Updated July 9, 2014
So Google really has dropped the Vidyo plugin for Hangouts as it switches over to its VP8 video codec. It’s still not on WebRTC, although it’s surely getting there. On dev versions of Chrome, Google Hangouts is now plugin-less.
In my article on VSee vs. Google+ Hangouts, I mentioned that Google had used Vidyo’s technology at one point to power their real-time video products (such as Hangouts and GoogleTalk video chat). However, they eventually dropped Vidyo because in the end, Vidyo is just too complicated and requires too much infrastructure. Meanwhile, the direction Google is heading is a browser-based experience with WebRTC. In fact, this is the trend for video conferencing in general. Here’s my quick summary of where video conferencing is going.
Three Generations of Video Conferencing Architecture
First generation: products such as Polycom and Tandberg (+) These products made video quality good enough for high quality conversations for the first time in history at a reasonable price (for IT departments). Before Polycom and Tandberg, your choices were expensive hardware such as PictureTel ($100K to $200K) or software such as CUseeMe. Software-based video quality was sufficiently poor that it was mainly a novelty and didn’t have market adoption. Polycom and Tandberg offered hardware in the $10K to 30K range, a cost low enough for IT to purchase for conference rooms. Polycom and Tandberg became billion dollar companies. (-) A downside of the first generation products is that dedicated hardware is required for the end point.
Second generation: products such as Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network. (+) These products were able to replace the hardware endpoint with software-only endpoints, and still achieve amazing video quality. Furthermore, these software-only solutions are able to reduce the price points of HD video to only a few dollars per month – thus making high quality video affordable to most enterprises. (-) A downside of second generation products is the complicated server infrastructure. For both Vidyo and Blue Jeans, video must first flow through a video server.
Third generation: products such as Skype, Tango, WebRTC/OpenTok, Hangouts, and VSee. (+) Third generation products eliminate the server infrastructure by using peer-to-peer video streaming. They will also be web-based, so making a call is as simple as clicking on a button on a web page. Rising star, WebRTC, allows you to build video right into the browser. (-) The problem is WebRTC is only supported by browsers Google Chrome and Opera. Since Google does not control 100% of the browser marketing share the adoption of WebRTC still remains to be seen, (Note: We list OpenTok as WebRTC because even though it currently uses Flash, it will be using WebRTC in the future.)
VSee, The WebRTC Alternative
An alternative to WebRTC is VSee. VSee’s simple web API makes web calling trivial. It does not require administrator permission to run (unlike Skype), thus a simple browser plugin is all that is required to start a VSee video call. Furthermore, VSee improves on the classic P2P approach of Skype and WebRTC by enforcing end-to-end encryption at 256-bit AES. This not only makes VSee perfect for telemedicine, but also makes all VSee conversations private and off-the-record by default.
- The Technology Behind Google+ Hangouts (GigaOm)
- Meetings.io Acquisition Signals Start of WebRTC Era? (VSee blog)
- VSee vs. OpenTok (VSee)