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WebRTC is now a fundamental part of the foundation supporting modern communications.
In a nutshell, WebRTC enables web browsers to support real-time voice and video communication services without requiring users to install anything else. It works out of the box in all browsers. Yet, the road leading to the technology's acceptance hasn't come without a few bumps along the way.
Ever since the open source project began, backers wondered if WebRTC would grow and be widely adopted or whether it would fade away over time. Concerns ranged from browser support -- it wasn't until 2017 that Microsoft and Apple said they would fully incorporate WebRTC in their respective browsers -- to worries about security and patents.
Still, it is apparent that companies are quite happy to adopt WebRTC technology, regardless of its challenges. Three reasons explain why.
First, there is no other alternative; WebRTC is the only real option for easy-to-adopt real-time communications (RTC). Second, its open source roots give developers free access to its code base and permit open source licensing. This made WebRTC a logical choice for those looking for a modern media processing stack. Third, its versatility made it easy for new vendors to enter into the RTC space, enabling suppliers to launch customized services in education, healthcare, gaming and elsewhere with a considerably lower investment.
How WebRTC is used today
As a result, we no longer speak about WebRTC as an emerging technology or discuss its adoption. Instead, companies are using WebRTC in much the same way they use other technologies.
Traditional communication vendors. By the time WebRTC began to take root, traditional communication vendors had already launched their mix of voice and video products. For them, switching to WebRTC technology entailed higher cost and risk as it meant rewriting and rearchitecting large parts of their services. Many vendors tried to wait as long as they could with the transition, often coupling it with the shift toward the cloud. Others added WebRTC support at the edge of their platform, using gateways. A few -- such as Lifesize -- adopted WebRTC wholeheartedly.
Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) providers. CPaaS providers are packaging their WebRTC services for two major markets: contact centers and video calling.
As contact centers migrate to the cloud, they are using WebRTC to modify their agent software to run inside a browser rather than as a stand-alone application. Calls from users continue to be routed to the call center via public switched telephone network but then get funneled via WebRTC to the call center agent's browser. This approach simplifies the deployment and management of call center software without changing the end user's behavior or experience.
WebRTC-enabled video calling, meanwhile, while less widespread than the technology's deployment in call centers, is increasingly being used in a variety of vertical industries.
For CPaaS providers, WebRTC is a means to an end -- the technology lets them support a wider variety of communications scenarios. At the same time, CPaaS providers help democratize WebRTC by cloaking higher-level abstractions on top of the technology, thus simplifying its adoption.
Verticalized deployments. The most interesting area where WebRTC is making a difference is in verticalized deployments. These are specific markets or industries where certain required workflows differ from the generic ones offered by unified communications platforms or call centers. And this is where WebRTC brings with it a lot of innovation.
Prior to WebRTC, vendors had to specialize in voice over IP and communications. That required large investments. WebRTC removes a lot of that investment and reduces the barrier of entry. That, in turn, means suppliers can target their WebRTC services to specific -- and even niche -- markets.
Take HR and interviewing. Vendors are now offering WebRTC technology services that enable remote interviews. These can be done asynchronously, where interviewees record video answers that are later checked by humans or machines, enabling prospective employers to filter candidates faster. Or they can simply be virtual interviews conducted over video calls.
Other industries are reaping the same benefits from RTC, ranging from education and healthcare to fitness, auctions and user testing. WebRTC has become a critical component.
It is no longer about 'if' WebRTC
For the past eight years, the industry has been figuring out the role WebRTC would play in communications. It is no longer a matter of if or when WebRTC will make an impact. Rather, enterprises and vendors are discussing how WebRTC will be deployed and how it will change the way communications take place in your business.
WebRTC is now becoming an important utility in our technology toolbox. You are probably using it already without even being aware of it.