What is WebRTC?

Everything you need to know about WebRTC in an easy to understand way

“WebRTC is a new front in the long war for an open and unencumbered web”– Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and inventor of JavaScript

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC, which stands for Web Real Time Communications, is a transformative piece of technology that allows real time communications directly through a browser.

To give some context to why WebRTC was created, consider the conventional options for using video or voice to communicate over the internet. You have to download a cumbersome plugin, or use a separate application such as Skype.

Anyone who's tried setting up a webinar knows this can be a pain. But what if anybody with a browser or mobile device could video/voice call and collaborate, without needing special applications or having to download plugins?

WebRTC solves this problem.

Video, audio and other data can be transferred directly between browsers, without the need for plugins or separate applications. WebRTC gives greater capability to the browser itself.

WebRTC allows communication to be a feature, rather than a standalone product.

How does WebRTC work?

WebRTC makes use of 3 main Javascript APIs.

Think of an API (Application Program Interface) as a machine-to-machine communication interface.

The 3 APIs are:

Media Stream: - which acquires audio and video.

Peer Connection: - which communicates audio and video.

Data Channel: - which communicates arbitrary data.

These APIs allow browsers to use and send audio/video/data to other browsers or endpoints. WebRTC does not include or prescribe a signalling method. This is preferable for companies and developers who can implement the method of their choice. One of the great benefits of WebRTC is that it is inter-operable with other voice/video infrastructure.

What are the benefits of WebRTC?

Broadly speaking, WebRTC reduces barriers to communication. As a user, you no longer need to download special software or use unnecessary plugins in order to start a voice or video call from within a web based environment.

You can easily stream the contents of your desktop to multiple third parties, as shown by Google Chromecast. Being an open source protocol, any developer can build applications on top of WebRTC.


What is the browser support for WebRTC?

WebRTC is the culmination of Google acquiring several technologies and releasing them as open source in 2011. Since then, it has been supported by the W3C, which is the international standards organisation for the internet. In conjunction with the Internet Engineering Task Force they will ensure the protocols are standardised across the Internet in the future.

WebRTC started off as a Google project. It has since gathered support from all the major telecoms and browser vendors, including full support for WebRTC on iOS and Safari being announced by Apple in 2017.

What does WebRTC mean for contact centres?

WebRTC calling means companies can bridge the gap between their voice calls and their website. Who wants to leave a browsing session to navigate an IVR, only to have to repeat all the information you have already entered online?

Companies can now offer interactions from within the context of their web presence. Experts can join customers during their browsing session, with no need to leave. WebRTC offers advantages beyond video and audio. Companies can now offer collaboration tools such as cobrowsing and file sharing to their customers.

This is all achieved in one seamless session with no downloads or plugins. From a customer’s perspective, they are one click away from being able to talk to companies using video and voice.

What is the future of WebRTC?

WebRTC on its own is merely a technical achievement, albeit an impressive one. Its true value is as an enabler for innovative new solutions built on top of the protocol. As with any new technology in transition, it is the real world uses that will drive adoption. As more valuable new services are created, more people will use them, which in turn will stimulate demand for more services.

There are countless opportunities for both vendors and companies to benefit from the changing technological landscape. Given the inherent advantages of the technology, it is not hard to imagine a day when WebRTC enabled communications solutions are proliferate. As VoIP calling and OTT apps increase in proliferation, phone numbers are becoming less and less relevant.

Perhaps all contact centre calls in the future will be through a WebRTC powered website and app system.

Is WebRTC secure?

Yes! WebRTC explicitly requires permission from the user to allow use of their microphone and camera. WebRTC forces always-on end-to-end encryption and uses Secure RTP (SRTP) protocol for encryption and authentication of both voice and video.Having no software plugins, for example Flash to download is an obvious security benefit.