From 0 to Skype in 9 Months

July 10, 2013

Why is WebRTC game changing? Because it opens up new opportunities for everyone.

Chris Matthieu

[Chris Matthieu, Founder of Twelephone is back again, this time, explaining how startups can leverage WebRTC in no time to build today’s modern communication services.]

I started hacking on Twelephone nine months ago. Technologies such as cloud hosting services, Node.JS, and Phono have allowed me to deliver a bootstrapped communications platform with many of Skype’s features including:

  • Real-time on/offline presence
  • Persistent, instant messaging with multi-media support for links, HTML5 audio and video tags, and embedded YouTube videos
  • High-definition voice and video
  • Signaling and ringing for call presentation
  • PSTN integration (supporting toll-free numbers today and other numbers coming soon)
  • Voice messaging (video messaging coming soon)
  • CallMe button to add click-to-call option to websites, emails, etc.

Additional Twelephone features include:

  • Twitter integration with a 700M user directory (Facebook & LinkedIn coming soon)
  • Twelephone number links for easy call/chat initiation
  • SIP integration (in/outbound calling)
  • Expert consulting services (similar to Premium Rate 900 numbers)

The only remaining features that we have not yet delivered include: conferencing, screensharing, and file transfers.

Our operating costs are incredibly low.  We are leveraging a variety of cloud hosting platforms for scalability such as Amazon, Digital Ocean, Nodejitsu, MongoHQ and RedisToGo costing us less than $250 per month in combined overhead.  We are leveraging VoxeoLabs‘ open source Phono WebRTC library for powering our voice, video, real-time chat, and SIP services across Chrome and FireFox web browsers at no cost. VoxeoLabs is also powering our voice messaging and PSTN/DID services on a simple pay-as-you-go basis through Tropo, their cloud communications API and service.

David and Goliath

How much time and money did it take to build Skype? Could we build a better communications service faster today by leveraging WebRTC and existing social networks? I started asking myself these same questions as I set out to build Twelephone nine months ago.

WebRTC inherently offers the following advantages over Skype’s application:

  • WebRTC runs in the Web browser allowing users to initiate chats and calls via links
  • WebRTC is P2P by default and all communications are automatically encrypted for security reasons
  • WebRTC P2P voice and video calls are also streamed in high-definition and include great echo canceling provided by the browser vendors
  • WebRTC includes a data channel allowing chats, file transfers, collaboration, and screensharing to occur via P2P
  • WebRTC can be streamed as VoIP SIP calls to/from any softphone using third-party open source Javascript libraries making a new platform even more open with traditional telecom providers and enterprises.

With such low costs, reduced time to market, and lower barriers to entry, how does WebRTC impact existing businesses and new business models?  From my perspective, WebRTC changes everything! Adding real-time voice/video communications or real-time chat to existing websites has never been easier. We’ve wanted to build Twelephone for nearly 10 years now but it was not possible with previous technologies such as Flash or Java Applets. Now every business can talk to their customers online without involving traditional phone numbers or leaving their web experience. This creates new business opportunities for startups like Twelephone.

 WebRTC also creates new service opportunities for traditional SIP Gateway providers and media server companies to add WebRTC to their existing legacy SIP technologies thus increasing their market share opportunities. In addition to WebRTC-based video, voice, and chat services, WebRTC data channels are creating new peer-to-peer file transfer and peer CDN business opportunities. New gaming platforms are also being developed to leverage the Internet for peer-to-peer game plays with live communications.

Rapid experimentation of new WebRTC-powered startup ideas and services are possible in short 1-2 week sprints. Over 100 new WebRTC startups have launched since the beginning of this year. As the WebRTC API matures and more Web developers learn about it, we will see an explosion of new real-time WebRTC services hit the market.

WebRTC is the most disruptive technology since the e-commerce and cloud services on the Internet. Communications companies and telecoms not leveraging WebRTC today will be left behind or will be playing catch up for years to come.  Our goal is not to duplicate Skype in the Web browser but rather build the next generation telecom company running in a Web browser! We have already positioned Twelephone as the world’s first HTML5 WebRTC-powered social telephone but we are just getting started!

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