Advantages and disadvantages of WebRTC
In the previous article I wrote about the essence of WebRTC technology. Now let’s take a look at the pluses and minuses of using it as a browser technology for VoIP.
Despite the fact that this technology is still in the process of development and refinement, WebRTC gas some serious advantage over the Flash technology. In particular, the existing WebRTC architecture is more logical and has less disadvantages than Flash plugin, which dominated the market until recently. And if we speak about browser stability and its security against external attacks, then WebRTC is your number one choice for sure.
Today the technology provides better sound quality than Flash solutions, particularly due to the built-in microphone settings that can be changed. The technology uses Opus and G.711 codecs for transferring audio (Opus allows adjusting sound quality to the Internet channel bandwidth).
Due to the open source code of the platform, the interest to it from different business continues to grow. Even though refinement of some technical details may take time, a lot of companies think that it’s strategically profitable to use independent solutions. Also we should take into consideration the fact that WebRTC technology can give a lot of new tools for business.
The main difficulty about WebRTC, as I have already mentioned, is that this standard is still under development. Thus, the code we use now can undergo serious changes in the foreseeable future. There’s an existing WebRTC API version 1.0 but it is mentioned by W3C team that it’s only a working draft and no one can tell when this status will be changed to “stable”. Many specialists though think that this version is final and stable, and draft status can be kept by W3C for a long time without any actual changes to the document.
Another serious problem for WebRTC technology is the list of necessary codecs. At the moment all the participating companies have come to the agreement only on one thing – WebRTC needs one main codec which will be supported by all browsers and thus will be cross platform. Right now VP8 codec is used which is royalty free. But some companies, Cisco in particular, insist on using H.264 (and later on H.265) which are not free. Such a solution will be a problem for third-party software developers. What is more, the use of paid codec breaches the main principle of WebRTC – to use royalty free solutions.
The real use of WebRTC technology
Today WebRTC API is supported by most leading Browsers for Windows (Google Chrome, Firefox, Yandex and Opera beta). In spring, 2013, Chrome for Android support was announced. Also, WebRTC API is available as C++ library which allows using this technology in independent solutions. But regardless of these vast possibilities it’s too early to say that it dominates the market. At least until the position of Microsoft and Apple is clear.
Around a year ago SIP solutions began to appear which use WebRTC API. One of these solutions has found commercial use (callbacker.com). Another service allows taking web cam photos directly from a web page and applying different effects to it (webcamtoy.com). There’s also a WebRTC-based project that allows creating networks for transferring multimedia content (peercdn.com). In this case we speak about integrating a piece of code into the page code which provides data transfer via peering network.
WebRTC idea has a lot of critics. One of their main arguments is the uncertainty of further development of the project. Right now the technology is not cross platform and supported by a limited number of browsers. Nevertheless, there’s still a possibility of WebRTC becoming dominant at the market of telephony.