Skype & WebRTC: Death by a Thousand Cuts or a Simple Displacement?

April 16, 2013

Is WebRTC an opportunity to displace Skype or just overwhelm it?

Shattered glass

Chris Koehncke wrote a nice post recently – about Skype’s threat from Google’s WebRTC. It is a good post I suggest you read.

There was one thing that bugged me in it – the way Chris sees it, displacement can come from a single place and that place is Google:

So I started thinking, if there was some WebRTC application that already had a bizllion users, […] maybe some other time worn critical communications elements with the added benefits of a WebRTC capability- now that could likely challenge Skype pretty quickly.

Chris thinks that someone can be Gmail. I think it can be Facebook (more on that next week).

But why should it be a single application with bizllion users? I am more into death by a thousand cuts. These thousand cuts? They are all services – web based services – all vying to can a piece of the communication happening today on Skype.

I did most of my intro calls with companies for the WebRTC interviews over Skype, but recently, the companies I interview prefer them to take place on their own service – using WebRTC.

I assume that Skype “buttons” on websites (can you honestly say you’ve seen such a button?) will be replaced by WebRTC ones in the coming years.

LinkedIn can add the ability to communicate on their site, and there goes some of the interactions from Skype.

Online calendars can do the same, and then scheduled meetings are thrown out the window.

Online dating?

WebRTC doesn’t necessarily need the initial presence/chat mode that Skype offers. It can be added – a lot of WebRTC vendor have done it already – others haven’t – it all depends on the use case.

I’d argue that a lot of interactions that end on Skype start elsewhere – so what happens when that “elsewhere” places decide to add WebRTC?

Did I mention Facebook?

It will be a thousand cuts – big and small ones.


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  1. Couldn’t agree more Tsahi. It is the democratising of voice and video. Communication is moving from a ‘destination’ like a handset or Skype, to an in context feature.

    Being in context is beneficial because:

    * Ease of use – it provides a better user experience through reducing the number if steps it takes to communicate, no swapping of phone numbers or Skype IDs
    * Integration – allows comms to be part of another platform that is better suited to the use case (we have seen this with heavily regulated industries where certain features need to be included in the comms)
    * Meta data – perhaps the most important is that it provides meta data around the user (for example if I clicked to call from my banks website I wouldn’t need to be reauthenticated as I am already logged in and I would have to go through IVR because they know I click from my mortgage page for example)

  2. I do not think that X-th owner of Skype are going to destroy it. But…
    Maybe right now a new IM, voice and video communication tool born. Let’s be abstract from technologies. Twitter was small and unknown and Facebook too. Definitely, in a time being it will become popular and buttons on page will be replaced.

    But I believe in modern world with domination of few technologies, success can come to the interconnection tool, universal button, connecting all major protocols (skype, google talk, hangouts etc). WebRTC based, maybe with native tools for portable devices

    1. The difference here I think that WebRTC brings VoIP to something that can bring the next WordPress – I have my own WordPress site, unrelated to Automattic. There’s no real control over blogs these days, and this is the path I think that WebRTC will take.

  3. I’m a technology guy, so I’m hoping for a push (notification) API from W3C to get done so it can help make WebRTC an even more awesome technology than it is already. 🙂

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