In Part 1 of this series, I argued that the WebRTC movement has a lot of striking parallels to that of VoIP, such as both technologies being dubbed seminal events, experiencing architectural challenges and progressing through various stages of deployment. In other words, both technologies followed the standard hype curve through the excitement phase and, now, it remains to be seen whether WebRTC, like VoIP, will move successfully into reality.
Do I think we are going to suddenly find that WebRTC has moved forward at warp speed? I think we will. That happened to VoIP. There was a lot of the same stuff going on and then one day we woke up and VoIP was everywhere, with TDM declining at 30 percent a year. IP-PBXs started to dominate.
So what do we have to change and address for WebRTC to become mainstream?
- Interoperability: We need to interoperate other services and applications with WebRTC. As we interoperate with service providers, there will be other networks that will require interconnections as well. And challenges come with interoperability. For instance, we have to figure out the roaming and billing aspects and the lawful intercept. These are all important for WebRTC to take off fully.
- Standards: Standards issues have been dragging on and are some of the chief reasons WebRTC hasn’t gone as forward as fast as many had hoped it would. But keep in mind that this is normal. We went through the same standards challenges with VoIP. In the beginning it was H323, then we had SIP and H323 wars, then we figured it out and it’s mostly SIP today. But we have to figure out the standards obstacles because they will slow things down unnecessarily.
- Business Useful: Most importantly, WebRTC has to be viewed as “business useful.” Dialogic’s CEO, Kevin Cook, first used this term during the WebRTC conference last year. What we mean by business useful is that technology can be innovative and cool but it will only get rolled out if it makes things cheaper, makes you money or provides a service you couldn’t do before. It has to be useful for business in order to roll it out. That’s why the applications are so important because if it’s just about making a peer-to-peer phone call, we have that already; it’s called Skype. WebRTC applications have to be different.
So is it really as easy as all of that to bring WebRTC from hype to reality?
I would argue yes and no. It’s possible if the community sidesteps the aforementioned challenges, it’s possible. But I would also argue no because we have a lot of work to do, especially behind the scenes. We have to interoperate with all the different networks, get the standards resolved and figure out the issues of dealing with service providers.
But I feel confident that if we do all of that, then WebRTC will succeed. And if we succeed, then 2015 for WebRTC will look drastically different.