The Web is Changing VoIP and UC Forever

November 26, 2012

The web, or more accurately WebRTC, is changing VoIP and UC.

Once upon a time we had VoIP. It was magical. We started using the internet to send voice and video in realtime to communicate. Later on, there were talks about “interoperability” and “convergence”, which escalated to the current state of affair with “unified communications”.

Over a decade now, VoIP and UC are focused on one thing: how to utilize the IP protocol with its packet switching network to better communicate. For video conferencing, it was resolution and frame rate, for voice it is capacity, number of codecs and the ability to work with as many IP PBXs as possible.

It was all about communicating in the here and now – meeting the immediate demand to reach out to someone. If you ask me, this is the Physiological basic needs at the bottom of Marslow’s hierarchy of needs. And it is time to grow out of it.

I have been talking lately with a lot of WebRTC startups, and most of these companies aren’t interested in taking VoIP or UC and just migrating them to the web browser – they are into something different than that – they are into changing the VoIP and UC paradigms to match those of the internet.

Here are two recent examples out of a lot of others out there:

Drum web conferences

Last week I published an interview I had with John Logsdon from Drum. Drum is an online service quite similar to WebEx, with a twist: it uses WebRTC and the native web. It might not seem like much, and in and by itself it really isn’t.

But then you start looking at the features and mindset: they belong to the web and not to collaboration solutions like WebEx: it offers automatic archiving of the meetings you have on the platform, it captures tasks, decisions and the summary of the meetings – and it does that for ALL participants.

Ever been on a Drum conference? Did that without being a paying customer? Guess what – the history of that conference you attended is there online – waiting for you to review it. Anytime you want.

Not an earth shattering addition, but this comes from an internet mindset rather than a VoIP one.

Bistri casual video chats

Ever shared a file on Skype? Or Lync? Or any other VoIP service for that matter?

Bistri, a company that uses WebRTC to power casual video chats with friends and family, has a new feature that they just announced: a gallery of all the files you shared. So you can access them again without needing to search on your PC’s hard drive.

Storage for an ephemeral part of the conversation… hmm…

You can argue that these are possible with the classic UC solutions and it is just a matter of features. I don’t think so. For the UC vendors, this is just an additional optional feature. In the WebRTC world, these are the basis of interaction – moving up to the next level of Marslow’s pyramid.

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  1. Hi Tsahi,

    While I understand Webrtc/ Communciation on Web is in maturing stage – what will be the typical challenges to move from current Enterprise UC environment (provided by OEM’s like Avaya, Cisco etc.) to Web environement?? Its difficult to think of Web based solution replacing the current UC setup.

    Please guide here.


    1. Anant,

      You make a valid point. UC will probably be one of the last communication industries that will be disrupted by WebRTC – probably because its consultants and vendors don’t see the value 😉

      I’ll write something about UC in the near future – I need to think about it a bit more.

  2. Do you think then that there’s room for both WebRTC and UC to live side-by-side despite having so much common functionality? Also, what’s the learning curve for WebRTC, does that create any kind of barrier?

    1. Apples and oranges: WebRTC is a technology while UC is a catch-all marketing phrase. WebRTC can be used as part of the development of UC products/solutions.

      WebRTC is relatively easy to learn and “master” compared to doing the same things without it (RTP, codecs, echo cancellation, device interfaces, real time media, etc).

      WebRTC removes barriers – I don’t think it creates any new ones.

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