Temasys’ Free WebRTC Plugin for Internet Explorer and Safari

12/05/2014

Finally, a commercially viable free WebRTC plugin for Internet Explorer and Safari.

Finish line

And we have Temasys to thank for that.

If you missed the news, Temasys has just released a plugin for Internet Explorer and Safari. Essentially, these are wrappers for WebRTC than enables the browsers that don’t support WebRTC to support it.

In recent months, it seemed apparent that the top challenge for enterprises and telcos with WebRTC is IE and Safari. For some reasons, the act of wrapping WebRTC into a plugin and using it where needed wasn’t something they were keen on doing on their own.

Want to run WebRTC on anything? Check out my free WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet.

If you searched the internet, the only solution out there was webrtc4all.  This solution has many challenges to it:

  1. Its license is GPLv3, making it hard for most enterprises to adopt
  2. Support for codecs not part of WebRTC makes this look like a media engine than WebRTC – it also questions the way this operates on Chrome and Firefox
  3. I know of no one who was able to make this thing work for his project/product/service
  4. It does Windows but OS X is painfully missing (“coming soon”)

While the code of webrtc4all seems well maintained, it lacks that Github touch and the feeling of a community effort.

Temasys, one of the WebRTC API Platform vendors have decided to open its kimono. Instead of just investing its time and money into making a plugin and then using it as an SDK for browsers for its own customers (the approach taken by other platform vendors today), it decided to give this one freely, hosing it on its own CDN and allowing anyone to download and install it.

The plugin has no specific link to Temasys’ service, and in theory, Temasys’ direct competitors can use it as well.

This isn’t an easy or natural step for a company like Temasys, as the thinking in such vendors is that this is part of the value they give customers – value that is now slightly eroded. I applaud this move – it coveys a message that Temasys has a lot more to offer than just closing this gap for its customers.

I exchanged some emails with Alex Gouaillard, Temasys’ CTO, about this new plugin. Here’s what I was able to understand:

  • Temasys aren’t providng the source code of the plugin, but rather offering the complete package to use
  • Temasys will be hosting it on their own CDN, so essentially, you can enjoy the plugin directly without having to deal with the hassle of hosting it
  • While the WebRTC code is in there, not all of it has been tested. Capabilities like the Data Channel don’t work yet and will be introduced within a couple of weeks if all goes well. Issues that will be raised, will be taken care of by Temasys
  • This one is “pure” WebRTC. No additional codecs or features besides what you may find on webrtc.org (which I see as an advantage)

It will be interesting to see how other tooling vendors react, especially Temasys’ direct competitors. As I see it, they have a couple of options:

  1. Provide their own plugin. Some of them are doing it already, with plugins associated to their service
  2. Make use of Temasys’ plugin. I don’t see those with existing plugins taking this route, and those that are in the middle of development might prefer continuing their own efforts instead of giving credit to Temasys on this one
  3. Take Temasys’ plugin and host it on their own service, with the idea of maintaining more of a control and giving Temasys less information about their customer base

Putting competition in such a position is always a good move.

WebRTC purists will say any plugin is evil.

WebRTC nay sayers will say this isn’t WebRTC anymore as there is a plugin.

For me this is just progress.

Why is this important?

  • WebRTC is still new. Closing this gap and by the community will give confidence to more enterprises who wish to use WebRTC
  • It further reduces the barrier of entry to new players, leaving the same enterprises who whined about such support with less value to give their customers
  • It shows that in WebRTC, there’s more than just Google who can change the game and further the technology
  • It will be interesting to see how other platform vendors react – will they use this plugin, provide their own?
  • There is huge value in having this plugin centrally hosted. I hope we end up with as  little fragmentation as possible on the plugin front

Need to know where WebRTC is available? Download this free WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet.

Responses

Alex Gouaillard says:
May 12, 2014

Thanks tsahi for the post. We hope this will indeed enable developers and help the community gain in recognition. We also want to publicly thanks bistri (bistri.com), for dedicating some time to help us polish the plugin. Thank you for helping us making this happen.

Reply
Philipp Hancke says:
May 12, 2014

one of the most interesting aspects is that the plugin doesn’t attempt to come up with it’s own APIs but just wraps the usual RTCPeerConnection and getUserMedia.

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Lawrence Byrd says:
May 12, 2014

This is good news and an excellent contribution from Temasys. In my experience it is absolutely an obstacle in talking to enterprises about deploying WebRTC that IE support remains an issue (and Safari sometimes but depends on the organization). Microsoft and Apple obviously know this, hence their stalling tactics until they feel they are in an advantageous position to introduce whatever version of WebRTC we have gotten to by then. Meanwhile we can get some plugins (usually for IE but less so for Safari) from some of the other toolkit vendors, but they come wrapped up with that toolkit’s APIs, backend and licensing structure. So hats off to Temasys for being willing to develop and make available a “pure” and free set of core Windows/Mac IE/Safari ready-to-go binary WebRTC plugins. Now I know plugins are still a pain and worse than built-in functionality, but done well they are much better than WebRTC not working! (I don’t happen to believe that “no plugins” is the essential differentiator for WebRTC, just one valuable feature.)

Now my personal ideal would be if a number of toolkit vendors were willing to work together with Temasys so that a single plugin (that is, a single set of plugins across platforms) could be declared to be “standard” across multiple vendors. I don’t know if other vendors are now willing to do this, given their other plans,or if Temasys is willing to be “joined”. But my view is that if the industry was showing a common agreed approach to bridging the IE and Safari “gap” then this would make adopting enterprises even more comfortable, while reducing the number of different plugin downloads for different applications (“get it once” and be done).

Reply
Brian Shock says:
July 31, 2014

You mentioned that webrtc4all’s GPLv3 license would make it hard for most enterprises to adopt. My knowledge of legal matters is very limited, but I’ve been trying to research the topic on Gnu.org’s web site. This is slow going for me, so could you or someone else please expand on which points of the GPLv3 present a problem for enterprises?

Thank you.

Reply
    Tsahi Levent-Levi says:
    July 31, 2014

    Brian,

    Not going into too much detail about the legal aspects behind open source license types, the rule of thumb goes like this:

    * BSD, MIT, APL (Apache) – good
    * LGPL – it depends
    * GPL, APL – bad

    I might just write a post explaining it and the reasons at some point in the future.

    Reply
Sasikumar says:
March 4, 2015

Hi-

I am using Temasys’ Free WebRTC Plugin in my project with web audio APIs to get the audio stream. It works on all the browsers except Safari which is complaining about “createMediaStreamSource” of “AudioContext” is undefined.

Please let me know when this API will be available for Safari.

Thanks,

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