Peer-to-Peer Web

Peer-to-Peer Web and WebRTC, What’s So Special About It?

Topic of the month covered by WebRTC “activists”

For this month the topic is: Peer-to-Peer – WebRTC is one of the few peer-to-peer protocols in the web.  What can a peer-to-peer protocol offer over a client server one?

Peer-to-Peer Web

Starting with my opinion on this topic.

Amir Zmora

Link: TheNewDialTone

Wikipedia lists 3 major components of WebRTC, 2 of which relate to the peer-to-peer nature of it. The beauty of WebRTC stems from the combination of:

  • Peer-to-peer
  • Embedded in the browser
  • Standard APIs

With these 3, low latency applications can be developed and run on any supporting browser. Content distribution, real-time communication between people and multi-participant games are good examples. Being a technology, innovation depends on the implementers of the application. The technology is not more than a tool to implement the innovative service.

It is also important to note that WebRTC is not “more” peer-to-peer that VoIP protocols such as SIP, both sometimes need to rely on relay of the streams given symmetric NATs clients are behind.

Alan Quayle

Link: Alan Quayle

The peer to peer capabilities of WebRTC are cool, low latency communication of really anything. Check out this winning hack at TADHack Madrid from Carlos Verdes, Jaime Casero, and Carlos Torrenti called, PlayMyBand, The actions of the players are immediate on the other screen. The great thing about peer to peer communication with WebRTC is its mandated to use DTLS-SRTP (Datagram Transport Layer Security Secure Real-time Transport Protocol). But as Alan Johnson, Dan Burnett and Mahak Patil (Digital Codex team) have highlight at TADHack, man-in-the-middle attacks are possible. As shown in their excellent demonstration, and how ZRTP (Zimmermann (its inventor) Real-time Transport Protocol) over WebRTC data channel can solve this, which is now an IETF draft This demonstrates the power of the web community to quickly plug holes as the community discovers them, and could make WebRTC a target for governments in their encryption ban crusade (

Tsahi Levent-Levi


WebRTC is about several orthogonal things:

  1. Access to the camera and microphone
  2. Ability to send voice and video in real time
  3. Ability to send arbitrary data as well as voice and video directly between browsers

Most use cases and value today is derived from the ability to send voice and video in real time – this is where obvious use cases reside. Most of them will work without the peer to peer nature of WebRTC. In some cases, though, the ability to do things directly between browsers, peer to peer is invaluable. Two important characteristics that come to mind:

  1. We’re reducing load from the servers, which allows us to scale our services better and at a lower cost. It opens up the road for more use cases and different business models
  2. It adds privacy to play, since the server isn’t privy to the interactions

What developers end up doing with it is what is really interesting.

Sorell Slaymaker

Link: Gartner

WebRTC’s peer-to-peer capability enables real-time voice and video to take the shortest path and keep the media bandwidth from having to go through a server.  As the number of devices that we utilize to communicate with scales, forcing all media to go through servers is not cost effective, especially HD video.  Plus peer-to-peer communication can be more secure, since there is not a centralized place for it to be monitored and recorded.

Video will be everywhere, so we can be effectively anywhere.  Real-time video is more exciting than stored video, just like watching a football game.  The Internet of Things (IoT) and social media will continue to drive real-time video.

One killer application that is at the cusp of taking off is remote monitoring.  Users remotely monitoring the things they care about – pets, property, family members, …

A WebRTC solution enables a low cost, secure way of providing video everywhere we would like to be.  ​

Dean Bubley

Link: Disruptive Analysis

P2P gives security, privacy, and unpredictability. Given the rise of unlawful surveillance from authoritarian and supposedly-democratic nations alike, this is increasingly important.

Rules of engagement for Topic of the Month: No product/company promotion. Contributors should have a wide market perspective.

If you would like to join this initiative and have your opinion published here in future posts please drop me a note.

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