Why the WebRTC Ecosystem Shifts?

July 24, 2014

It isn’t only monetization.

Why

WebRTC is still at its infancy. People usually count back 3 years to its beginning, but to be honest, anything with WebRTC prior to 2013 was pre-alpha at best.

I’ve written about this topic before, but there is more to say of this.

Even with such a timeframe, we are at a point where around 500 vendors are actively using WebRTC to build services with it. What fascinates me is how different companies in this WebRTC ecosystem oscillate between being a tooling vendor (someone offering products targeted at developers) and service vendors who provide a service to end customers where WebRTC is just means to an end.

The other day I read an interesting post by Simon Judge on business platform opportunities. It was related to mobile apps, but fits nicely here as well. Here are some of his insights:

The interesting thing is that many apps’ server sides have the capability to become utilities for that particular sector. For example, I have been working on a hospitality sector app and a health app (for use in hospital, not end users). In both cases the server side could be re-purposed/generalised and extended to provide for a general purpose back end for that industry together with an API/SDK and a SLA/support.

The second interesting point is that the use of such systems generates new data that itself has value. Distimo, who sponsored ForumOxford, is incidentally a great example. It provides a ‘utility’ for the app sector. The value is in the data it collects that ends up being sold via online reporting tools.

What I see in the WebRTC domain is the first one: vendors either start by building a platform and then go on for a specific use case on top of it or vice versa.

The second point that Simon raises is something that we’ve yet to see in WebRTC – the use of backend data to drive a data monetization opportunity. The reason for not seeing that is probably because most of the current set of players in this market come from the VoIP industry and not the web industry, where freemium and analytic based models are scarce.

Examples

Here are 4 such examples of WebRTC vendors who are reinventing themselves:

OpenClove/HR Live

While OpenClove is a WebRTC API Platform, one which I am covering in my Choosing a WebRTC API Platform report, they are also engaged in rolling out their own use cases – not by partnering with others, but by developing and running it on their own.

HR Llive is such a service that is targeted at recruiting talent to your company by way of online meetings. Totally different market than their API platform.

You can also read my interview with OpenClove.

Requestec/Saypage

Requestec, another company covered in my report, is a WebRTC API platform for developers. They took the high level approach of offering ready-made widgets that can be embedded into apps. Slightly different than the generic approach of other platforms.

And then they have a service called Saypage, which is an experts platform.

Bistri

Bistri, a social network gone WebRTC API platform.

I’ve covered Bistri’s move to a platform in a post a few months ago as well as interviewed Bistri in the past.

&yet

&yet is a fascinating company. They have given us talky.io (my current favorite for online video calls) and SimpleWebRTC among other tools.

While SimpleWebRTC and talky to some extent are free tools used by &yet to attract customers to their consulting/training/development services, they have now gone out to try Talky Pro. A service that gets monetized directly by end users and not developers.

Why is this important?

  • WebRTC is all about agile development, failing fast and tinkering. Shifting and experimenting with business models is part of that
  • WebRTC is still new and the dynamics of the market haven’t settled yet
  • We are bound to see more acquisitions in this space and a few vendors that will start dying quietly by year end
  • Picking a winning strategy in such an environment is rather challenging
  • There are still opportunities in the API space and in the end-user services space. They probably don’t have the business models we’re used to in VoIP
  • Where everything now is an API, some vendors are mistaking API with developers and platforms. Such openness may be necessary everywhere, but while some use it to create new use cases, others need to focus on ease of integration with 3rd parties instead

What is missing?

WebRTC is missing today a vendor that will come up with a really interesting business model.

The ones you now see are mainly subscription based and a few revenue sharing ones. There’s little in the area of advertising, true e-commerce or data monetization – business models that have proven themselves for internet start ups in other domains.

 


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