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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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As detailed in previous posts on webrtcHacks, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has worked for the past few years to standardize the “on-the-wire” protocols that make up the WebRTC engine. It is coming up on 3 months since IETF 88 in Vancouver, where the IETF was to have settled the matter of a mandatory-to-implement (MTI) video codec. The process resulted in no consensus, and the task of finalizing WebRTC 1.0 drags on with MTI video codec(s) in question.  A recent straw poll among IETF participants shows how divided the issue remains.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Carol Browne

We had a lot of traffic to Victor’s post on the WebRTC mandatory video codec earlier this week. Given the news from Cisco yesterday we figured this warranted a quick follow-up post beyond what we could add to the comments area.

Quick debate recap

Engineers don’t like lawyers, and as Victor mentioned in his post earlier this week, much of the debate over assigning a mandatory video codec for WebRTC has been about avoiding the lawyers. While debate over the technical merits of H.264 vs. VP8 yielded no overwhelming winner (they are both great codecs), the debate has more recently revealed it’s true form as a mostly IPR related issue.  The H.264 camp speculated that there could be legal issues with VP8 despite Google’s claims otherwise. There are certainly inherent issues with H.264.  Which one has more risk?  It would take lots of lawyers to sort through this and no one pays for lawyers to go to standards meetings. Even if they did,  it wouldn’t matter – lawyers use arbitrators and the legal system, not technical standards procedures to work through disagreements.

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