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How has the WebRTC codec clash affected adoption?

WebRTC expert Tsahi Levent-Levi explains how video codec discord has affected WebRTC adoption. Take a closer look at why a vendor or organization wouldn't adopt the technology.

The WebRTC codec conundrum has had a relatively small effect on WebRTC adoption. The WebRTC specification has endured great debate to settle on the default codecs. The decision was to mandate both VP8 and H.264 video codecs in web browsers.

During that debate, and even now, WebRTC adoption was limited to users who were happy with the VP8 video codec, which was implemented at that time by the browsers. This ruled out vendors who needed H.264 for their use case and others who couldn't cope with the uncertainty of not knowing which WebRTC codec would be chosen.

Taking a closer look at these two groups of nonadopters gives a better indication of where WebRTC adoption is headed.

Vendors who needed H.264 for their use case got their answer only recently when Google finally released H.264 support for WebRTC in Chrome. Video codec support requires a long process of development and integration; this isn't something a codec vendor can add in a month or two. Google extended its original release plan by over half a year to get H.264 out the door.

I am not sure any Google product manager would have prioritized the development differently if the decision on the default video codec in WebRTC happened sooner.

Vendors who couldn't cope with the uncertainty of WebRTC are still out on a limb today. With no WebRTC support in Apple Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer, and very limited support in Microsoft Edge, how would a decision on a WebRTC codec enable them to make a decision?

To some extent, the reverse question is more interesting: How has WebRTC's adoption affected the video codec wars elsewhere? Was it a catalyst to the acceptance of the VP9 codec we see today and why the Alliance for Open Media came to be?

Do you have a question for Tsahi Levent-Levi or any other experts? Ask your enterprise-specific questions today! (All questions are treated anonymously.)

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