WebRTC will not Disrupt VoIP

March 24, 2014

Time for me to take an opposite stand from what I am usually comfortable with.

My wife always complains that I like to argue โ€“ even when I agree with her. Someone told me that last week as well. My reasons? Wellโ€ฆ if you want a lively conversation, then people can’t just agree about everything. What’s the fun in that?

Reading a post by Seth Godin, about changing my mind, I decided to try and practice it here for a single post:

If you needed to, could you argue passionately for that thing you don’t believe in today? Could you imagine walking over to the other side of the new argument, to once again hear that sound?

So today, just for your amusement, I am going to join the dark side: those pesky people who think WebRTC isn’t changing anything.

Here it goes.

We are now over 2 years down the road with WebRTC. During that time:

  • WhatsApp grew by over 200 million users. It got acquired. For $19B
  • WeChat grew by over 250 million

And WebRTC? We can’t even find a single consumer deployment of it with a couple of million active users. Let alone 100s of millions. Same time. No action.


Moving to the enterprise, we have Lync, eating up the Unified Communication market in the US, and changing its marketing to Universal Communication.

WebRTC anyone?

It should be no surprise that this is the case:

  • WebRTC doesn’t work on 50% of its intended target market: IE and Safari don’t support it
  • On mobile, WebRTC isn’t making any strides. It has a few downloadable mobile browsers for Android that supports it. Nothing on iOS. That’s when “mobile first” is moving from a concept to reality
  • There is no decision regarding its video codec, and even when there will be, it seems to be ignoring the existing deployments out there that is using H.264
  • Its voice codec is even newer than WebRTC’s own existence


WebRTC may be a good technology, but no one serious enough is adopting it. Whatever you can implement with WebRTC, is achievable with existing means of technologies even today. There were open source and commercial VoIP clients and media engines before WebRTC. There were services and infrastructure for VoIP before WebRTC.

It seems to me that the only real progress with WebRTC is the technology vendors adding WebRTC as part of their VoIP offerings โ€“ as just another access point into their networks.

Don’t waste your time on adopting WebRTC. Disruption won’t come from WebRTC. Focus instead on delivering real value to customers with existing VoIP technologies.

How was I? Any other good arguments why WebRTC isn’t what we need that you can contribute?

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  1. Amazon Kindle “MayDay” button uses WebRTC (Chrome’s version) under the covers (with the you-should-never-use-this SDES SRTP keying…)

    Vonage is using WebRTC under the covers on Mobile IIRC.

    And of course it’s Google’s intention to use it in Hangouts

    1. For the sake of this post, I am the “unbeliever”:

      True, but not impressive. You Amazon, Vonage and Hangouts can be developed without WebRTC. For that matter, Vonage is nothing more than a Skype copy, Amazon Mayday is something we’ve been doing for years already with video conferencing (VRS market in the US, capabilities of Lync, etc). And Hangouts? It is an extension on Chrome!

  2. Just maybe when Vidyo starts to ship their H2O offering we’ll finally be able to point to something that’s a commercially installed WebRTC story. That is, presuming that Google continues moving Hangouts toward a WebRTC future.

  3. You know…if WebRTC had simply embraced SIP and SDP as they stood and didn’t decide to choose odd codecs, implement DTLS, make ICE so dang confusing (SIP INFO…really?), didn’t make a mess of the javascript API, etc….etc…etc….maybe it would be further along. I have to say…in many regards, Microsoft is right in not supporting it…it’s a mess.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you less ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think that without a doubt, adding SIP, SDP and the boring codecs we have today would have brought WebRTC to a place where it disrupts nothing at all – which is still the whole point of this post.

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