WebRTC: An Interview With Serge Lachapelle

August 16, 2012

If you haven’t noticed, I am quite interested in WebRTC. When the opportunity arose to ask a Serge Lachapelle, a Group Product Manager @Google who handles WebRTC a few questions – I couldn’t help myself.

Serge Lachapelle is the guy in charge of WebRTC at Google these days. In 1997, Serge co-founded Marratech, a multi user video conferencing software company. Marratech was acquired by Google in 2007 where Serge currently works as Product Manager. At Google, Serge launched Gmail video chat, lead the initial work to build a multi user solution (now Google+ Hangouts) and completed the acquisition of Global IP Solutions (GIPS). This acquisition lead to the creation of webrtc.org, his current project. I guess he is one of the main decision makers when it comes to WebRTC.

Here is a quick Q&A that I did with Serge – enjoy!


What is the most compelling service or demo you’ve seen done on top of WebRTC? Something that didn’t cross your mind when you started off with WebRTC at Google.

All the games, augmented reality and the gesture tracking have really surprised the whole team.


Where do you think WebRTC will have the most impact? Is it pure VoIP? video conferencing? OTT players in the telco market? Someplace else?

I think the main impact will be to naturally bring in human conversation in normal every day scenarios… without having to go to a specific app. Think of it as being able to drop in a real time voice / video conversation in any web app and make it look and feel as natural as a text input field.


What I see today is startup companies playing with and adopting WebRTC wholeheartedly and on the other hand, the large players of the industry looking into it – companies like AT&T and Cisco. Where are all the mid-sized and even large companies? Why aren’t they doing anything interesting with WebRTC?

WebRTC can impact all sizes of companies and we’re excited to see companies like Voxeo – a great example of a medium company – executing with WebRTC projects.


You’ve taken a strategy of desktop first with WebRTC, where in today’s world the tendency is to go mobile first. Why is that?

One reason is that the WebRTC API has undergone several changes at the W3C and IETF. We decided to use the desktop as an implementation reference to iterate quickly in development of the standard. Mobile possibilities for WebRTC are incredible!


I understood that Google Talk, Google Voice and Google+ Hangout are planned to be converged into a single service or platform if you will. I assume that they will be using WebRTC for that. How are you going to solve the scalable video coding issue for Hangout while that happens?

WebRTC is still a very new platform… it has not fully launched :). Our goal is to create an open web platform that has a quality standard so high that any system will be able to adopt it without compromise. First step: launching the basic platform and getting it solid and stable.


Anything else you’d like my readers to be aware of? Other resources that people interested in WebRTC should be following?

+webrtc on google+ is a good resource. Our discuss list onGooglegroups as well and theIETFWebRTCmailinglist. All linked from webrtc.org homepage.


Serge is keeping the WebRTC roadmap close to the chest, and that is something I can understand. For me the fact that the use cases people have been playing with are surprising the Google team as well shows just how much power this technology has.

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