WebRTC: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Kevin Glass - March 3, 2016

WebRTC has been active a few years now and we're all loving where it's going. However, where the enterprise is concerned it's just not perfect yet and as a result adoption is not as fast as we'd like. So, what’s wrong? Is it doomed to failure or is there a way we can see this fantastic technology make strides across the enterprise businesses of the world.

The Good:

• WebRTC is powerful, it's quick and easy to implement. People like CafeX have made it possible to connect WebRTC with the existing communication systems already incumbent in big business today. It's extremely quick and easy to add WebRTC to websites and mobile applications, especially when compared to the pain of previous technologies.

• WebRTC is open and actively being developed. Google, Mozilla, Apple and Microsoft (among many others) are actively contributing and working together to bring this standard to life. This level of cooperation has never happened before and the fruits of this labour are evident in an ever-growing standard that is seeing support across browsers.

• WebRTC is smart, it's designed from the ground up to be ready for today's Internet. Everything about the standard is designed to cope with the complexities and capabilities of the internet today. From NAT traversal to optimised codec choice, WebRTC has obviously been designed by some very smart people.

• WebRTC is more than voice and video; it provides the "data channel" which means the benefits of establishing modern Internet connections can be applied to all other types of communication too. While this is sometimes ignored it's actually an incredibly powerful feature that will, in time, change the way the Internet works.

• WebRTC is loved, from WebRTC Hacks to bloggeek.me the community is alive and well, and always trying to improve. The dedication of the community over the last 4 or 5 years has really shone through in the quality decisions being made around WebRTC.

The Bad:

• WebRTC is still new, the standard changes regularly and this means breakages for companies that can't keep up. Small, nimble players are what you need here. If your vendor releases once every 6 months they simply won't keep up with the changes.

• WebRTC is different, it's not what enterprises are used to and understanding how to make this work within the frameworks and policies of existing enterprise infrastructure is work takes effort. There are lots of different answers and approaches here but all require work on the business side. This means change, and change means time, especially in big enterprise.

• WebRTC still has codec complexity: H264 or VP8 (or worse still H264-UC), Opus or G711. There isn't a single answer and different implementations still make choices that make interoperability more difficult. That said, these challenges are getting fixed and there are ways and means to make this work.

The Ugly:

• WebRTC is ignoring enterprise browsers. Let’s be real here, the enterprise internally still uses IE (and in some cases Safari). You won't find much Chrome or Firefox on the average worker's desktop. WebRTC simply isn't available here.

• WebRTC needs plugins in enterprise browsers. Many companies, including CafeX, provide plugins for IE and Safari to bridge the WebRTC gap. However, getting these plugins approved within the enterprise is a hard and time consuming process. Not least because these plugins are "New (tm)", making them hard to trust and in most cases a little temperamental to install and run.

Knowing the above, we still think WebRTC is going to happen; it's just going to take time. How do we speed this adoption up? Of course we have some answers, from removing the codec restrictions altogether to providing fall backs that don't require installs on unsupported browsers.

Why not visit CaféX at booth 329 at Enterprise Connect and find out what our answers are and how they can help your business get to web-based voice and video faster and more easily.

Did I miss something good, bad or ugly? By all means leave a comment and let us know!