In the past two years, I have been asked repeatedly: What is the status of WebRTC adoption? What are some viable WebRTC use cases? And when will we start seeing "real companies" using WebRTC and rolling out their services?
We've seen WebRTC adoption from multiple companies, both large and small. But the FUD question remains the same: Is WebRTC adopted at all?
These questions and apprehension seem reasonable, especially when considering the risks of adopting a new technology. Knowing that others have taken the plunge, and succeeded, is seen as a positive indicator. The problem is when people question the technology in the face of evidence that WebRTC is already here.
The two main WebRTC use cases this year are the contact center and unified communications (UC). In contact centers, many companies are trying to give users voice and video access to the contact center directly from the browser, while others are focused on modernizing and virtualizing the agent's workspace.
In UC, we've seen Avaya, Cisco, Polycom and Unify release products and services with WebRTC this year. Also this year, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook and others announced they have adopted WebRTC.
Yet, other companies are still hesitant. They want adoption numbers. But is that even possible? Can we really measure the adoption of WebRTC?
The sad answer is that measuring WebRTC adoption by vendors is somewhere between hard and impossible -- especially since it's difficult to pinpoint and define who uses the browser-based technology and how. WebRTC is both a standard specification and an open source stack. From the prism of an open source stack, vendors are using WebRTC in a variety of ways -- not necessarily even targeting Web browsers.
How would you view the following three examples of WebRTC use cases?
- Amazon has a service on its Kindle Fire tablets called Mayday, which allows users to call a support agent directly from the tablet with video capabilities. No browser required. This feature works for users only from their Kindle Fire tablet. Is this a WebRTC service? After analyzing network traffic, it certainly seems like it uses WebRTC.
- WhatsApp is a popular consumer messaging service that was acquired by Facebook. The service recently added voice calling. Network analysis suggests WhatsApp uses components of the WebRTC codebase while breaking WebRTC's network protocol to fit their needs. Can we call this WebRTC adoption?
For several months, I've maintained a list of vendors using WebRTC. Every month, I add 30 to 40 new vendors to the list, which consists of more than 700 vendors now. Some vendors are in beta, others have successful commercial services like American Express's use of WebRTC to connect customers and agents via video chat.
Five hundred vendors should be enough of a reason to adopt WebRTC. More than 700 and growing should close the issue.
Ignore the technology and start with WebRTC use cases
Pick your problem that needs solving, and continue from there to decide if WebRTC fits your needs and how.
Typically, WebRTC will be good if:
- You want to communicate from a browser:
- Chrome and Firefox support it natively
- Internet Explorer and Safari do not, but you can use plug-ins with WebRTC or Flash
- Microsoft's new browser, Edge, is showing signs of adoption of WebRTC
- You need to communicate from inside an application:
- Switching to a phone is not ideal since you want to control the experience and maintain context
- You may need video, not only voice
- You need a media engine but don't want to invest a fortune in one:
- WebRTC is essentially a commercial-grade media engine and it's free.
In most cases, you'll end up concluding that WebRTC has a place in your organization.
WebRTC use cases extend beyond contact center.
WebRTC applications could disrupt UC market.
What WebRTC applications will and won't do for enterprises.