It may be a little too early to embrace WebRTC for a consumer-oriented service.
[I like to think that the guest posts I bring here have different opinions than my own. This time, I must say that they definitely do. Art Matsak (@artmatsak), founder of Gruveo, a web based video calling service, decided to use Flash (for now). Here is why]
Ever since we launched Gruveo, our free P2P video calling service, we were getting strange looks from the fellow developer community for going with Flash. A service that relies on Flash? In 2013? You must be kidding.
The truth is, Flash has historically been strong in media delivery, and it’s still very much relied upon (just ask YouTube). A related area that’s still to get a production-ready alternative to Flash is realtime video conferencing. Yes, WebRTC, I’m looking at you.
Don’t get me wrong – WebRTC is the future of in-browser communications. The mere fact that it’s an open draft is a huge advantage over Flash where you sometimes just have to bite the bullet and do things the way a single company decided for you. (Not to mention the annoying limitations you sometimes have to face.)
The problem with WebRTC is that it’s just not there yet. It still has to become a standard (as does HTML5) and it’s currently not supported in IE or Safari. The existing implementations are oftentimes buggy, although getting better with every release. And while there’s light in the end tunnel with Cisco announcing open-sourcing their implementation of H.264, the WebRTC Working Group still has to decide on the mandatory video codec.
Our big promise at Gruveo is that you should be able to have an instant video call with anyone, without asking them to install a particular program or adding them to your “contacts”. You just say, “Gruveo me right now on 1631”, and there you are, talking. Your chances of establishing a connection with just about anyone are very high because Flash is installed on something like 98% of all desktops.
Now, imagine Gruveo was WebRTC-based and you were trying to call your mom, who uses Safari on a Mac. At what point would you give up trying to explain her that she needs to install another browser (“What’s a browser, honey?”) to talk to you?
Here’s the point: For an end-user service like ours, where simplicity and ease of use are key selling points, switching to WebRTC is still a year or two down the road. Do we have a WebRTC version of Gruveo in development? You bet. But we’re not switching over before the browser adoption catches up.
Because your mom wouldn’t appreciate it.
Are you jumping in and going WebRTC right now? Or are you waiting on the sidelines waiting for the browser penetration to reach Flash-like levels? Share your thoughts in the comments with us.