When the WebRTC project was launched, speculation quickly spread about the potential for browser-based communications to disrupt the communications market and eliminate the need for PBXs, phones, and UC applications. That clearly has not happened in either the business or consumer markets, however, as hurdles appeared on two fronts: confusion over standards and lack of support from several major browsers and communications vendors prevented a takeover.
Here is a refresher of WebRTC technology for readers who may not be familiar with it: WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communications and it allows browser and app-based endpoints to communicate via application programming interfaces (APIs). The advantage of this technology over other types of communications technologies is that it allows audio and video communication to work inside web pages using direct peer-to-peer communication instead of plug-ins or native apps that must be downloaded and installed. This helps to reduce complexity, provided that devices are using the same protocols.
Chrome, Firefox, and Opera were early supporters of WebRTC, but Microsoft lagged behind until the release of its Edge browser. Even so, when it did begin offering real-time communications it did so using an alternative API set it called ORTC, which further delayed a consensus on standards. Apple also delayed support until the release of the Safari 11 last year. This meant many users would have to install dreaded plug-ins to participate in WebRTC sessions.
That said, WebRTC continued to grow, though not as rapidly and without the dominance some had projected. Today, the majority of communications providers and developers now support web real-time communications, and web developers are increasingly embedding click-to-call capabilities into their apps and websites using it. A study by Nemertes Research last year reported that more than a quarter of respondents were supporting or planned to support web-based voice using plug-in free WebRTC.
WebRTC Is Ready To Play
Now that all the major browsers have standardized support thanks to the open source WebRTC project, the playing field has been leveled between major legacy players and the new generation of smaller communications and collaboration providers.
The result will be a new phase of growth around WebRTC-enabled apps and services in almost any market. Easy targets include healthcare, education, customer service, and insurance applications, but the simplicity of browser and app-based communications can be extended to make any business communications applications inherently user-friendly. The contextual consumer experience users enjoy with their Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, and other social communications apps will now work with enterprise communications for streamlined experiences in any setting.
The opportunities WebRTC presents to augment communications extend to every app, website, and service. While it may not achieve the global dominance some predicted, WebRTC will continue to grow and deliver the simplicity and choice promised by Unified Communications.