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Apple Feast

Apple Feast photo courtesy of flikr user Overduebook. Licensed under Creative Commons NC2.0.

One of the biggest complaints about WebRTC is the lack of support for it inside Safari and iOS’s webview. Sure you can use a SDK or build your own native iOS app, but that is a lot of work compared to Android which has Chrome and WebRTC inside the native webview on Android 5 (Lollipop) today. Apple being Apple provides no external indications on what it plans to do with WebRTC. It is unlikely they will completely ignore a W3C standard, but who knows if iOS support is coming tomorrow or in 2 years.

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Unnatural shrinkage. Photo courtesy Flikr user Ed Schipul

Unnatural shrinkage. Photo courtesy Flikr user Ed Schipul

One evening last week, I was nerd-sniped by a question Max Ogden asked:

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That is quite an interesting question. I somewhat dislike using Session Description Protocol (SDP)  in the signaling protocol anyway and prefer nice JSON objects for the API and ugly XML blobs on the wire to the ugly SDP blobs used by the WebRTC API.

The question is really about the minimum amount of information that needs to be exchanged for a WebRTC connection to succeed.

 WebRTC uses ICE and DTLS to establish a secure connection between peers. This mandates two constraints:

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A couple of decades ago if you bought something of any reasonable complexity, odds are it came with a call center number you had to call in case something went wrong. Perhaps like the airline industry, economic pressures on contact centers shifted their modus operandi from customer delight to cost reduction. Unsurprisingly this has not done well for contact center public sentiment. Its no wonder the web came along to augment and replace much of this experience –  but no where near all it. Today, WebRTC offers a unique opportunity for contact centers to combine their two primary means of customer interaction – the web and phone calls – and entirely change the dynamic to the benefit of both sides.

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I was starting to work with a big dataset and was dreading the idea of bogging down my machine with MySQL or SQLServer, so I decided to give Google’s BigQuery a try. Before I got into my project, I was pleasantly surprised to a public GitHub dataset was readily available. Tsahi does a cursory analysis of WebRTC projects on GitHub by manually counting search results every month. I was also inspired by Billy Chia‘s great NoJitter post analyzing WebRTC topics on Stack Overflow.

I was curious to see if I could extract some details from GitHub to see:

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There have been many major WebRTC launches in the past months including Facebook and KimDotCom. Before those, Mozilla started bundling a new WebRTC calling service right into Firefox. Of course we wanted to check out to see how it worked.

To help do this we called on the big guns – webrtcHacks guest columnist Philipp Hancke. Philipp is one of the smartest guys in WebRTC outside of Google. In addition to his paid work for &yet he is the leading non-googler to contribute to the webrtc demos and samples and is also a major contributor to the Jitsi Meet and strophe.jingle projects. Google even asks him to proof-read their WebRTC release notes.

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Sorry. We really wanted to do a post-cap of the W3C WebRTC and IETF RTCweb meetings that took place at the end of October and November, but we did not get to it. Victor and Reid provided some commentary on the codec debate prior to the IETF discussion. The outcome of that discussion was widely publicized and we did not have a lot of value to add to this for the developer community.

Importantly, codecs were not the only thing discussed in this latest rounds of standards meetings. There were a couple items like the move to JavaScript promises, output device enumeration, and discussions of security implications that are very relevant to the average WebRTC developer that have gone under the general media radar. To get the whole on standards right from the horse’s mouth, I asked W3C WebRTC editor and founding author Dan Burnett for an update on the recent WebRTC standards meetings and for some details on some of the more significant issues like promises and screen sharing.

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Maybe I have been working with WebRTC for too long, but I constantly see use cases for it in my daily life. One of the more recent use cases has to do with my dog, Levy. Levy is an Old English Bulldog. Many years ago, when he was a cute little puppy, we would let him up on the couch. Over the years he has turned into a massive, gassy, dandruffy, shedding beast so we gradually weaned him off this habit in favor of a oversized, ridiculously fluffy doggy bed. He had been hooked on this new amenity for a while, but in the past several weeks he has been sneakily returning to his old habit when we were not home.

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As WebRTC has matured to a state where it’s first implementations are ready for companies to launch real services around it, the readiness of various companies to adopt WebRTC has fanned out quite a bit. Some are already charging ahead as early adopters, while others are playing it conservative. Of those in the conservative camp, one of the common doubts that gives them pause is: “What about IE?”

MS Elephant

What about IE?

When speaking to those interested in WebRTC, but concerned about Internet Explorer (IE), many times we’ve tried to assure them not to worry: our friends in Redmond won’t be too far behind. We often point to the undeniably significant contributions from Microsoft to WebRTC, especially considering that they bring to the table two titans of VoIP industry (Lync and Skype). We highlight some of their early IE WebRTC demos (using beta code) as signs of progress. We’ve rationalized the absence of  a Microsoft equivalent to what Chrome and Firefox are shipping, by noting the slower release cycle for IE. However, we’ve come to realize that to some, IE support is a really big deal.

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Last year we interviewed Oleg Moskalenko and presented the rfc5766-turn-server project, which is a free open source and extremely popular implementation of TURN and STURN server. A few months later we even discovered Amazon is using this project to power its Mayday service. Since then, a number of features beyond the original RFC 5766 have been defined at the IETF and a new open-source project was born: the coTURN project.

Today we are catching up  with Oleg again to see what’s new and to learn what coTURN is about.

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I threw together the original webrtcHacks design in several hours without really knowing what I was doing, not sure if it would really matter anyway. 13 months later we have 49 posts and 14-15,000 unique visitors a month. My work with WebRTC has also given me a much greater appreciation for modern web design and have become increasingly bothered by our design’s shortcomings. Not to mention – well, many of you have mentioned it – it is really tough to a 3500 word technical article when you have a crappy font and poor contrast.

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