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If you are new to WebRTC then you have missed out on years of drama in the standards bodies over various issues like SDP and codecs. These standards dictate what vendors must implement so they ultimately dictate the industry roadmap.  To get a deep perspective and appreciation of the issues, we like to ask Dan Burnett, W3C editor to comment on where we are at with the standardization process. I caught up with Dan at this year’s IIT Real Time Communications Conference and had the more detailed Q&A with him shortly thereafter.

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This is the next decode and analysis in Philipp Hancke’s Blackbox Exploration series conducted by &yet in collaboration with Google. Please see our previous posts covering WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for more details on these services and this series. {“editor”: “chad hart“}

FaceTime is Apple’s answer to video chat, coming preinstalled on all modern iPhones and iPads. It allows audio and video calls over WiFi and, since 2011, 3G too. Since Apple does not talk much about WebRTC (or anything else), maybe we can find out if they are using WebRTC behind the scenes?

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The world of browsers and how they work is both complex and fascinating. For those that are new to the browser engine landscape, Google, Apple, and many others collaborated on an open source web rendering engine for many years known as WebKit.  WebKit has active community with many less well known browsers that use it, so the WebKit community was shocked when Google announced they would fork WebKit into a new engine for Chrome called Blink.

Emphasis for implementing WebRTC shifted with Google into Blink at the expense of WebKit. To date, Apple has not given any indications it was going to add  WebRTC into WebKit (see this post for an idea on nudging them). This is not good for the eclectic WebKit development community that would like to start working with WebRTC or those hoping for WebRTC support in Apple’s browsers.

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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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