When people talk about WebRTC, it’s common to hear things like “Video in your browser. How convenient!” or “It solves the interoperability issues, right? We no longer need to worry about what programs people are using because we can just launch the link in our browser and join the meeting.” I know, it seems simple; and in many cases it works well, too. Over the past few years, there has been so much hype around WebRTC, which many experts are calling “the future of video communications.” But, the real-life adoption of WebRTC has been less than stellar.
WebRTC: Hype or Reality?
In a recent Nojitter.com piece, Irwin Lazar, Vice President of Nemertes Research, cited 2014 a survey conducted by his company that revealed less than seven percent of enterprise IT leaders planned to use WebRTC. And 62 percent said they haven’t even given it serious thought. Why is that? I think, unfortunately, we expected too much too soon. Let me put it this way. One of the main goals of WebRTC is to improve our default browser experience. But as of now, only Chrome and Firefox natively support WebRTC, leaving out users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (for the time being) and Apple’s Safari (though you can make IE and Safari WebRTC compatible with the help of a simple browser plugin). IBut here’s the rub—this is the very thing WebRTC promised to eliminate. As you can see, we’re not quite there yet.
That said, there’s huge potential in WebRTC. It’s obvious benefits include making communication faster, better, and more seamless. Here are a few areas in video communication where WebRTC can shine:
Live customer support. Incorporating live customer support through your company’s website is a great way to create an exceptional customer service experience, and, potentially engage prospects. Amazon’s Mayday is proof that WebRTC can improve customer service interactions. In fact, Scott Brown, the Director of Amazon’s Customer Service department, boasts that the average response time to a customer query on MayDay is 9.75 seconds.
Global communications. In an era where companies are going global, we need to break barriers that exist in global communications. For instance, we currently need third-party apps to communicate with individuals in different time-zones using different networks. Fortunately, we can apply WebRTC standards to network-to-network sessions. At CES 2015, AT&T announced that they would be the first U.S. carrier to support WebRTC. After the announcement, AT&T rolled out a beta program of this functionality.
Ad-hoc video conference. WebRTC can simplify virtual conferences as users can simply click to join. With this, ad-hoc conferences become easier to arrange.
Will WebRTC Take Off?
Many experts believe WebRTC will take video conferencing to the next level. But a few things definitely need to be fixed for this to happen, quality of functionality being probably the most important. While simplicity and ease of access are two of its biggest draws, frequent call drops, echoes, and other user-experience issues may hinder its adoption.
So far, WebRTC’s biggest claim to fame has been its integration with Skype. But, as Tsahi Levent-Levi argued recently, “WebRTC isn’t going to be enough for Skype to stay relevant. It will need to evolve faster and to reinvent a lot of itself.” Another obvious adoption roadblock is, as I mentioned above, its limited browser coverage. Unless we can easily use it from any browser, I don’t think WebRTC will be ready for the mass market any time soon.
It’s too early to write off WebRTC as all hype with no real value. The thing is, we really do need solutions that allow multi-platform use in standard based environments—WebRTC promises this and more.
However, it hasn’t yet lived up to its potential. It needs to break the logjam, diversify browser compatibility, and improve its user experience. Only then can WebRTC move from hype to hit technology.
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This article was originally seen on Ricoh Blog.