When Apple announced its intention to support WebRTC technology for iOS11 and Safari last month, we all in the real-time communications (RTC) space felt a collective “thwomp”. Apple’s announcement represents the latest and so far largest domino to fall, likely clearing a path towards the mainstream adoption of embedded RTC solutions.
Although industry insiders had been predicting this move for almost half a year, the endorsement serves as validation for WebRTC, which has effectively served browser-based RTC endpoints and use cases. “Even though Safari doesn’t have a huge market share, Apple’s support of the technology is proof that the web platform is a viable platform,” said one RTC industry expert, who wishes to remain anonymous. “This is what Google was aiming for when they first initiated WebRTC, that it would become a viable platform on which users could easily communicate through the browser.”
Apple’s announcement is particularly significant because when the tech giant makes a move, the industry and its customers tend to follow. With Internet Explorer the only remaining major holdout, the pressure will be on Microsoft to fall in line. In the meantime, we believe WebRTC and its surrounding ecosystem will gain momentum, helping the technology to cross the chasm.
Room for Growth
However, WebRTC 1.0 up to this point still only covers the fundamentals. There remains a huge amount of development work to be done on features such as background processing and improvements in codecs. “Across the board, all the way around, the issue is implementation,” stated our RTC industry expert. RTC’s viability and adoption across more verticals will depend on the extent to which WebRTC’s developers implement these improvements, see what else might need work, and continuously innovate.
Given its giant footprint in the smartphone market, iOS11’s support of the technology will surely boost visibility and incentivize WebRTC development for mobile endpoints. This will lead to intensifying discussions on quality and scale, both of which represent huge hurdles for RTC in mobile computing.
First, because of CPU constraints, low-end devices do not yet support WebRTC. This explains why both Facebook Messenger and Skype opted to build “lite” versions of their respective applications for developing markets such as India. On top of that, even on the latest high-end devices, WebRTC technology leads to significant inefficiencies with respect to battery and CPU consumption (1). As such, as long as WebRTC technology struggles to work on the devices in our pockets, mainstream RTC use that spans across multiple devices will be difficult to realize.
Second, open-source WebRTC technology serves only as an endpoint, leaving the heavy-lifting and transporting of data up to the public Internet. According to Callstats.io’s April 2017 WebRTC metrics report, a staggering 18% of conference sessions experience churn, in which a user repeatedly drops in and out of the session due to network connectivity (2). This highlights a gigantic question mark in regards to scalability and quality of experience, due to unpredictable and often clogged-up public network conditions.
Agora.io will work with RTC leaders and customers to tackle these challenges
With the release of our SDK version 1.12 next week, Agora.io is on the path towards building the industry’s first RTC platform with web-to-native interoperability. This achievement places us in prime position to partner with thought leaders, partners, and customers to tackle RTC’s technology and network challenges, and to bring more scalable and global solutions to the table.
Agora’s RTC platform builds upon WebRTC’s strengths and expands its reach to provide a full-stack solution that delivers benchmark quality-of-experience and network resiliency from endpoint (web) to endpoint (mobile).
We achieve this through our Software-Defined Real-Time Network (SD-RTN), which is architected in the cloud and delivered through a robust, yet simple to integrate SDK, enabling low-latency, highly resilient audio and video communication on a planetary scale. Our SDK has been optimized for mobility, and our network dynamically routes around Internet bottlenecks, enabling our customers to deliver high-quality RTC solutions to their users.
Going back to India– where 4G is just getting established, and both Facebook Messenger and Skype don’t currently support video calling due to device and network constraints– Hike Messenger, another leader in social media and messaging, chose Agora.io precisely because our audio and video solutions reach the most devices and stay resilient in the face of the country’s mobile networking challenges.
As the world’s leading communications-platform-as-a-service, we envision a future in which interactivity is fully embedded into the digital universe through dynamic and reliable audio, video and broadcasting technology. As WebRTC and the broader RTC space continues to grow, we’re eager and well-positioned to help drive the industry forward and make our vision a reality.