The answer is that ORTC is a little bit of everything.
I have been looking at ORTC from the sidelines for some time now. And I noticed how different people refer to it differently. So I decided to gouge the opinions of readers here on how they perceive ORTC.
I have published the results earlier this week as part of my monthly newsletter, and I’ll reiterate it here – because some of those participating might not be subscribed on it:
There are many stories of how ORTC started and I don’t know the details there, but to me, ORTC is about bringing Microsoft into the fold of WebRTC. It has a slightly different name, and a different set of APIs to it, which are considered of a lower level. It killed of SDP, which no one really likes anyway.
The first approach towards explaining ORTC to the uninformed that I’ve seen was to refer to it as WebRTC 2.0.
Another approach? During the Kranky Geek Show Google referred to ORTC as WebRTC 1.1.
Then there are those who see ORTC as a competing standard to WebRTC.
Too much is going on…
Let’s look at some interesting players around this new ORTC spec to decide where it is headed.
Microsoft is a part of the ORTC work. It seems the decisions at Microsoft have been to adopt RTC in the browser and the only question remaining is how.
As with any standardization bickering, it is a mix of two things that are related:
- Technology and NIH. With any spec, you will always find two architects that won’t agree on it. So the guys at Microsoft naturally won’t agree with all that is WebRTC – simply because they didn’t invent it. They have good reasons, but then again, the end result won’t be perfect either. It links also to the NIH syndrome of developers – what wasn’t invented here isn’t good enough.
- Business and competition. Google has a huge head-start with WebRTC on everyone else. They’re practically writing the code and testing it with hundreds of vendors already. What is a competitor to do besides slow down progress to get his act together? So you invent something similar but slightly different, just to make sure those ahead of you need to invest in house keeping as well.
Microsoft’s intentions here are probably about making ORTC different enough from WebRTC to break down everything developed with WebRTC. Even if just a bit. I’d do that if I were Microsoft – I have that vindictive nature in me.
Google? The thing they want most is for WebRTC to succeed as is. They have invested in it humongous amounts of work and money already. A lot more than all other players.
Getting Microsoft’s support is important, and from a technical standpoint, throwing SDP out the window has its merit. So joining forces with Microsoft on ORTC is the only possible move if you ask me.
What Google needs to make sure at every step of the way is that the end result of ORTC is backward compatible with WebRTC.
Best case scenario? Existing services continue working without any hiccups.
Reasonable scenario? Existing services will need to adopt a shim similar to the adapter.js (or have all necessary differences wrapped inside the adapter.js that Google offers already). It would also be nice if using this shim would enable the same service to run flawlessly on the future Microsoft IE version that will support ORTC once released.
Worst case scenario? Existing services will need to be modified to accommodate for the changes necessary.
Hookflash is interesting here. They are a small player – one of the startups working on an API platform. They are riding the wave of ORTC in order to gain enough publicity and marketing if you ask me.
Being an author of a draft of ORTC with Google and Microsoft definitely takes time and energy, but does it really necessitates a press release?
For a start up it most definitely does. I don’t think it matters much for its potential customers, but it might garner a higher valuation in a fund raising round from VCs. They are in it for the publicity more than anything else, and that’s valid.
Apple is absent in this. The ORTC initiative has in it Google and Microsoft, additional vendors who play in the WebRTC space, individuals and consultants of different types.
Some are there as passive listeners while others are there to contribute.
The usual mix in standardization organizations.
Why is this important?
We still don’t know what ORTC really is.
Is it close enough to be considered WebRTC 1.1, so its effect on existing services is marginal?
Is it too far off to be considered WebRTC 2.0, breaking all backward compatibility and proving to be a royal headache for existing services?
Is it going to end up being competitive with WebRTC so that we have two separate RTC APIs to deal with in our browsers?
Only time will tell.