I am a technical person.

I worked in the video conferencing industry.

Why the hell should we use such broken tools and technologies in 2015?

I couldn’t care less if the video conferencing equipment that have been purchased ions ago don’t support VP8 or require conversion of SRTP to RTP or require translation from REST/WebSocket to H.323 signaling. I really don’t.

The only thing I want is to open a browser to a specific URL and have that URL just work.

On Ubuntu please.

The service in question?

Wasn’t a new one. They’ve been around for a decade or so.

They started with the desktop, so why can’t they get that experience to work well?

Yes. Internet Explorer and Safari are missing. I know. But I couldn’t care less.

If you want to provide a broken plugin experience for IE and Safari, then please do. But wherever possible make it easier for me to use.

It really isn’t hard. I attend a lot of video calls these days. The crushing majority of them are through WebRTC based services. Most of the services I used weren’t built by billion dollar companies.

Get your act together.

Start using WebRTC for your own business meetings.

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Responses

Andrew Abramson says:
June 29, 2015

Tsahi,

Name names. Don’t make us guess. If you want to cause change you have to out them.

Reply
    Tsahi Levent-Levi says:
    June 29, 2015

    Andy,

    This isn’t about the specific vendor. Most of them suck in one way or another. I almost never have a smooth experience these days. It seems like the more time goes by the more broken they get.

    Reply
Philipp Hancke says:
June 29, 2015

do you remember the id of the chrome bug? 🙂

Reply
    Tsahi Levent-Levi says:
    June 29, 2015

    🙂

    The way this was implemented – I have this nagging feeling that the problem wasn’t in the Chrome bug but more in the service itself – it was too broken to work with.

    Reply
Jon Davies says:
June 29, 2015

Would love to know the reasoning behind the company not using their own service for internal use.

Reply
    sean says:
    June 30, 2015

    > Would love to know the reasoning behind the company not using their own service for internal use.

    I don’t think this in anything uncommon.

    Unfortunately, I think Tsahi will have this problem in 5 years from now, even when webRTC is (hopefully) much better. Corporate conference calling will likely remain the solution where you dial a DID, enter a PIN and are prompted to confirm it, and then the system has to ask if you’re the meeting organizer. People in the corporate world know very little about conference calls and how to make them more productive.

    I’m thankful real life conferences don’t happen this way:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

    I would say the only example they missed is the “Could you please repeat the question.” guy–the one that was obviously not paying attention in the conference.

    Reply
      Tsahi Levent-Levi says:
      June 30, 2015

      🙂

      They aren’t dog fooding as this wasn’t the use case they were implementing for their customers.

      The call was a video call sean, so they do know about conferencing and how to make it better – but they haven’t taken it to the extreme yet.

      Reply

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