You may have heard about WebRTC, but are unsure about what it is. What exactly is the fuss about, and will this technology replace existing VoIP or proprietary telephony solutions? Read on to learn more about WebRTC, the possibilities for your organization, and what it means for your network.


What is WebRTC?


In a nutshell, WebRTC essentially allows browsers to initiate real-time audio, video, or peer-to-peer communication without having to rely on the presence of third-party software or browser plugins. Originally authored by Google, the WebRTC specification was open-sourced by the search engine giant in June 2011. At the moment, the APIs are still under development by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).


On its part, the WebRTC project offers a complete stack for voice communications, and includes the necessary codecs and components required for a good experience. Capabilities that are already built in include software based acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), automatic gain control (AGC), noise reduction, and noise suppression, among others.


In the grand scheme of things, the idea entails the baking of Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities into browsers that can be accessed with the use of simple JavaScript calls. And because it is implemented in HTML5, WebRTC looks set to enjoy widespread support.


The Promise of WebRTC


WebRTC holds the promise of delivering voice and video connectivity to anyone with access to a Web browser, cutting out complicated (and often expensive) layers of proprietary communication systems. As there is no need to download or install any plugins, web developers can confidently add the functionality to a web page with the expectation that it will work.


In a way, there is nothing special about the various technologies in WebRTC beyond its widespread incorporation into Web browsers. Supporters envision service providers building Skype-like capabilities into web pages, allowing visitors to initiate either a video or voice chat at the click of a button.


Though it is still under development, the stable versions of major browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Opera currently support WebRTC on both desktop and mobile platforms, as well as Google Chrome OS.


Network Implications of WebRTC


So what are the implications of WebRTC for the network engineer and IT manager? It is difficult to tell, though a sharp uptick in network traffic appears to be the most likely scenario. As such, do plan ahead and expect even more voice and video traffic to get routed through your network in the years ahead. Don’t predict usage based on current models either, since ease of use and widespread support could significantly drive up overall demand. Indeed, WebRTC support is already built into the Tizen OS, an open source platform designed for smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.


And as with any network technologies, there is the security angle to consider as well. Already, at least one developer has written about the possibility of exploiting WebRTC to launch a DOS (Denial of Service) attack, though tweaks at the browser level could apparently mitigate this particular issue.


Ultimately, there is little doubt that WebRTC will gain even greater prominence as the standard gets finalized and ratified. As such, businesses are well-advised to keep a close eye on the development of WebRTC.


We’d love to hear any insights — positive or negative — on the implementation of WebRTC in your company. Please share in the comments section below.