WebRTC browser communications standard has several hurdles to clear

Apple and Microsoft haven't signed up, and mobile and codec efforts remain in progress

More automation is on tap for the Web as the WebRTC initiative would enable standards-based real-time communications in the browser, benefiting applications like e-commerce, phone and video calls, and peer-to-peer file-sharing. Theoretically, developers would no longer need third-party workarounds for these activities. But WebRTC continues to endure growing pains, with issues to be worked out to make it compatible with different browsers and systems.

Google, Mozilla, and Opera have been key sponsors of WebRTC; AT&T, Cisco Systems, and Plantronics are advocates as well. WebRTC "has the potential to really change the internet," says Google's Hugh Finnan, director of product management for Chrome. "When you think about that, [with] just a few JavaScript APIs and as little as 15 lines of JavaScript code in an HTML page, you can create a simple one-to-one video conferencing solution; this has the potential to be as important to the Web as HTML was in the beginning."

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The technology has varying degrees of support among browsers: The Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera browsers today have limited support for WebRTC, and Microsoft and Apple have not disclosed their plans for plans for WebRTC in Internet Explorer and Safari, respectively, says Cisco Fellow Cullen Jennings. (Microsoft has submitted its own counterproposal, Customizable, Ubiquitous Real-Time Communication over the Web, or CU-RTC-Web, to the W3C WebRTC working group.)

Enabling WebRTC for mobile devices also will require some work. "Mobile's important," Jennings says.

Questions also remain about which video codec to use. Right now, H.264 and VP8 are the leading candidates, Jennings says. "It's very unclear about what will happen with all of that," he says, stating a preference for a royalty-free codec.

Still, WebRTC is winning some fans. "As a software developer, I think it's the logical next step in Web development," says Bogdan Ciuca, a software engineer at telecommunications vendor Broadsoft. "Everything's moving toward real-time communications."

This article, "WebRTC browser communications standard has several hurdles to clear," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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