What would be your preference? A Free or an Open Source WebRTC Plugin?
If you could choose between a free and an open source WebRTC plugin for Internet Explorer and/or Safari – what would it be? To answer that question, let’s first start with defining the differences.
Free WebRTC Plugin for Internet Explorer (and Safari)
A free WebRTC plugin is a plugin that you as a developer can use freely when you deploy your service.
Think of it as Flash – there’s one such plugin for the browser. No Flash from Adobe and Flash from ACME A or Flash from ACME B.
It gets hosted somewhere and any developer who wishes to use it, can just embed the relevant code for that plugin in his Java Script, and by way of miracle, this gets installed and used by browsers.
The same plugin is used by many services, so if someone already bumped into a service that uses that plugin while browsing with Internet Explorer, he won’t need to install it when he uses another, different service, that happens to make use of that same plugin. There’s an effort to make it as commonplace as Flash on browsers (at least until Microsoft and Apple get their act together about WebRTC).
You need not worry about download bandwidth, hosting, etc. This is taken care of for you.
You also don’t need to care about updates – just that when it happens it doesn’t break your service (which you should do anyway for WebRTC).
The internals of that plugin? A black box. It is a binary package that you can’t really look inside, as there’s no source code coming with it.
For what it’s worth, you rely on the third party of that plugin.
Open Source WebRTC Plugin for Internet Explorer (and Safari)
An open source WebRTC plugin will be the same binary above, just provided in/with source code, but no hosting.
You get to pick that code, compile it on your own, decide where to host it, maybe do modifications to the code.
You end up making it a part of your own code/service which you manage and control. But it also means you need to update and upgrade it as time goes by (and believe me – you should expect frequent updates in the coming year or two).
It also means this is a unique plugin for your own service. No “cross pollination” between two separate services that use the same piece of open source plugin here. At least not from my technical understanding of browser plugins (which is not as strong as my understanding of VoIP).
Temasys versus easyRTC
Here’s the thing:
- Temasys released a free WebRTC plugin
- Priologic (easyRTC) just released an open source WebRTC plugin (since then discontinued)
To make things easier, here’s a quick comparison table (a non-technical one):
* I already am aware of several technical issues with the Temasys plugin by those who are using it, but that is unfair as the easyRTC one hasn’t been released yet, so we don’t really know how good it is. The table above just assumes they are on part when it comes to quality and capabilities
What are real experts saying?
I had a quick chat with Doug Pelton, CEO of Priologic, where I voiced my concerns for the needs for another plugin after the Temasys release.
He gave some good reasons for why he thinks the easyRTC plugin still makes sense, which I quickly discarded (being the hard headed person I am). But then I did the rounds of pinging others on email to pick their brain on it. Since I haven’t really asked permission to publish it here, I am not going to write their answers, but I’ll try to elaborate their thoughts:
- Some were against a plugin, suggesting to wait for the real deal from Microsoft and Apple. For them, these free/open source plugins are just noise
- Others worried about the ability of these companies (each less than 50 employees) to maintain and support such a plugin and run as fast as Google with their releases – and doing that while trying to make a living from their actual products
- There was a hidden assumption that using such a plugin will end up with a monetary support relationship at some point for the plugin. Not sure I agree. I tend to see these plugins as straightforward additions to a service, if they have been developed correctly
- Some stated that either Temasys or Priologic are competitors, which places them at an inconvenience in terms of using them
- For Temasys, there was some who worried that the plugin might do more than advertised – as a binary, it is hard to know – the logic went. Some didn’t understand why they decided not to open source it – this added to their suspicions
- One stated that Temasys can simply open source their code and be done with it, placing it at a better position than Priologic. I agree
Others weren’t as quick to dismiss the notion of an open source plugin as I were. And now I have second thoughts myself…
It will be interesting to see how this develops and who from the large ecosystem that we now have for WebRTC will adopt which of the plugins available.
Why is this important?
The game is on for API platforms, and easyRTC, although not a pure API platform, is playing the game as well.
The number of tools and options available for developers is growing nicely. Areas where challenges exist are being addressed by solutions coming from the ecosystem, and it is better to join the game than to dismiss it.
Need to know where WebRTC is available? Download this free WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet.