WebRTC Standards: Why are They Important?

A year a go I wrote a post talking about Where Standards Matter for WebRTC. As Victor Pascual Avila and I are getting ready for the WebRTC Standards Update Webinar I thought it is a good time to get back to this topic and look at it from a different angle.

Where are the standards when it comes to the Web

There are many misconceptions about what exactly is in the scope of WebRTC and what isn’t. As a result of that, there are different opinions about the parts in WebRTC that should be standardized. This arises mainly when speaking with VoIP and telecom people as we (yes, I’m one of them) are used to the case where everything is standardized, from top to bottom.

Looking at this in perspective of the Web. When a Web developer builds an application there is only one area where standards apply to him, the things that need to run in the browser (i.e. HTML, CSS and JavaScript). Browsers must be compatible in this area, implement the same APIs and yield the same user experience. How information that is exchanged between the browser and the server is structured is completely up to the developer building the application.

This reality of a closed client-server world with standards for client side implementation that allows users to use whatever browser they choose is one of the things that enabled the speed of change and innovation we are all used to in the Web. This stands in contrast to the slow rate of advancement in the telecom world where all needs to be standard.

WebRTC is all about the Web

Taking the Web application example above and implementing it for WebRTC makes it seem very clear that communication between the client and the server doesn’t need to be standardized. How SDP, session context information, user specific data… are sent from the browser to the server is rightfully left for the application, as every application will have different requirements.

Having said that, things related to making sure WebRTC will run on all browsers must be handled through standards. This part will be the main focus of our coming Webinar.

WebRTC Architecture

The diagram above shows this quite clearly. The areas in WebRTC that are and should be standardized are only those related to the interfaces and capabilities of WebRTC itself. This in essence means:

  • The JavaScript APIs (northbound) – this makes sure a WebRTC application will run in any browser that supports WebRTC
  • On the wire protocols – in essence, this is how voice, video and data streams are exchanged peer-to-peer between browsers. Examples of such are transport protocols, security mechanisms chosen and mandatory voice and video codecs. If this wasn’t standardized, communication between browser of brand A would need to go through some mediation box in order to communicate with browser of brand B

If you are interested in hearing more about WebRTC standards, what are the latest advancements and what is still underwork join us for this free Webinar. To accommodate as many time zones as possible we will have 2 live sessions so head over to this information page and register for the one that best fits your preference.

If there are specific topics you would like to be covered in the Webinar or questions you would like to be answered please feel free to Contact Us.

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