WebRTC – The Future of Mobile Video

MWC 2013 Barcelona EricssonI remember seeing video phones at the Bell Canada Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal when I was a kid and I was amazed. According to Bell, we would have two-way video calling available “in the near future” and I couldn’t wait.  Here we are some 40 plus years later and we are almost there. Bell didn’t deliver on their promise of videophones in every household but we are on the cusp of a technology revolution that will put videophones in everyone’s pocket…. if they have a smartphone that is.

Sure, today there is Skype that works great on your PC or MAC and to a lesser extent on your phone and Facetime works well if you are within the Apple ecosystem, but nothing that is truly device agnostic – until now.

WebRTC is a free, open source project that enables web browsers with peer-to-peer Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple JavaScript application program interface protocols or APIs.  Supported by Google and Mozilla browsers, WebRTC has the capability of delivering secure high quality video and audio right to your smartphone without having to download any plugins or apps. All it takes is a dozen lines of JavaScript code, and any web application can enable a rich teleconferencing experience with peer-to-peer data transfers. Being able to embed WebRTC video right in your browser is nothing short of revolutionary and we will see a plethora of new companies pop up to take advantage of this new technology.

At the WebRTC III conference last November held in Santa Clara California, I had the opportunity to meet Ian Small, CEO of the leading WebRTC solution provider TokBox and fellow Canadian. According to Ian “The WebRTC market is growing.  By far the most important takeaway from the conference is that this is a vibrant, growing market.” Indeed – with just Chrome and Mozilla supporting it to date, WebRTC works on over 1 billion browsers – not too shabby.

Some people will say that video calling will never catch on, that people don’t want to SEE who they are talking to. These are probably the same people who thought texting wouldn’t catch on – but it did. It’s estimated that 93% of all human communication is visual which seems to suggest we DO like seeing the person we are talking to. The problem is that so far it hasn’t been easy to do. With WebRTC, video calling becomes a button on your browser no matter what kind of smartphone you use.

According to Tokbox, 380 million people will use live video regularly by 2015. Let’s hope their “near future” doesn’t take another 40 years….