WebRTC used to be about capturing some media and sending it from Point A to Point B. Machine Learning has changed this. Now it is common to use ML to analyze and manipulate media in real time for things like virtual backgrounds, augmented reality, noise suppression, intelligent cropping, and much more. To better accommodate this […]
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In group calls there are different ways to decide on WebRTC server allocation. Here are some of them, along with recommendations of when to use what.
In WebRTC group calling, media server scaling is one of the biggest challenges. There are multiple scaling architectures that are used, and most likely, you will be aiming at a routing alternative, where media servers are used to route media streams around between the various participants of a session.
As your service grows, you will need to deal with scale:
In all these instances, you will have to deal with the following challenge: How do you decide on which server to allocate a new user? There are various allocation schemes to choose from for WebRTC group calling. Each with its own advantages and challenges. Below, I’ll highlight a few such schemes to help you with implementing the WebRTC allocation scheme that is most suitable for your application.Table of contents
First things first. Media servers in WebRTC don’t scale well. For most use cases, a single server will be able to support 200-500 users. When more than these numbers are supported, it will usually be due to the fact that it sends lower bitrates by design, supports only voice or built to handle only one way live streaming scenarios.
This can be viewed as a bad thing, but in some ways, it isn’t all bad – with cloud architectures, it is preferable to keep the blast radius of failures smaller, so that an erroneous machine ends up affecting less users and sessions. WebRTC media servers force developers to handle scaling earlier in their development.
Our first order of the day is usually going to be deciding how to deal with more than a single media server in the same data center location. We are likely to load-balance these media servers through our signaling server policy, effectively associating a media server to a user or a media stream when the user joins a session. Here are a few alternatives to making this decision.Server packing
This one is rather straightforward. We fill out a media server to capacity before moving on to fill out the next one.
In this technique, we look for the media server that has the most free capacity on it and place the new user or session on it.
Our “don’t think too much” approach. Allocate the next user or session to a server and move on to the next one in the list of servers for the next allocation.
Then there’s the approach of picking up a server by random. It sounds reckless, but in many cases, it can be just as useful as least used or round robin.
The second part is determining which region to send a session or a user in a session to.
If you plan on designing your service around a single media server handling the whole session, then the challenge is going to be where to open a brand new session (adding more users takes place on that same server anyway). Today, many services are moving away from the single server approach to a more distributed architecture.
Lets see what our options are here in general.First in room
The first user in a session decides in which region and data center it gets created. If there are more than a single media server in that data center, then we go with our single data center allocation techniques to determine which one to use.
This is the most straightforward and naive approach, making it almost the default solution many start with.
Note that everything has a solution. The solutions though makes this harder to implement and may degrade the user experience in the edge cases it deals with.Application specific
You can pick the first that joins the room to make the decision of geolocation or you can use other means to do that. Here, the intent is to use something you know in your application in advance to make the decision.
For example, if this is a course lesson with the teacher joining from India and all the students are joining from the UK, it might be beneficial to connect everyone to a media server in the UK or vice versa – depending on where you want to put the focus.
A similar approach is to have the session determine the location by the host (similar to first in room) or be the configuration of the host – at account creation or at session creation.
Cascading is also viewed as distributed/mesh media servers architecture – pick the name you want for it.
With cascading, we let media servers communicate with each other to cater for a single session together. This approach is how modern services scale or increase media quality – in many ways, many of the other schemes here are “baked” into this one. Here are a few techniques that are applicable here:
This one surprised me the first time I saw it. In this approach, we “disconnect” all incoming traffic from outgoing and treat each of them separately as if it were an independent live stream.
What does that mean? When a user joins, he will always connect to the media server closest to them in order to send their media. For the incoming media from other users, he will subscribe to their streams directly on the media servers of those users.
One thing I ignored in all this is how do you know when a server is “full”. This decision can be done in multiple ways, and I’ve seen different vendors take different approaches here. There are two competing aspects here to deal with:
Here are a few examples, so you can make an informed decision on your end:
Sometimes, we will use multiple metrics to make our allocation decision.Final words
Scaling group calls isn’t simple once you dive into the details. There are quite a few WebRTC allocation schemes that you can use to decide where to place new users joining group sessions. There are various techniques to implement allocation of users in group calling, each with its own advantages and challenges.
Pick your poison
One last word – this article was written based on a new lesson that was just added to the Advanced WebRTC Architecture course. If you are looking for the best WebRTC training, then check out my WebRTC Courses.
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Yes and no. WebRTC getStats is what we have to work with, so we have to make do with it. That said, your real problems may lie elsewhere altogether.
Philipp Hancke assisted in writing this article and Midjourney helped with most of the visuals
This is the question I was posed in a meeting last week:
Can I trust WebRTC getStats?
As the Jewish person that I am, I immediately answered with a question of my own:
Assume the answer is “No”. What are you going to do now?
I thought the conversation merits a bit more discussion and some public sharing, which led to this article being written.Table of contents
Yes. You can and should trust the accuracy of WebRTC getStats, but like with everything else, you should also keep a dose of happy suspicion around you.
Like any piece of software, libwebrtc and its getStats implementation by extension, has bugs. These bugs get fixed over time. The priority given to fixing them relates mostly to how much Google’s own services suffer from and a seemingly arbitrary prioritization for the rest of the issues.
See below to learn more on why we have a problem and what you can do about it.A short history of WebRTC getStats Midjourney, envisioning the history of WebRTC getStats
WebRTC was announced somewhere in 2011 and the initial public code in Chrome was released in 2012. The protocol itself was stabilized and officially published by the W3C in January 2021. Just… 10 years later.
In between these 10 years a lot of discussions took place and the actual API surface of the WebRTC standard specification was modified to fit the feedback provided and to encompass additional use cases and requirements.
We’ve had these discussions taking place in parallel to WebRTC being implemented in web browsers and shipped out so developers can make use of them. Years before WebRTC was officially “standardized” we had hundreds if not thousands of applications in production using WebRTC, oftentimes with paying customers.
At some point, the getStats implementation in the standard specification diverged from that implemented by Google in Chrome, ending with two main alternatives:
. This made switching from one to the other a challenge:
This approach worked rather well for the last 6 years, with many (most?) applications adopting the use of the spec-compliant getStats:
We observed a step drop in usage when Google Meet stopped using the legacy API (that’s the blue line going down). That said, a few outliers still remain who use the old getStats. They will not be able to do so in 2024.Google WebRTC housecleaning project
Fast forward to today (or last year).
WebRTC is a solid standard and implementation used by many. It got us through the pandemic in many ways and aspects.
All the bigger requirements from WebRTC are behind us. There aren’t that many innovations or new features that get introduced to it.
Which is leading Google in recent months to house cleaning tasks:
This house cleaning work has reached getStats, and with it, 4 main areas:
Such changes are great when viewed in the long term. But in the short term they are a huge headache.Firefox & Safari
Since Safari uses libwebrtc, it will get most statistics out of the box. However, the binding at the WebKit layer needs some code to be written which creates some difference with libWebRTC changes that Safari does not notice. We observed this with the “trackIdentifier” property recently but there may be others. Apple seems rather reactive here.
Firefox used to spearhead the “spec” getStats implementation but has fallen behind and lacks several stats types (such as candidate-pair stats). This means workarounds like shown by this WebRTC sample are still required for very basic functionality. Statistics related to media quality are lacking even more.Keeping up the pace with WebRTC getStats changes
At testRTC, we’re offering tools for the full lifecycle of WebRTC applications. These include testing and monitoring services. As such, we rely heavily on getStats.
Years ago, we had to implement the migration from legacy stats to spec complaint stats.
Then came 2022 and with it the housekeeping changes by Google to the statistics found in getStats. It started with Chrome 107 and continues even today. With each such release, we need to get an experienced WebRTC developer to check, test and fix our code to make sure our services collect the statistics properly. All that is on top of the need to support more metrics that Google adds to Chrome in WebRTC getStats from time to time.
Our job is harder than most in this simply because we need to collect and support all the stats – the customer base we have is varied and we never really know which metrics they’d be interested in.
This task of keeping up with getStats has been a bit of a challenge in the last few months. That’s because in each release something else changes. Each step is reasonable. Needed. Minor. But it brings with it changes we need to do in our own planning and roadmap.
To others, such changes have brought with them breakages as well. At times the need to update and upgrade open source components or to fix their own code.This is a good thing
It is important to state – the changes and work conducted here by Google is for the better.
Going for a spec compliant WebRTC getStats implementation means we have actual documentation that we expect to work. It also means interoperability with other browsers and components (assuming they strive to spec compliance as well).
Improvements in performance and polishing out best practices means better performance and code for WebRTC applications in general.
Removing deadweight and deprecated/unused statistics and similar components means smaller codebase with less edge cases and “things” to test.
This is what we want our WebRTC implementation to be and look like.
The fact that we need to undergo this ordeal is the price we need to pay for it. It would have been a wee bit nicer if Google would lay their plans of such changes well in advance (not through sporadic PSAs but rather as a kind of a public roadmap). This will enable better planning for those running such applications. But it is what it is. And frankly – we get what we pay for (=free).Chrome’s WebRTC getStats implementation might not be the reason for bad metric values
Then there are bugs. Metrics you obtain for getStats that don’t seem to reflect reality.
There are usually 3 reasons for that to happen:
A few things to remember here:
WebRTC is used by MANY inside browsers. Think billion(s) of people
It is adopted by thousands of applications developing directly and indirectly on top of it
Using statistics is standard practice to optimizing for media quality and most of the large WebRTC applications rely on it heavily already
Why should your application and use case be any different in trusting WebRTC getStats?What can you do about WebRTC getStats changes?
That said, I do have a few suggestions for you:
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WebRTC is the best media engine out there. And it has nothing to do with its performance…
I’ve been part of the video conferencing industry throughout the first decade of the 21st century and a bit of the 2nd decade as well. The driving force at the time was resolution and frame rate. There was an arms race among vendors as to who provides higher resolutions and frame rates in their room system. A lot of the ethos at the time was the implementation of proprietary media engines that were built for the task at hand. Optimizing and fine tuning them for media quality was considered a core competency.
Fast forward to 2023, what should be the mindset and ethos today?
This is a kind of a continuation to my article on the WebRTC predictions for 2023Table of contents
In the context of VoIP and WebRTC, a media engine is a component that takes care of media processing. Simplifying it, a media engine implementation does something like this:
The media engine also deals with improving voice and video – things such as echo cancellation, noise suppression, packet loss concealment, background blurring, etc.WebRTC (and libWebRTC) as a media engine
Google’s implementation of WebRTC is libWebRTC. Originally, it came from its acquisition of GIPS (Global IP Solutions) – a company that licensed their proprietary media engine to VoIP developers. Google took that library, sprinkled the WebRTC API definition on top of it and integrated it with their Chrome browser.
10 years ago, there were other media engines as well. Most large vendors built and maintained their own media engine – especially if their market was video conferencing.
WebRTC, being a standard on both network and interface later, with libWebRTC being an open source implementation of it (that is maintained by Google AND integrated inside the most popular web browser) – became the best media engine out there practically overnight (or at least within 10 years and through a pandemic).
Joining a video call in your browser? Great! If you aren’t using Zoom, then 99.99% chance that what you are using is WebRTC, with the libWebRTC implementation.Can a media engine other than WebRTC perform better? Made with Midjourney
But what does that even mean?
What does performing better than WebRTC mean exactly?
libWebRTC isn’t the best media engine out there. At least not in that one (or more) parameters you’ve decided to compare it with your own proprietary alternative. But does it even matter?Advantages of native (and proprietary) media engines
Building and maintaining your own native and proprietary media engine? Good for you! Lets’ see what advantages you gain by doing that:
Now that we’re happy with building our own native and proprietary media engines, lets see what are our challenges:
We’re in the 3rd year of the WebRTC unbundling trend. This is still early days.
WebAssembly is here. It is powerful. And it is used more and more, with ever increasing usefulness.
WebTransport and WebCodecs are still great experiments – usable mostly for proof of concepts or early implementations. Using these to power a full fledged media engine that doesn’t make use of WebRTC is still a challenge.
Not all browsers support these interfaces, and those that do still have instabilities and a lot of optimization work to pore into them.
Using these is a long term investment that won’t offer a usable solution for 2023.Why would I choose WebRTC as my media engine every day of the week?
Going to use your own native and proprietary media engine implementation? Good for you!
But do you need browser support in your application? Are these 5% of the user base or interactions or is it more like 50% or more?
Are you looking to make use of open source media servers and components? If so, then are these available for your proprietary implementation or will it be easier to just use ones that support… WebRTC!
Assuming you need browser support for your application and that said browser support isn’t there just as another unused feature to win a customer deal (and then lay forgotten somewhere), then you should just use WebRTC.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what browsers have available for you.
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Here are the WebRTC predictions and trends you should expect in 2023. It is more of the same, but with nuanced differences.
As we’re starting 2023, it is time to look back and then into the future, to understand where we are and where we are headed with WebRTC. This year, things are getting somewhat trickier here:
Oh, and did I mention that I changed a lot in my own work-life? I am now Chief Product Officer at Spearline, dealing with the larger picture of testing and monitoring communication networks. Life is full of surprises
There’s lots to cover, so let’s start.Table of contents
Before I dive into the predictions, it is important to know where we stand. We’ll do this by looking at 3 different layers:
Let’s start with the technology itselfThe era of differentiation
We are well into the era of differentiation:
This started with Google unbundling WebRTC in the browser, starting to offer pieces of it as separate future W3C standards as well as opening up more access to lower levels of the stack. In the past year we’ve seen growing use of these capabilities outside of Google and experimentation and in production.
2021 brought with it background blurring and replacement in the browser to the masses.
In 2022 we’ve seen proprietary codecs and noise suppression finding a solid home in WebRTC applications and technologies using these capabilities. Representative commercial examples of this are Dolby Voice proprietary codec and Twilio’s Krisp partnership on noise cancellation.
If this is hinting on anything, it is that we’re going to see more of these moving forward, as vendors try to differentiate further. The only thing slowing this trend down is the current market recession.Peak WebRTC
The pandemic that has raised all boats is all but over.
China is opening up, with or without another COVID wave. Many have shifted to hybrid work. Others are now communicating via video sessions a lot more than they used to.
Zoom is seen as the poster child of the pandemic. If you overlay its stock price with WebRTC usage in Chrome, you get this interesting chart:
WebRTC is still 3-4 times bigger in use than it used to be prior to the pandemic. That said, throughout 2022 we’ve seen consistent decrease in use of WebRTC. This is likely to continue into 2023.
My guess/prediction is that we will stay at around 3 times the use we had at the beginning of 2020.libWebRTC dominance
libWebRTC is still king of the hill when it comes to WebRTC client-side implementations.
Nothing comes close to it.
libWebRTC is Google’s implementation of WebRTC, and the one used across all browsers today. A monoculture.
For most projects, using libWebRTC as a starting point for a non-browser implementation is the way to go. In some niche use cases, other solutions can and should be considered. The main alternative in such cases is probably Pion today.
2022 has been mostly a year of optimizations and polishing for the libWebRTC implementation, continuing on Google’s focus in 2021. 2023 will look no different.
WebRTC Insights clients received an analysis of the contributors to the libWebRTC project throughout history as part of a recent issue tracker sent to them.
Lets try a quick Q&A here on libWebRTC:
Is there a competitive alternative to libWebRTC in WebRTC?
The most popular WebRTC implementation out there is libWebRTC.
It is also the most dominant since it got embedded in all modern browsers.
libWebRTC is well maintained and is undergoing consistent improvements and optimizations. No other WebRTC stack is getting the same level of investment.
This is not expected to change in the foreseeable future.
Why is Google investing in libWebRTC?
This isn’t about Google Meet. Google is monetizing the web via ads delivered on search conducted in browsers and smartphones. By placing more of our activities in browsers and on the web, Google can monetize more interactions – indirectly.
Then there’s Google Meet/Workspace, competing with Microsoft Office on enterprise productivity.
Commoditizing communications is Google’s way of managing complementary technologies. Ben Thomspon in his latest analysis of AI and the Big Five refers to Joel Spolsky’s Strategy Letter V which offers a great explanation for both Google’s approach and is a good segway to our next section on open source:
Open source is not exempt from the laws of gravity or economics. […] something is still going on which very few people in the open source world really understand: a lot of very large public companies, with responsibilities to maximize shareholder value, are investing a lot of money in supporting open source software, usually by paying large teams of programmers to work on it. And that’s what the principle of complements explains.
Once again: demand for a product increases when the price of its complements decreases. In general, a company’s strategic interest is going to be to get the price of their complements as low as possible. The lowest theoretically sustainable price would be the “commodity price” — the price that arises when you have a bunch of competitors offering indistinguishable goods. So:
Smart companies try to commoditize their products’ complements.The state of WebRTC open source
Not much has changed since my analysis a year ago on WebRTC trends in 2022, where I looked at WebRTC open source projects.
Unsurprisingly, Janus, Jitsi, mediasoup and Pion still reserve most of their founders and key figures. These are teams/individuals who are personally and emotionally invested in these projects, which is a good thing.
The challenge is that besides Janus, none of them offer any official support and custom development. For the rest, companies need to rely on in-house development or external outsourcing vendors and freelancers.
As this state hasn’t changed for a good few years, not much is expected to change in 2023.
The main difference or question mark can be put on the projects that are now indirectly owned by a business whose focus might be elsewhere:
The CPaaS landscape is changing and shifting where it comes to WebRTC.
We started seeing these shifts a couple of years ago, but it seems that change is accelerating in this space – something that is different from what is happening with WebRTC open source.
The perceived leaders in WebRTC CPaaS are still Twilio, Vonage and Agora. I have a feeling that by the end of 2023 this will change.
Let’s review the who’s who of WebRTC in CPaaS.Twilio
No CPaaS list is complete without Twilio. I’ll obviously start with them.
Twilio is continuing their trend from last year of going after the Customer Experience Platform market.
There was one big change that took place in 2022, where Twilio announced focusing on 4 pillars, instead of spreading all over. This was conveyed in Jeff Lawson’s open letter laying off 11% of their workforce. These focus areas are:
No word about WebRTC. Definitely no video in here.
The opposite has happened – Twilio Live, announced in 2021, is being shut down:
Interestingly, its migration guide is recommending Mux, a vendor that just launched a WebRTC video offering as well. Should Twilio customers using Programmable Video also migrate that part to Mux? One wondersVonage
Vonage has its hands full with Ericsson who acquired them.
Not much has changed on their platform besides the introduction of background blurring and replacement.
As the honeymoon between Vonage and Ericsson will dissipate, along with the realization of a recession, it will be interesting to see what will happen to the Vonage Video APIs – will the level of investment there remain high or will it shrink?Agora
Agora’s stock tanked since its peak:
Our information there is more limited than that of Zoom simply because the Agora IPO took place only in 2020.
It got into a recent mud fight with Zoom over the quality of experience that their respective platforms offer.Zoom
Zoom opted to go with the unbundled approach, using WebRTC only sparsely. For video, they are especially focused on building their own media stack replacing most of what WebRTC does. In the short term, such an approach isn’t too productive. Longer run, who knows?
Zoom and APIs and CPaaS is a long affair by now. One which hasn’t worked out well enough for Zoom. Their browser story wasn’t tight enough until recently. This got them to go head to head with competition and commission a performance report pitting their Zoom Video SDK versus Vonage Video API, Agora, Twilio Programmable Video and Amazon Chime SDK.
This specific post is telling:
IaaS gone video CPaaS. That was in 2020. Both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS introduced their own video APIs.
Microsoft had the better story: Azure Communication Services. Uses the same infrastructure as Microsoft Teams. Being able (in the longer run) to connect directly to Microsoft Teams calls.
The network effect and infrastructure were always in their favor. That said, it doesn’t appear enough in discussions I have with developers building WebRTC applications.
There’s a lot of untapped potential here.Amazon
I am starting to see the Amazon Chime SDK in more places. It seems that like Amazon Connect, after 3 years of being out there, it is getting the critical mass it needs to become “a thing” in the industry.
This is one to watch closely, especially if you are a video API vendor yourself…Cloudflare (new entrants)
There’s another IaaS vendor who is joining the party of Video APIs – Cloudflare.
Cloudflare started in 2021 with a managed TURN service. One that is still in private beta.
But they announced and launched on September 2023 two additional services:
Both API offerings that are well-defined these days in the Video API or WebRTC CPaaS space.
Hopefully, they’ll move faster with these two than they had with their managed TURN service.Mux (new entrants)
Mux, a vendor who focused on video delivery via APIs has joined the WebRTC market as well, offering their own Video APIs – Mux Real-Time Video. This is an interesting take, especially since their target audience is slightly different than that of developers who end up with CPaaS. It brings a fresh look and interpretation of the problem – just like the IaaS vendors and Zoom are.
The interesting part is that Twilio decided to refer their Twilio Live customers to Mux. If I were Mux, I’d mark every customer coming in from Twilio Live, making sure they get the best experience and support so that 6 months from now I can start talking to them about migrating away from Twilio Programmable Video.SaaS as CPaaS, Embeddable & Prebuilt An embeddable video call, courtesy of DALL-E
Then there’s the lowcode/nocode trend and how it manifests itself in CPaaS. I’ve written an ebook about it – Lowcode & Nocode in Communication APIs (sponsored by Daily, a known CPaaS vendor). In the past two years we’ve seen more and more CPaaS vendors offering lowcode and nocode solutions on top of their video APIs.
To that specific market/solution, we are seeing SaaS vendors heading as well – for some reason, everyone thinks that CPaaS is a great business.
The notable examples here are Whereby, a meetings platform that started offering Whereby Embedded, and Digital Samba, who started from a webinars platform and is now offering Digital Samba Embedded.
This part of the market will continue to evolve, with CPaaS vendors and others offering ever higher layers of abstraction.How did I do with my 2022 WebRTC predictions?
We’re done with the market overview. Time to move on to predictions.
I’ll start by looking at how I fared with my 2022 predictions of the upcoming trends…
This was a hit and miss thing (obviously).Hitting the nail
There were three trends that I was spot-on.
#1 – Scale & performance
My bet at the time was that we will continue to see a continuation in improving scale and performance of WebRTC. This was definitely the case for 2022.
At the Kranky Geek event in November 2022, Google in their WebRTC annual update spent the time on quite a few items, but the first one of them was performance optimizations:
We will review this slide a few more times later on.
#2 – #newtech
This is the new technology trend, which was split a bit internally:
#4 – Live streaming
Live streaming continued to evolve in 2022:
This is where I got it wrong.
#3 – WebRTC infrastructure, hyperscaling and SD-WAN
Here, I thought we’ll still ponder if Anycast and SD-WAN are important to WebRTC.
And then Subspace got shut down, and with it, a lot of the effort to push this story forward. It is sad, because I do think that striving to lower latencies and clearer networks is the way to go. This setback will delay such attempts by a few years.
#5 – 2D to Metaverse
Extremes and experiments to counter Zoom fatigue. I don’t think that that many new alternatives and suggestions were made in 2022 that we haven’t seen before.
Cloud media processing
This is something I haven’t seen coming. It can’t be considered a trend yet, but it is something to keep a close eye on.
The whole point of using SFUs in WebRTC is in order to reduce infrastructure costs in compute.
Google started with doing noise suppression in the cloud for Google Meet a few years back. This means decoding and encoding audio in the cloud in an SFU architecture.
And now Google is doing the same for background replacement on low-end devices
Is that a one-time transitional thing, or will others follow suit?WebRTC predictions for 2023
Time to look at my predictions for 2023. This is where I think we will see the most focus in WebRTC this year, and how it will shape up.#1 – libWebRTC (and the future of WebRTC)
In libWebRTC we will see more of the same, with a few nuances.
Google’s WebRTC library is mature. It has all the bells and whistles expected of it. Here’s where we will see Google taking libWebRTC:
libWebRTC will maintain its leading and dominant position as the WebRTC stack of choice for client-side development. And Google will take it wherever THEY need it.#2 – Machine learning and media processing
WebAssembly will continue to be a driving force in 2023 when it comes to WebRTC.
It will be used for media processing and in relatively the same places we see it used and experimented today – background replacement, noise suppression and proprietary codecs implementations.
We will also see it enabling more vendors to leave the peer connection implementations in WebRTC and play around with media engines developed using WebAssembly and running on top of WebRTC data channels or WebTransport.#3 – Voice before video (Lyra first, AV1 later)
This one is a bit of an overreach, but one I am willing to make.
Lyra, Google’s ML-based voice codec, will find its way into WebRTC before AV1 will. This isn’t in terms of availability, but in terms of adoption and popularity of use.
AV1 takes up too much CPU power and memory. This makes it usable only in high-end devices or devices with newer hardware (which is almost non-existent still). We have ways to go until AV1 can become a reality. Probably one or two more years.
Lyra is here. And it is improving in performance and quality. Microsoft’s Satin is breathing down Google’s neck. Something will have to happen here. And my bet is that this will happen in 2023.
The technology is most probably ready. The market is ready.
You can learn more about it from Phillip Hancke’s session about voice codecs in WebRTC at the recent Kranky Geek event.#4 – Observability
You can say I am biased. So be it.
Observability was always a real challenge with WebRTC applications. Its nature, due to many reasons (one of them being encryption), makes it hard to monitor using legacy tools and methodologies.
What we will see in 2023 is more interest in observability. We have more products in the market that use WebRTC. Contact centers are moving to the cloud. Many of the bigger vendors are in the process of shifting focus from SIP to WebRTC in their current deployments, and not just as a feature in their checklist.
This will bring with it the need for better tools to understand and figure out how WebRTC sessions behave – both in pre-production and in production.
And now it is time for some shameless self-promotion here –
Watch my session from Kranky Geek, where I discuss on where observability of WebRTC statistics fall short (hint: troubleshooting)
Don’t forget to check out the WebRTC products we have at Spearline#5 – M&As and shutdowns
This is an easy one to make in 2023.
We’re in recession. It will get better by December. It will get worse and stay with us. Whoever is correct in his estimate at what will happen a year from now, one thing is quite apparent:
Companies are closing their pockets, downsizing and keeping to their core focus.
WebRTC is part of it, and as a relatively new technology, it might be hurt more than others. I don’t think this will be the case, simply because we’re also in transition towards hybrid work due to the pandemic we faced. These two will negate each other a bit.
The end though will be house cleaning of the industry itself:
This in itself puts a strain on developers who need to choose which CPaaS vendor to use – picking the wrong one may lead them stranded with the need to switch (think Twilio Live). They will go to the bigger, more known vendors. Which will lead to a vicious cycle since the smaller vendors may not have the time to grow quickly enough – potential customers will be less willing to risk using them.Preparing for a rocky year Rendered using Midjourney
Interesting times ahead.
2023 will shape up to be challenging.
On one hand, we have more of the same in a lot of areas. On the other hand, the current market state is causing a lot of instabilities that will cause some shifts in the market.
And that, without saying a word about generative AI and what that might mean to the market of WebRTC and communications moving forward.
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New coturn project leads Gustavo Garcia and Pavel Punsky give an update on the popular TURN server project, what's new in STUN and TURN standards, and the roadmap for the project
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Home assignments are coming to the next round of office hours for my WebRTC training courses for developers.
Around 6 years ago I launched the first WebRTC course here. Since then, that grew into its own separate website and multiple courses and bundles.
Next month, another round of office hours is about to begin. In each such round, there are live sessions where I teach something about WebRTC and then open the floor for general questions. That’s on top of all the recorded lessons, the chat widget and slack channel that are available.
In this round (starting February 6), I am experimenting with something new. This time, I will be adding home assignments…The dynamics of office hours
The office hours are 10-12 lessons that take place on a weekly cadence at two separate time zones, to fit everyone.
In each I pick and choose a topic that is commonly discussed and try to untangle it from a slightly different angle than what you’ll be finding in the course itself. I then let people ask questions.
The office hours are semi-private. Usually with 2-6 participants each time. This gives the ability to really ask the questions you care about and need to deal with in your own WebRTC application.Why home assignments?
As part of my new role as the Chief Product Officer at Spearline, I asked to enroll in a course – CPO Bootcamp (the best one if you’re in Israel). It is grueling as hell but more importantly – highly useful and actionable.
One of the components in that bootcamp is home assignment. They are given every week, then they get checked and feedback is given. They make me think about the things I am doing at Spearline and how to improve and finetune our roadmap and strategy. I even share them with my own team – being able to delegate is great, but it is more about the shared brainpower.
As with anything else, when I see something that is so good, I try to figure out if and where I can make use of that idea.
Which brings me to the WebRTC courses home assignments.Home assignments = implementation AND feedback
For me, home assignments fit the best as part of the office hours.
Here’s what we’re going to do:
The assignments relate and are focused on your WebRTC application. Not to something unrelated. Their purpose is to make you think, revisit and evaluate the things you’ve done and decided.
They are also building upon one another, each touching a different aspect of the design and architecture.
In a way, this is a unique opportunity to get another pair of eyes (mine) looking at your set of requirements, architecture and decisions and offering a different viewpoint.Getting the most of the WebRTC courses
If you are planning to learn WebRTC, then now is the best time possible.
Those who have enrolled to the course in the last 12 months or have renewed their course subscription can join the office hours and take part in the home assignments.
Office hours will start February 6.
If you haven’t enrolled yet, then you should More information on how to enroll can be found on the WebRTC courses site.
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Kranky Geek 2022 follows our tradition of great curated content on WebRTC that is both timely and timeless. Here’s what we had this year.
Kranky Geek is the main event focusing on WebRTC. I’ve been doing it with Chris Koehncke and Chad Hart for many years now, with the help and assistance of Google along with various sponsors each time.
Like many, we’ve switched to an all virtual event since the pandemic started, and decided at least for this year to continue in the same format. This turned out well, since I had to go on a business trip to Ireland at the date of the event, and virtual meant I was still able to both host and speak at the event.
Kranky Geek is quite a grueling experience for the hosts. We curate the sessions, at times approaching those we want to speak, at other times telling the speakers what topics we think will fit best. We go over the draft slide decks and comment on them. Doing dry runs on the week of the event with all speakers to make sure the session is top notch.
You won’t find much commercial content in a Kranky Geek event. What you will find is lots of best practices and suggestions based on the experience and the path taken by our great speakers.
To this year’s summary, Philipp Hancke did the commentary about the sessions themselves. If you are a WebRTC Insights subscriber, and would like to discuss the content and how it fits in your company, feel free to reach out to me to schedule a meeting.
If you are looking for the whole playlist, you can find it here. The videos have been embedded below to make it easier for you to watch.Roundtable: The state of Open Source in WebRTC
Background blurring and light adjustment using MediaPipe.
Krisp SDK on the Web: noise suppression.
Where I speak and Philipp comments (I am kinda subjective on this session).
Recording and compositing video sessions.
FlexFEC and video.
It should be noted that without our sponsors, doing the Kranky Geek event would be impossible. When we set out to run these events, we had this in mind:
This requires sponsors to help with funding it. Each year we search for sponsors and end up with a few that are willing and happy to participate in this project of ours.
Check them outA Kranky Geek 2023?
When we’re planning and preparing for the event, it feels like this is going to be our last event. It isn’t easy, and none of us in the Kranky Geek team are event planners by profession. The question arises after each such event – will we be doing another one?
Once this event was over, we started working on wrapping the event. Part of it was editing the content and uploading it to YouTube (which takes time).
Will there be another Kranky Geek event next year? Maybe
Will it be in person or virtual? Maybe
Until then, go check out our growing library of great WebRTC content: https://www.youtube.com/krankygeek
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WebRTC comes with mandatory encryption, which enables privacy, but which type of privacy are you really looking for?DALL-E: a broken lock on a chest
In the past, all the great stuff started in the enterprise and then trickled down to consumers. Now it is the other way around – first features come to consumers and from there find their way to enterprises.
Privacy is no different, but in enterprises it needs to be defined quite differently, making it a totally different kind of a feature.
This is where privacy vs privacy comes to play.Table of contents
As a user, what do you mean when you say privacy?
That the data you generate is yours. Be it sensor related data (think GPS or heart rate). The conversations you have with people are not accessible to anyone else. The same for the photos you take.
Practically, you want no one other than you and those you explicitly share data with to have any access to that data. And that includes the services you use to generate and share that data.
Sending messages over Whatsapp or any other social media service? You probably want these messages to be encrypted on the go, so no one can sniff the network and read your messages. You also don’t want Whatsapp’s employees reading what you wrote.
Essentially, what you are looking for is E2EE – End-to-End Encryption. This means that any intermediary along the route of your communications, including the communication provider himself who is facilitating the session, won’t have the ability to read the content. Simply because it is encrypted using some encryption key that is known only to those on the session.The enterprise version of privacy
Life for a consumer is simple. At least when compared to an enterprise.
In the enterprise you want this privacy thingy, but somehow you also want governance and the creation of some corporate knowledge base.
When a meeting takes place. Should only the people in the meeting have access? Think about it. Should the people involved in that aspect of the business have access?
Let’s say we’re on a sales call with a customer. And then the sales rep on that call leaves and gets replaced with another one. Should the new sales rep have access to that call that took place and the decisions made in it?
Today, our CRM systems can connect directly to the corporate email and siphon any emails sent or received with certain customers into their account for recording and safekeeping. So we stay in sync with all conversations with that customer.
We may need to store certain conversations due to regulatory reasons. Or we might just want to transcribe them for later search – that internal company knowledge base repository.
There are also times when we’d like to use these conversations we’re having to improve performance. Similar to what Gong does to sales teams.
We don’t want others to have access to these meetings. In some cases, we don’t want the theoretical ability of the provider of the service to access these conversations – think of a Microsoft Teams session, Google Meet or a Zoom call that gets listened to by the employees of these companies.
Privacy in an enterprise looks different than for consumers. It is more granular and more structured, with different rules and permissions at different levels and layers.WebRTC and privacy
Privacy is king in WebRTC, with a few caveats:
Why these caveats?
And why is privacy king in WebRTC? Because security is ingrained in WebRTC, which means you can use it to provide privacy conscious services.
Lets go over what privacy in WebRTC actually means:WebRTC mandatory encryption (and security)
In WebRTC, all media is encrypted. You can’t decide to send media “in the clear”. And then the signaling itself is also encouraged to be encrypted, and for all intent and purpose – it is encrypted as well.
This means that if you send audio or video via WebRTC from one user to another or from one user to a media server – then that media is encrypted and can be played only by the recipient.
Someone looking at the bitstream “over the line” won’t be able to play it back or intervene with the content.
Note here that a media server terminates the conversation here and is privy to what is being sent – it has access to the encryption keys. TURN servers don’t have such access.
This mechanism of encryption isn’t optional – it is just there.E2EE in WebRTC
If we increase the scope to group conversations, then we need E2EE – End-to-End Encryption.
This can be achieved on top of WebRTC using a mechanism known as insertable streams, which ends up as double encryption – one between the sender and the media server. And one between the sender and the receivers on the other end. That second layer of encryption is part of the application. WebRTC doesn’t mandate it or even encourage it – it just enables you to implement it.Deniability vs governance of communications in WebRTC
Here’s where things can get tricky with WebRTC – it can be used to cater for both ends of the equation.
You can use WebRTC to obtain deniability.
WebRTC has a data channel that runs peer to peer. Using signaling servers to open up such connections to create a loose mesh network of peers means you can send private, encrypted messages from one user to another on that network without having any easy way to trace the communications – let alone to trace its metadata. That’s on the extreme scale of what can be achieved with WebRTC – a TOR/bittorrent-like network.
With the same methodology, I can get two users or even small groups to communicate directly, so that their media travels between them and them alone. Or I can employ E2EE on media servers and get privacy of the content of the communications from the infrastructure used to facilitate it.
You can use WebRTC to handle governance.
On the other side of the equation, you can use WebRTC and force all communications to go through media servers. Media servers which can then enforce policy, record media and provide governance. For some industries and verticals – that’s a mandatory requirement.
And you get these capabilities while keeping the communication encrypted over the internet.Who cares?
With privacy that’s the biggest question. Who cares?
No one and everyone at the same time.
If you ask a person if he wants privacy the immediate answer is – yes!
And yet… Twitter still doesn’t offer E2EE on DM messages. And people use it.
Whatsapp added E2EE in 2016, when it already had a billion monthly active users. It added E2EE backups in 2021. It seems people wanted it, but not in such high demand to switch to a more secure and private messaging system.
Here’s a screenshot from my own Whatsapp in one of the groups I have:
That weird message is an indication that a friend of mine has changed his security code. This usually means he re-installed Whatsapp or switched a phone I presume. I ignore these messages altogether, and I am assuming most people ignore these messages.
In the same way, companies want and look and strive for privacy and want the services they use to be private. But most of them want it up to a point.
Does that mean privacy isn’t needed? No.
Does it mean we shouldn’t strive for privacy? No.
It just means that people value other things just as much or even more.CPaaS, Video API and… privacy
When it comes to video APIs and CPaaS platform, it feels that privacy is somewhat lagging behind.
Messaging platforms today mostly offer E2EE. UCaaS are and have been introducing E2EE to their chat services and video calls. Some are offering integration with third party KMS (Key Management Systems) so they don’t have access to the decryption keys to begin with.
CCaaS relies heavily on the telephony network, where, well, what privacy exactly? And they also like to record calls for “quality and training purposes” – which translates to using machine learning and providing governance.
Video CPaaS is somewhere in-between these days – it offers encryption on sessions because it uses WebRTC, which is encrypted by default. But anything going through the media server can usually be accessed by the Video APIs vendor itself. Very few have gone ahead and added E2EE capabilities as part of their solution.
The reasons for that? It is hard to offer E2EE, but it is even harder to offer it in a generic manner to fit multiple use cases. And on top of that, customers don’t necessarily care or will be willing to pay for it, while they will be willing to pay for features such as recording.What next?
Here’s the thing:
Everybody talks about privacy but nobody does anything about it
In the consumer space, we are moving to an E2EE world.
The enterprise space is glacially pacing towards that same goal.
Parallel to that though, machine learning and cloud media processing are shifting the balance back towards less privacy – at least less privacy from the vendor hosting the service.
Which is more important to the buyers of services? Privacy or governance? Deniability or machine learning?
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I interviewed mediasoup’s co-founder, Iñaki Baz Castillo, about how the project got started, what makes it different, their recent Rust support, and how he maintains a developer community there despite the project’s relative unapproachability. mediasoup was one of the second-generation Selective Forwarding Units (SFUs). This second generation emerged to incorporate different approaches or address different use cases a few years after the first generation of SFUs came to market. mediasoup was and is different. It is node.js-based, built as a library to be part of a serve app, and incorporated the Object-oriented approaches used by ORTC – the alternative spec to WebRTC at the time. Today, mediasoup is a popular SFU choice among skilled WebRTC developers. mediasoup’s low-level native means this skill is required.
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It is time to stop for a second and review what we’ve accomplished here with our WebRTC Insights in the past two years.
There are a few pet projects that I am doing with partners, and one of the prime partners in crime for me is Philipp Hancke. We’ve launched our successful WebRTC codelab and are now in the process of finalizing our second course together – Low-level WebRTC protocols.
Two years ago, we decided to start a service – WebRTC Insights – where we send out an email every two weeks about everything and anything that WebRTC developers need to be aware of. This includes bug reports, upcoming features, Chrome experiments, security issues and market trends.
All of this with the intent of empowering you and letting you focus on what is really important – your application. We take care of giving you the information you need quicker and in a form that is already processed.
Now, two years in, it is safe to say that this is a VERY useful tool for our subscribers.
“WebRTC insights might be the most important email you read every fortnight as a RTC / video engineer. It’s hard to keep tabs on what Google et al are doing with WebRTC while working on your product and the WebRTC Insights provides very specific and actionable items that help tremendously. We have been ahead countless times because of it. If you are serious about WebRTC you should definitely subscribe 100% worth it.”— Saúl Ibarra Corretgé, Principal Software Engineer @ 8×8 (Jitsi) How do we keep track of all the WebRTC changes?
Keeping track of all the changes in WebRTC is a pretty daunting task. Tsahi started WebRTC Weekly almost nine years ago and it has been the source of high-level information ever since. Philipp has closely worked with WebRTC at a more technical level for a decade too. We both had our routines for keeping notes and transforming them into something informative for our audience but joining forces (which we never expected after having strong arguments about whether XMPP was a great signaling protocol in the early days!) has yielded a surprising amount of synergy effects.
We start doing Insights with a template. Whenever we find something that we think is interesting we add a link and maybe a very brief comment to that template . Usually we chat about those too (as we have done for…. almost a decade now). Then we move on because both of us have day jobs that keep us busy.
Every two weeks we spend a couple of hours turning the “brain dump” into something that our audience understands. Philipp focuses on the technical bits while Tsahi focuses on the market. Then we review each other’s section, improve and exchange thoughts.
We did this before Insights already but putting a structure and a biweekly cadence to it has “professionalized” it. While it remains a side project for us, we now have the process in place.WebRTC Insights by the numbers
We’re not new to this, as this is our second year, we might as well also compare the numbers today with those we’ve had on year one of WebRTC Insights:
26 Insights issued this year with 447 issues & bugs, 151 PSAs, 11 security vulnerabilities, 146 market insights all totalling 239 pages. We’ve grown on all metrics besides security vulnerabilities.
WebRTC is still ever changing, but at least there are less security threats in it
Activity on libWebRTC has cooled down a bit in the last two years when it comes to the number of commits and people working on it:
After more than a decade that is a sign of maturity, the easy changes have already been done and all that is left is optimizations. The numbers we see for Insights roughly correlate with the amount of energy Google puts into the project. We are just glad we did not start it during the “hot phase” of 2016-2019.
Let’s dive into the categories, along with a few new initiatives we’ve taken this year as part of our WebRTC Insights service.Bugs
Among the really useful feedback we have received was the suggestion to add a “component” or area the issue is in. This is useful for larger teams where one person may be digesting the biweekly email and route this to a subteam with a particular focus such as audio, video or networking.
The other improvement is a visual hint whether a particular item is a bug, a regression, a feature or just something that is generally good to know:
In addition to that we classify it as “read, plan or act”. Of course we hope our subscribers read all the issues but some are more important than others.PSAs & resources worth reading
Public service announcements or PSA are the main method Google’s WebRTC team uses to announce important changes on the discuss-webrtc mailing list. We track them and give some context why they are important or whether they are safe to ignore (which can happen for API changes where a PSA may be required by the release process.
We also look at important W3C changes in this section as well as other content that is too technical for the “market watch” section.Experiments in WebRTC
Chrome’s field trials for WebRTC are a good indicator of what large changes are rolling out which either carry some risk of subtle breaks or need A/B experimentation. Sometimes, those trials may explain behavior that only reproduces on some machines but not on others. We track the information from the chrome://version page over time which gives us a pretty good picture on what is going on:
In this example we saw the AV1 decoder switch from libaom to libdav1d over the course of several weeks.WebRTC security alerts
This year we continued keeping track of WebRTC related CVEs in Chrome (totaling 11 new ones in the past year). For each one, we determine whether they only affect Chromium or when they affect native WebRTC and need to be cherry-picked to your own fork of libwebrtc when you use it that way.
To make it easier to track, we now keep a separate Security Tracker file that gets updated with new issues as they are found. This makes it easier to glance at all the security issues we’ve collected.
On top of that, when there’s a popular open source component that has its own security issues published, we tend to also indicate these, though not add them to the Security Tracker, so they aren’t even counted in our statistics.WebRTC market guidance
Information overload. That’s what all of us face these days with so much material that is out there on the Internet. On our end, we read a lot and try to make sense of it.
Part of that is taking what feels relevant to WebRTC and sharing it with our WebRTC Insights subscribers. It includes the reference to the article, along with our thoughts about it.
For product managers, this is their bread and butter in gleaning the bits and pieces of information they need to make educated decisions about roadmap and priorities.
For developers, this brings a bit more context than they are used for in their daily work – and is often outside of their immediate work and expertise.
Our purpose? Enrich your world about WebRTC and express some of the power plays and the shifts in the market that are taking place. So you know them well ahead of them happening in force.Covering important events
We really enjoyed Meta’s RTC@scale event. In terms of quality and technical depth it set a bar for the upcoming KrankyGeek event which had been the gold standard so far.
However, the technical depth of the event was too intense for it to be digested in real-time. This meant Philipp sat down on a rainy Saturday and started rewatching the videos while keeping notes. And ended up watching each session multiple times since there were so many great points that needed or even demanded a bit more explanation. This turned into a nine page summary of the event, annotated with the timestamps in the video.
We decided to make this summary public because, while we thought it provided a ton of valuable lessons to our subscribers. Meta made the content freely available and so should we. And hey, we keep referencing this every other week.
This may have been a one-off but we still genuinely enjoyed it so might repeat the exercise… on a rainy saturday!WebRTC release notes interpretation
We started playing around with video release notes at the end of our first year, and quickly made it a part of the WebRTC Insights service.
Whenever Google publishes a release notes for WebRTC, we publish our own video with a quick analysis of the release notes (and the release itself) for our Insights clients.
We go over the release answering 4 main questions:
Our intent here, as with anything else, is to reduce the amount of work our clients have to do figuring out WebRTC details.
We are also making these release notes videos publicly available, 3-4 versions back, so you can derive value from them. You can find them on YouTube:
Be sure to subscribe to receive them once they get published freely to everyone.Join the WebRTC experts
We are now headed into our third year of WebRTC Insights.
Our number of subscribers is growing. If you’ve got to this point, then the only question to ask is why aren’t you already subscribed to the WebTRC Insights if WebRTC interests you so much?
You can read more about the available plans for WebRTC Insights and if you have any questions – just contact Tsahi.
Oh – and you shouldn’t take only our word for how great WebRTC Insights – just see what our readers have to say about it:
“For any Service Provider or Apps who heavily relies on WebRTC, the WebRTC Insights offers great value. […] What I like most about the Insights is its bi-weekly cadence, which fits the rapid Chrome/WebRTC release cycle, and most of the mentions are actionable for us. With the recent Safari audio breakage, the Insights highlighted the problem timely and saved us a lot of troubleshooting effort.”— Jim Fan, Engineering Director @ Dolby Laboratories
“As a service company specialized in WebRTC I think WebRTC Insights is really useful. It keeps us up to date about what is coming next, giving good ideas for projects and research. Also, receiving periodic insights is always a good excuse to stop what I am doing and find some time to go over the latest WebRTC updates in more detail. It is much easier to do when you get all summarized in a single document than on your own just googling and going through an overwhelming list of webrtc news, updates and bugs.”— Alberto Gonzalez Trastoy, CTO @ WebRTC.ventures
Here’s the summary of the first year of Insights if you’re interested
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When developing with WebRTC, make sure you address the fact that many aspects are out of your control.
[In this list of short articles, I’ll be going over some WebRTC related quotes and try to explain them]
When you develop a WebRTC application, you need to take into consideration the sad truth that most of the things that are going to affect the media quality (and by extension the user experience) are out of your control.
To understand this, we first need to define who the lead actors are:The main entities in WebRTC applications, taken from my presentation on testRTC Your application
This is probably the only piece you do control in a WebRTC application.
The code and logic you write in the application has immediate effect over the media quality and connectivity.
Deciding on how group calls are architected for example –
All these are going to greatly change the experience and it is all up to you to decide.The browsers
Web browsers are out of your control.
I’ll repeat that for effect:
Web browsers are out of your control.
You can’t call Google asking them to delay their Chrome release by a week so you can solve a critical bug you saw cropping up in their upcoming release. It. doesn’t. work. this. way.
Browsers have their own release cadence, and it is brutal. In many cases, it is way faster than what you are going to be able to manage – a release every month.
The problem isn’t with this fast pace. It is with the fact that now, even after over 10 years since its announcement, WebRTC is still getting changed and improved quite frequently:
All of these changes mean that your application might break when a new browser version goes out to your users. And as we said, you don’t control the roadmap or release schedule of the browser vendors.The network
You decide where to place your servers. But you don’t get to decide what networks your users will be on.
I often get into talks with vendors who explain to me the weird places where they find their end users:
I am writing this article while sitting in the lobby of a dance studio on my laptop, tethered via WiFi to my smartphone’s cellular network (a long story). Users can be found in the most unexpected places and still want to get decent user experience.
WebRTC being so sensitive to the network connection (think latency, jitter, packet loss and bandwidth), these are things you’ll need to come to terms with.
In some cases, you can instruct your users to improve their connection. In others you can only guide them. In others still your best bet is to make do with what the user has.
Oh – and did I mention that the network’s conditions are… dynamic? They tend to change throughout the duration of the session the users are on, so whatever you decide to do needs to accommodate for such changes.The user’s device
Is your user running on a supercomputer? Or a 2010 smartphone? Do you think that’s going to make a difference in how they experience your WebRTC sessions?
WebRTC is a resource hog. It requires lots of CPU power to encode and decode media. Memory for the same purpose. It takes up bandwidth.
Your users don’t care about all that. They just want to have a decent experience. Which means you will need to accommodate for a vastly different range of devices. This leads to different application logic that gets selected based not only due to the network conditions, but also based on the performance of each and every user’s device – without sacrificing the experience for others.
Sounds simple? It is. Until you need to implement it.How do you take back control of WebRTC?
First step to gain control of your WebRTC application and its lead actors is by letting go.
Understand that you are not in control. And then embrace it and figure out how to make that into an advantage – after all – everyone is feeling these same pains.
Embracing them means for example:
The WebRTC Developer training courses touch a lot of these issues while teaching you about WebRTC
My WebRTC Scaling eBooks Bundle can assist you in figuring out some of the tools available to you when dealing with networks and devices
This blog is chock full with resources and articles that deal with these things. You just need to search for it and read
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WebRTC blackbox reverse engineering experts Gustavo and Fippo take a look at Cloudflare's new WebRTC implementation, how Cloudflare uses the new WebRTC-based streaming standards WHIP and WHEP, and the bold pronouncement that they can be a replacement to open source solutions.
The post How Cloudflare Glares at WebRTC with WHIP and WHEP appeared first on webrtcHacks.
Telephony and communications used to be services, but WebRTC has turned them into features inside other services.
[In this list of short articles, I’ll be going over some WebRTC related quotes and try to explain them]
Telephony and communication used to be services.
Need a phone system for your company? Go to your carrier, and they’ll set you up with a solution. Maybe install a PBX or even host one “in the cloud” for you.
The thing is, what you got was a full fledged service from a communication vendor. You had your own service, and your phone service. They were unlikely to be really connected to each other.
Then came along CPaaS vendors and communication APIs. You could purchase phone numbers and automate and route them anyway you wanted programmatically. In some ways, you could connect it to your own service logic, but only to a certain degree. If you had a call center agent who needed to answer a phone, you had to give him a physical phone (or install a softphone application for him), as well as the CRM application he interacted with in order to assist people calling in.
Two separate services.
Communications and Customer Relation Management (CRM).
WebRTC changes all that
Since WebRTC runs inside a browser, it lets you place the communication part right there in the browser, where all your other services live already.
It means that now that “telephony service” you had can be added as a feature inside your CRM.
But it gets better.
It doesn’t need to be a CRM you integrate it with. It can be a dating service. A gaming experience where you need to communicate with others during the game. A doctor visit at the virtual clinic. Remotely driving a car. Gambling online. The list goes on.
The main attraction isn’t the communication, but rather the service you are there to use. It so happens to need the ability to communicate using voice or video in real time, but that’s just a detail – a feature – no longer the service itself.
And that’s the real paradigm shift that WebRTC has brought with it.
My free WebRTC for Business People report is a great place to dive deeper into what WebRTC is and the changes it brings with it – the ecosystem around it and what companies are doing with it. Check it out.
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WebRTC had its peaks during the pandemic, but how is it doing now? Did all those new projects die, putting the community back at pre-pandemic “normal” levels or is WebRTC still going strong? I built and analyzed a dataset from over a million GitHub’s events since 2019 to help answer are there many new WebRTC-related repos, how many new users is WebRTC attracting, is the community coding as much as it used to, how are new API's like Insertable Streams and WebCodecs doing?
The post Post-Peak WebRTC Developer Trends: An Open Source Analysis appeared first on webrtcHacks.
WebRTC security and privacy are top of mind. You won’t find any other open standard VoIP protocol as secure as WebRTC.
[In this list of short articles, I’ll be going over some WebRTC related quotes and try to explain them]
Time for a quick security check…
Here are some concepts that are true when it comes to security, privacy and WebRTC:
But what does that exactly mean?
You remember that WebRTC is only a building block. Right? This means that it can’t offer full privacy or full security, since there’s an application developer on top, who can… well… screw things up.
If your developers don’t think about the security and privacy necessary, then your WebRTC application will look like this:
But if they do think about it (and they should, no matter what they are developing), then you should have security and privacy nailed down properly.
What WebRTC gives you when it comes to security and privacy?
WebRTC has the mechanisms available for you
WhenRtc has the mechanisms available for you here as well
Care about security? WebRTC is your best choice moving forward. But it won’t take the responsibility off your back.
Two pointers for you before you go:
Everything you need to know about WebRTC security
Zoom’s past security issues and why WebRTC is different
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A common solution for real time video apps is to rely on Video API, a niche in CPaaS, which makes use of WebRTC.
WebRTC has been around for enough time now to garner the creation of an ecosystem around it – both commercial and open source. I’ve recently covered the state of open source WebRTC solutions. It is time to look at the commercial solutions, and in them, to focus on the managed Video API – also known as CPaaS or “programmable video”.The need for managed video API in WebRTC
WebRTC isn’t simple. It is simpler than building the whole thing by yourself, but getting it deployed and building and managing all the backend side for it is a grind. It isn’t just the initial implementation and setup, but rather the ongoing updates and maintenance – WebRTC is still a living thing that requires care and attention.
Some vendors go for open source solutions. Others will aim for commercial infrastructure that they host on their own. Most would simply rely on the cloud, using a video API.
At the end of the day, the concept is rather simple – a third party CPaaS / video API vendor puts up the infrastructure, maintains it and scales it. Adds a public API on top. Sprinkles helpful documentation. And gets developers to pay for the use of this infrastructure.
It is a win-win for everyone:
One thing to note is that there’s no specific definition or term to use here.
Some use video API, which I decided to use for this article.
Others will simply say CPaaS – Communication Platform as a Service, but refer to the video feature/product within that market. CPaaS does a lot more and usually focuses on voice and SMS.
There are those who use VPaaS – Video Platform as a Service, to try and explain that this is still CPaaS but for video. Or still UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) but for video. I never did relate to this one.
Others still use Programmable Video.
Then there’s RTC (Real Time Communication) and RTE (Real Time Experience). Trying to broaden the scope beyond the mere use of APIs.
I’ve used WebRTC API Vendor or WebRTC PaaS in the past. Today I am just trying to use CPaaS or video API. Mostly.Video Call, Video Chat or Group Video?
In the same manner that we have multiple names to describe video API vendors we have multiple phrases to describe what it is we are doing with real time video communications.
The usual names are video call, video chat, group video, video conferencing.
And then there’s also live streaming and broadcast – when a single or a small number of users broadcast their video in real time to a potentially very large audience.Who are the video API vendors and what do they offer?
Assuming you are looking for a video API vendor, who are the candidates we have in the market? Here are a few of them.Twilio video API
You can’t start any discussion about CPaaS without looking at Twilio. Twilio is the uncontested leader in CPaaS and communication APIs. It has grown up in that space and is expanding it beyond the initial developers and API focus it once had.
When it comes to video API, Twilio’s main offering is Twilio Programmable Video. It wasn’t the first to come to market, but it can’t be ignored simply because it comes from Twilio.
Sadly tough, the recent downsize at Twilio was accompanied with an email and a blog post shared by Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio:
As we’ve discussed frequently, we have four priorities for reaching profitability and leading in customer engagement: Investing in our platform reliability and trust, increasing the profitability of messaging, accelerating Segment adoption, and scaling the Flex customer base.
Twilio’s priorities are:
None of it really related to video API or the Twilio Programmable Video…
This doesn’t say that Twilio Programmable Video is good or bad. Just that it isn’t the main focus for Twilio.Vonage Video API
The Vonage Video API is another popular choice. It came to Vonage through its acquisition of TokBox from Telefonica. At the time, the TokBox API was one of the most widely known and used alternatives out there.
Today, the Vonage Video API is still going strong.
Vonage was acquired by Ericsson this year, which can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing for the Vonage Video API.
On one hand, Ericsson doesn’t cater developers, the long tail or video calling use cases, so what do they have to contribute here? This is again just going to be a distraction for them.
On the other hand, Ericsson just acquired Vonage. They are unlikely to make big sweeping changes. As the world goes into recession, this may mean that the Vonage Video API internal resources will be left untouched a while longer compared to other vendors in this space.The rest of the video API pack
There are many other alternatives in the video API space.
In 2020 I shared my viewpoint as to the entrance of Amazon’s Chime SDK and Microsoft’s Azure Communication Services into this market of video API.
Other vendors include Agora, Daily, Dolby and many others.
Each with its own focus areas, strength and limitations.What about Zoom video conferencing API? Is Zoom the exception to prove the rule?
No list of video vendors will be complete without mentioning the elephant in the room – Zoom.
Zoom offers a set of APIs and integrations in various levels and uses:
The biggest notable trend in the video API domain is the introduction of Prebuilt solutions.
I’ve been waiting for this to take shape for many years now, and it finally is happening.
Prebuilt are lowcode/nocode solutions that enable developers to write less code in order to embed the video API experience into their application. Here, the vendor offers more than an API layer, and instead of letting the developers using its platform figure out how to implement the UX/UI layer, it is given as a prebuilt component – usually with some level of configuration.
Most video API vendors today offer this in some form or shape or another – from official and unofficial reference applications, to iframe solutions, UIKits or application builders.
Daily, who has kindly sponsored my free ebook on nocode/locode in CPaaS is one such vendor. Their Prebuilt solution is quite comprehensive.Is there a perfect video API?
Video communication is varied and flexible. It has many different scenarios and use cases. Today, there is no vendor that can cover all these use cases well. It means that there is no single vendor that offers a video API that can be automatically recommended for use.
The answer is more complex than that and boils down to “it depends”. It depends what it is you want to develop and what are your exact requirements and limitations.There’s an (updated) report for that
To understand which video API vendor offers the best fit to your needs, you can look at my Choosing a WebRTC API Platform report. It just got a fresh update.
25 vendors are covered, looking at them from various aspects. You’ll be learning:
This can greatly reduce the time it will take you to make your selection, as well as lower the risks of making the wrong decision.
Did I mention there’s a discount until the end of the month?
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When developing with WebRTC, try to stick as close as possible to how Google Meet is designed and architected. That’s where love and attention is given to the source code.
[In this list of short articles, I’ll be going over some WebRTC related quotes and try to explain them]
Video is a resource hog. Some say that WebRTC is a great solution for 1:1 calls, but is lacking when it comes to group calling. To them I’d say that WebRTC is a technology and not a solution. In this case, it simply means that you need to invest some effort in getting group video calling to work well.
What does that mean exactly? That you need to think about bandwidth management first and foremost.
Let’s assume a 25 participants video call. And we’re modest – we just want each to encode his video at 500kbps – reasonable if we plan on having everyone at a mere VGA resolution (640×480 pixels).
Want to do the math together?
We end up with 12.5Mbps. That’s only for the video, without the overhead of headers or audio. Since we only need to receive media from 24 participants, we can “round” this down to 12Mbps.
I am sure you have a downlink higher than 12Mbps, but let me tell you a few things you might not be aware of:
You can get better at it, trying to figure out lower bitrates, limit how much you send and receive and do so individually per participant in the video group meeting. You can take into consideration the display layout, the dominant speaker and contributing participants, etc.
That’s exactly what 90% of your battle here is going to be – effectively managing bandwidth.
Going for a group video calling route? Be sure to save considerable time and resources for optimization work on bandwidth estimation and management. Oh – and you are going to need to do that continuously. Because WebRTC is a marathon not a sprint
Scaling WebRTC is no simple task. There are a lot of best practices, tips and tricks that you should be aware of. My WebRTC Scaling eBooks Bundle can assist you in figuring out what more you can do to improve the quality and stability of your group video calling service.
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I am now CPO (Chief Product Officer) at Spearline. This means that there are going to be some changes here at BlogGeek.me. Here’s what you can expectMe, somewhere in Ireland, 3 weeks ago
Almost a year ago, testRTC, the company I co-founded, got acquired by Spearline. During that time, I got to know the great team there and the huge opportunity that Spearline has.
Since the above feels corny and a cliché to me as I write it, I’ll stop here.
To make a long story short:
First off, I am excited. Very.
It has been some time since I had a team to work with as their direct manager. It will also be the first time I get to manage product managers.
It also means that I am going to be investing a lot more of my time and attention at Spearline. Which is great, as I really love interacting with the people there already (I wouldn’t have accepted the role otherwise).
For my consulting business, it means that I will be shrinking it down considerably. I won’t be doing much consulting moving forward. It is somewhat sad, as I really loved helping people and hearing their stories and challenges. Hopefully, I will still get to do it in other ways.
What is going to stay, are all the initiatives that have taken place around BlogGeek.me over the years:
All in all, it is time to continue and grow, and in a direction I have never expected I’ll find myself again.
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An updated infographic of the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape for 2022, along with my Choosing a WebRTC API Platform report.
This week I took the time to update my WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape. I do this every time I update my report, just to make sure it is all aligned and… up to date.
A few quick thoughts I had while doing this:
The WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape will never be complete. People always get pissed off at me when I publish it, not understanding why their company isn’t there. My answer to this is a simple one – because I don’t know what it is that you are doing.
They then get even angrier. What they should do at that point is ask themselves why I don’t know them enough. I have lived and breathed WebRTC since it was first announced. So if I don’t know their company and product, how do they expect others to learn about them?
I don’t think I am unique or special. Just that if you want to be in a landscape infographic that covers WebRTC, you might as well want to make sure people who deal with WebRTC and help others figure out what tools to use will know what it is that you’re doing.What about that report?
The report has been going strong for some 8 years now, with an update taking place every 8-12 months. It has been 12 months, so it definitely needed an update.
2 vendors were removed from the report and 3 new vendors added.
I’ve also decided to “upgrade” the term Embed/Embeddable/Embedded to Prebuilt. The reason behind it is the progress and popularity of these types of solutions in the video API space. Most CPaaS vendors today that offer a video API are also offering some form of higher level abstraction in the form of a ready made application – be it a full reference app, a UIKit, or a Prebuilt component.
The report will be published on 22 September. If you want to purchase it, there’s a 20% discount available at the moment – from now and until its publication.
Check out more about my Choosing a WebRTC API Platform report.
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