The Down and Dirty of WebRTC

Technology news is by nature all about hype.  We’re always talking about “the next big thing” and “the most exciting trends” and what start-up Yahoo! just acquired and for how many millions.  But there’s a very good reason for all this hype: because technology is exciting.  It’s new, and it comes with the promise that it will change our lives for the better.

That’s why you may recently have been hearing a lot about WebRTC, the latest in a long line of technologies that are exciting because of their seemingly limitless potential.  But just what is it, and could it really change the way you do business?  In this post, we’ll answer some of the questions you might have about WebRTC, and if that piques your interest, point you towards where you can learn more and even try out the technology for yourself.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is short for web real-time communications, which is industry-speak for browser-based video conferencing.  With traditional room-based video conferencing suites, the user (or the user’s company) owns the hardware and software required to host video conferences.  But with WebRTC, that’s all hosted online; the user simply launches an Internet browser (Chrome or Firefox), goes to a website, and can instantly video conference with other users, no downloads or passwords required.


So why are people so excited about WebRTC’s potential?  

When Facebook was founded in 2004, it was strictly for students at Harvard University; even if it had been open to the public, few would have joined the social network, since they wouldn’t have known anyone on it.  But as Facebook expanded to all college students, then for high schoolers, and finally for society as a whole, people began signing up in droves.  Facebook is now the social-media equivalent of a perpetual-motion machine: people sign up for it because everyone else is signed up for it.  The more users it has, the better it works.

The Facebook model is the best-case scenario for WebRTC.  The more users there are, the more users you can call – and therefore the more reason you have to use it yourself.  It’s this potential ubiquity that gets tech aficionados so excited about its future.

So WebRTC has the potential to be everywhere.  But what can I do with it?

As with so much technology, the real power of WebRTC is in the hands of its users.  On a business level, it provides a lot of the advantages of traditional video conferencing solutions – namely, adding a much-needed face-to-face visual component to otherwise disembodied conversations – without the expense of a dedicated room-based system.

Amazon is giving us a good look at one of the technology’s most intriguing applications courtesy of its Mayday service for the Kindle Fire HDX, which instantly connects customers with a live service representative.  Imagine what a similar service could do for your company!

OK, now I’m intrigued.  Where can I learn more about WebRTC?

LifeSize has a helpful eBook all about WebRTC, which will go into a lot more detail about the subject and even let you try it out for yourself

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