Video Conference In Your Web Browser?

I was chatting with one of our developers, Rishi, trying to understand why would Google want to opensource the full audio and video stack they acquired when they bought GIPS (i.e. give away perfectly good code that they spent plenty of money to purchase).  He explained that one reason is to encourage people to build Real-Time Communication (RTC) plug-ins that work directly in a web browser via HTML5 and Javascript.  Then people can have all kinds of neat RTC tools that they can conveniently use from the web.  Think about all the web applications you may use now: Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, Chat…., and think about what if you could also do real-time stuff like video calling or conference calling from there. It’s the whole  cloud-based concept.

Rishi also added, “However, for this vision to become reality, competing browsers like IE, Firefox and Safari would need to embrace these extensions. Also, from a users perspective, if the primary work environment is not the browser, there’s no particular advantages to having the video-collaboration tool live only in a browser. e.g. VSee customers include people collaborating on CAD/architecture designs, or software source code, and having your video-collaboration tool fit around this workflow and not intrude on screen real-estate is a huge advantage.”

I thought that was an interesting perspective.  Personally, I love cloud-based when sharing documents or videos and stuff, but when I’m trying to concentrate on one particular thing, it’s helpful for me to clear my desktop of everything except that “blank piece of paper.”  In those cases, the web browser can be my biggest enemy.  Now I often find myself in the Catch-22 of having to get on the Web to access my information, and getting distracted in the process.

So does it matter to you whether you’re videoconferencing from the web?


starting a videocall from Facebook


starting a videocall from VSee


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(Clarification:  The “web versus native app” debate has been going on for eons at various levels, but the debate these days is really more about developing for mobile platforms which is a whole other hot topic.)


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Comments ( 4 )
  • anne
    Rich Griffin says:

    When it comes to in-browser versus desktop application, I always try to consider what the requirements are of the application to reach its potential. An application like video conferencing can benefit more from direct access to the OS, drivers and hardware acceleration that is the native domain of a desktop app. I know that IE9 and FF offer some applications hardware acceleration but in different ways. Creating apps for these browsers just needlessly adds additional platforms you must develop for.

    And besides, I don’t know how many times my browser has crashed when I’ve been in the middle of an important task. I use Google’s Chrome browser because of its individually threaded tab functions for more stability but, of late, Chrome is the browser that crashes more often on me than Firefox. Because of this I stick to Thunderbird for my email and consider video and voice conferencing as equally critical functions.

  • anne
    Anne says:

    Just to play devil’s advocate, I thought the whole point of developing for the web was the idea of “one code fits all.”

  • anne
    Rich Griffin says:

    Hehe! Yeah. I’ve heard that a lot (Java, ActiveX, SWF, Silverlight) Truth is that the browser as a virtual machine just isn’t powerful enough to do real time video. To date, this still requires something local that can dig into the OS and camera drivers. The browser can launch something local, but that’s about it.

  • anne
    remd says:

    The advantage of supporting web browsers is portability, although native apps may be more effective and easier to use, you limit the service to the supported platforms.
    I have considered VSee for the company I work for (about 100 users), but we couldn’t use it as about 25% of the users are on Debian or Ubuntu Linux and wouldn’t be able to use VSee..

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