Is WebRTC Video Conference Ready for Market?

webrtc video

WebRTC and the promise of video calls right from your web browser has captivated the media and businesses over the past few years. So it’s not unusual for us to get questions about how VSee compares with WebRTC video.  Recently, we got this interesting question from a customer:

From your expertise, how much dev time would VSee save me over building my own VC system utilizing Web-RTC with other supporting open-source technology?  I have a development team with 4 engineers.

Building your own video conferencing system using WebRTC with just 4 engineers is an impossible task – if you’re trying to go to market fast and if you want to achieve high performance.  With that many engineers, you can touch up the interface of WebRTC video, but you can’t improve its performance. When Google open sourced WebRTC technology, it opened up an exciting new world of possibilities for developers.  However, it’s also worth noting that Google also held back a number of WebRTC components when it purchased On2 (the source of WebRTC video) and GIPS (the source of WebRTC audio).  So the truth is that while WebRTC performs better than Flash, its raw open source performance still isn’t that great. This is why even Google uses Vidyo to run Google Hangouts instead of fully employing its own WebRTC technology.

The Road to Great Video Performance

To develop great video performance, you have to do deep video work, and there are only a few companies out there who have successfully done this – VidyoLifeSizeZoom, VSee and of course, the big guys such as PolycomMicrosoftCisco / Tandberg…. Every one of these companies have two things in common 1) they have spent years working on video, and 2) they have large engineering teams devoted to video work. Working on video is like an arms race – either you commit a lot of engineers to constantly upgrade or you quickly fall behind on the performance curve.

Furthermore, developing great raw video performance isn’t going to be your only issue.  Keeping your servers operational 24×7 under a heavy load will be another big chunk of engineering time that is more than enough work to keep your developers busy. People expect video to work like the phone—when you need to use it, it works. Since everybody starts with SIP or XMPP server open source stack, you will need to do a lot of hands-on engineering to fix and improve what’s needed.  We have 4 engineers alone dedicated just to improving our server performance.

To Use or Not To Use WebRTC Video?

So your choices are:

  1. Stay on the WebRTC video performance curve. In that case, using 1 engineer to keep up with its interfaces would be more than enough.  You could also use OpenTok video API, which gives you a nice wrapper over WebRTC.

  2. Go native yourself. This would require investing in a large team of engineers and years of work – as VSee and our competitors have done.

  3. License video conference from VSee or one of our competitors and get the highest video quality out there.

WebRTC is a fantastic technology, and is definitely the direction to go.  In fact, VSee uses the WebRTC audio echo cancellation code in our audio pipeline.  However, at this point in time, WebRTC video is still immature, and companies betting on WebRTC will probably still have to wait 2-3 years before it is ready…or at least wait until Google starts uses WebRTC in its own products.

Milton, VSee CEO

Comments ( 9 )
  • milton
    Rich Griffin says:

    Excellent post. There are more fundamental issues with WebRTC. There are still some in-browser rendering issues – some browsers “like” VP8, some don’t. I suppose with Cisco making available their h.264 codec license free (I understand they’ll pick up the bill for MPEG-LA usage) there is a little more flexibility – but at the expense of a standard. Plus, WebRTC doesn’t yet define signalling. So it’s build your own, use XMPP Jingle, or SIP. Media negotiation is something else not in the standard (although most are using the much-maligned SDP.) It’s a morass of undefined standards. Best to stick with VSee API and call it a day.

  • milton
    Serge Lachapelle says:

    Hangouts is not based on Vidyo.

    /Serge PM for WebRTC at Google.

  • milton
    anne says:

    Thanks for the reference, Serge! It’s great that Google Hangouts has made such significant progress getting WebRTC / VP8 running, but it still can’t completely drop the Vidyo plugin because of browser support issues – namely Apple and Microsoft are not on board with Google’s version of WebRTC. As the article notes, “’Some browsers will have the plugin to fall back on,’ acknowledged Chew,[VP of Google Engineering]”

  • milton
    Serge Lachapelle says:

    You state:

    “It’s great that Google Hangouts has made such significant progress getting WebRTC / VP8 running,”

    We are not at all making progress towards making Hangouts VP8… Hangouts ARE using VP8. nothing else. If you use Hangouts today, you are on VP8.

    You state:

    “but it still can’t completely drop the Vidyo plugin because of browser support issues”

    There is no such thing as a Vidyo plugin. There is a Google Plugin for Hangouts (aka Google Talk Plugin). It uses the VP8 video codecs.

    I am all for creating articles to create discussions… but let’s thrive to get the facts straight. I welcome all questions via email / twitter / mailing list, etc…

  • milton
    milton says:

    Dear Serge,

    thanks for your corrections for our blog. We had multiple sources from Vidyo telling us that Google Hangouts were/are using Vidyo and Google would never drop Vidyo. We will use your corrections as the Gold Standard to get rid of market confusion.

    btw, we heard that Google Glass has dropped Google Hangouts – it consumed too much resources for Glass. Google Glass is now evaluating Vidyo, is webRTC now competing w/ Vidyo to get on Glass? thanks!

  • milton
    Serge Lachapelle says:

    Has this become a rumors site? =)

  • milton
    milton says:

    As a former PhD student who loves research and the scientific process, our goal is to offer the most accurate information possible 🙂 We are the only video conference company who lists all our competitors on our home page (see the bottom link on our home page) – so people ask us all the time on what system we would recommend. Our stand answer is start w/ webRTC. if you want some packaging, go w/ TokBox or one of the two dozen webRTC wrapper companies. if you want to try out vsee’s arch competitor (and get a complex architecture and even more complex sales experience) – try vidyo 🙂 because there’s a lot of market mis-information given by video conference vendors – for example – Google and Vidyo say fairly different things in private sales calls – thus it is confusing to the market. we try to provide details on the most truthful insight possible – helping people pick the most appropriate video conference options 🙂

  • milton
    DreamKa says:

    Look at our Secure Chat including voice call and soon video based on WebRTC
    What do you think about it?

  • milton
    milton says:

    nice service. good luck w/ your venture 🙂

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