Apple has quietly begun developing support for the Google-backed WebRTC standard inside Safari’s WebKit spec, and this is going to be a big deal for any Mac or iOS user – and everybody else, read on for why:
What is WebRTC?
WebRTC is a standard that supports browser-based real-time communication. Originally developed by Google the standard is now managed by the W3C. WebRTC enables browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and file sharing without the need for any external plug-ins, other than a compatible browser. Another way to put it is that WebRTC will be another big nail in the coffin of that ghastly Flash “standard” that currently despoils online “experiences”. Disruptive Analysis believes WebRTC support will be built into over 6 billion devices by 2019. So what are the benefits to you?
1. Thoughts on Flash
Light up the hallways, shoot your fireworks, dance skip down the streets of your towns – each time a reason to use Flash disappears the world becomes a very slightly better place. WebRTC will share video at better quality (and eventually at lower bandwidth) than possible using Flash. Soon Flash will be shown up for what it is, a second-rate advertising medium.
In theory at least WebRTC makes it possible to embed audio and visual communications in browsers without need for any plugins. At its simplest this suggests that any device, platform or wearable solution capable of running a Web browser may become a collaborative tool. This opens up opportunities for multi-user Web meetings across platforms and devices at low or very low bandwidth requirements. Anyone who has ever been involved in a critical online meeting will recognize just how useful that can be.
3. File Sharing
Sharing of files and other assets is another feature of the standard, but I’ll let Cisco VP, Susie Wee, explain: “By integrating real-time communications directly into web browsers, WebRTC opens up a world of possibilities. For example, we will see rich image and video apps directly within our mobile or tablet browsers. We will also be able to share files directly without a software client. And any user will be able to broadcast and share live audio, video, and data—and it will be as simple as opening a web page,”
4. Customer service
Amazon has already enabled WebRTC support in some of its devices. It’s the standard that enables users to access customer support help within a few seconds. Healthcare providers including Claris Healthcare and Regroup Therapy also use the standard within their systems. These implementations are match fit with current trends across the digitization of all industry, and I’m sure there are many more.
5. A seat at the table
Apple’s move to slowly field support for WebRTC inside a future version of Safari is essential in order that iOS and MacOS users aren’t left outside the standards loop. This is the beauty of standards and is precisely why those firms that have attempted to use control of elements of some standards against competitors should never be forgiven.
What is critical to understand is that once Apple takes a seat at the WebRTC table rapid deployment of solutions exploiting the standard will begin – that’s great because, despite the promise of WebRTC, some key functionality remains to be introduced (such as incoming message notifications without use of a media server).
"Without Apple's commitment, doubt and fear were common among companies and organizations looking to incorporate WebRTC in their products and services," Blacc Spot Media CEO, Lantre Barr observed.
Apple’s muscle and vibrant developer community can only accelerate improvement and implementation to the standard, to the benefit of everyone on every platform.
Apple watchers will also note that the evolution of one more reason to abandon Flash once again proves visionary Apple founder, Steve Jobs, right.
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