Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is making strides these days, with many real-time voice and video communication platforms already being introduced to the Web such as Google Hangouts and Mozilla’s Firefox Hello. But in-browser capabilities still have a ways to go on the road toward standardization.
“Standardization is a kind of never-ending road, and it is not easy to determine when the destination has been reached,” said Andrew Hutton, co-chair of the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium’s WebRTC Interoperability Activity Group and head of standardization at Unify. “But certainly in order to declare WebRTC standardization a success, there are a number of different and interoperable implementations needed, and a significant number of Web applications need to be using the APIs.”
The road to standardization has been a joint effort by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The IETF handles the over-the-wire protocols such as how browsers send data back and forth, while the W3C covers the APIs needed to develop WebRTC applications.
“Although progress has been made on specifications both within the IETF and W3C, the initially hoped-for schedule has slipped,” said Dominique Hazaël-Massieux, mobile Web lead at the W3C.
Currently standing in the way of “Last Call” status is the API that’s used to access cameras and microphones in browsers. According to Hazaël-Massieux, the specification was expected to have reached “Last Call” by now, but won’t be finished for a couple more weeks. In addition, the main WebRTC API isn’t expected to reach complete stabilization for a couple more months.
But while the WebRTC standardization still has a few hurdles to get over, the IETF just recently put a significant and contentious topic to bed, according to Cullen Jennings, co-chair of the IETF’s RTCWeb working group.
According to Hazaël-Massieux, the disagreement was on whether the WebRTC standardization should support VP8 or H.264 in order to ensure any browser could establish a video session with other browsers. After a long debate, the group agreed browsers must support both VP8 and H.264 to be standard-compliant.