The WebRTC Revolution – Part 1

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Here at the Lab a lot of emphasis is done on Researching new technologies. In this post I’m going to give you a quick introduction to WebRTC and why you should know about it.

If you’re a fan of the Internet (really who isn’t?), then in the next year or so you might start seeing an entire new set of applications that don’t require you to download plug-ins of any sort.

The Web started out very simple. It was built as a simple medium to transmit text (otherwise known as Hypertext) across computers.

Eventually it came at a crossroads. It was able to transmit text, videos, pictures, and music but all of that was static. Which meant that if you wanted to dive deeper into something say a Profile of a Member of the Chili Peppers, the entire page would have to be refreshed. If you were playing a song, it would be interrupted entirely. AJAX came to the rescue and it allowed for parts of a page to be refreshed while leaving all the others untouched.

In 2008 when Mobile Devices were about to hit mass adoption, Websockets was introduced. Websockets enabled real time communication between devices. For example, if you were to use a Chat application – before the advent of Websockets, the application would use something called Long Polling which meant that the application would continuously ping maybe every 5 seconds, or 10 seconds to see whether or not any new information was pushed to the database. Websockets allowed for the application to hold a constant, open connection so that any new information would be retrieved right away.

WebRTC is the next stage. I’ll keep it short for the sake of Brevity.

If the hype is true, it will basically revolutionize the Internet. So far much of the progress with the Web has been on the Computing side. It’s important to know that the Web itself is an amalgamation of Computing and Communications Technologies. WebRTC is simply an improvement on the Communications side of the Web.

The Web is becoming a hotbed of Interactive Media. Unfortunately, the best solution we know of is to use third party applications such as Flash (and the lesser remembered Java Applets **shudder**) as a kludge to make our applications on the Web more ‘Media Rich’ (Coined Rich Internet Applications). The inherent problem with this is that Flash is a plugin created by a third party application developer. The Consortium needs to come up with a solution for that’s built directly into the Web from the ground up. There are many problems with Flash and by not finding a replacement will severely limit the amount of innovation that comes out of the Web in the upcoming decades.

Currently HTML5 is a solution by the Consortium to make the Web handle Media Rich Files such as Audio and Video without having to use Flash. WebRTC on the other hand, is promising a solution to make the Web handle Communication Rich Mediums such as Video Chat, and Voice Calling without having to use Flash.

In the next part I’ll give you more of an in depth argument on the state of the Web and more on WebRTC and why it is such a vital piece to the Web. Some people don’t think WebRTC will ever succeed because the leading technology companies have their own vested interests (Apple with Facetime, Microsoft with Skype…etc), whereas others such Google, Mozilla, and Opera are fighting to keep future Web Technologies from being Closed.

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