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Taking a Breather. Be Back in September

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:30

See you in September.

Time for some downtime for me.

Not from work – got too many projects going on at the moment – updating my course, testRTC and some interesting customer projects I am involved with. I am also working on an offering around APIs. More on that later.

This means – no new writing here for the next couple of weeks.

See you all once I am back.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or needs around the things I write about, feel free to contact me. I’ll gladly help you find your way around this tech (and even focus my writing in the areas you are interested in).

Until September

The post Taking a Breather. Be Back in September appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

How do you Upgrade Your WebRTC Media Servers?

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 12:00

I say it doesn’t matter what the technique is as long as you go through the motion of upgrading your WebRTC Media Servers…

Here’s the thing. In many cases, you end up with a WebRTC deployment built for you. Or you invest in a project until its launch.

And that’s it.

Why Upgrade WebRTC Media Servers?

With WebRTC, things become interesting. WebRTC is still a moving target. Yes. I am promised that WebRTC 1.0 will be complete and published by the end of the year. I hear that promise since 2015. It might actually happen in 2017, but it seems browser vendors are still moving fast with WebRTC, improving and optimizing their implementations. And breaking stuff at times as they move along.

Add to that the fact that media servers are complex, and they have their own fixes, patches, security updates, optimizations and features – and you find yourself with the need to upgrade them from time to time.

Upgrade as a non-functional feature is important for your WebRTC requirements. I just updated my template, so you don’t forget it:

Download the WebRTC Requirements How To

I’ll take it a bit further still:

  1. With WebRTC, the browser (your client) will get upgraded automatically. It is for your own safety This in turn, may force you to upgrade the rest of your infrastructure; and the one prone the most?
  2. Your WebRTC media server needs to be upgraded. First to keep pace with the browsers, but also and not less important, to improve; but also
  3. The signaling server you use for WebRTC. That one may need some polish and fine tuning because of the browser. It may also need to get some care and attention – especially if and when you start expanding your service and need to scale out – locally or geographically
  4. Your TURN/STUN servers. These tend to go through the least amount of updates (and they are also relatively easy to upgrade in production)

Great. So we need to upgrade our backend servers. And we must do it if we want our service to be operational next year.

Talking Production

But what about production system? One that is running and have active users on it.

How do you upgrade it exactly?

Gustavo García‏ in a recent tweet gave the techniques available and asked to see them by popularity:

Just curious about how do you upgrade your #WebRTC mediaservers?

— Gustavo García (@anarchyco) August 4, 2017

I’d like to review these alternatives and see why developers opt for “Draining first”. I’ll be using Gustavo’s naming convention here as well. I will introduce them in a different order though.

#1 – Immediate Kill+Reconnect

This one is the easiest and most straightforward alternative.

If you want to upgrade WebRTC media servers, you take the following steps:

  1. Kill the existing server(s)
  2. Upgrade their software (or outright replace their machines – virtual or bare metal)
  3. Reconnect the sessions that got interrupted – or don’t…

This is by far the simplest solution for developers and DevOps. But it is the most disruptive for the users.

That third step is also something of a choice – you can decide to not reconnect existing sessions, which means users will now have to reconnect on their own (refresh that web page or whatever), or you might have them reconnected, either by invoking it from the server somehow or having the clients implement some persistency in them to make them automatically retry on service interruption.

This is also the easiest way to maintain a single version of your backend running at all times (more on that later).

#2 – Active/Passive Setup

In an active/passive setup you’ll have idle machines sitting and waiting to pick up traffic when the active WebRTC media servers are down (usually for whatever reasons and not only on upgrades).

This alternative is great for high availability – offering uptime when machines or whole data centers break, as the time to migrate or maintain service continuity will be close to instantaneous.

The downside here is cost. You pay for these idle machines that do nothing but sit and wait.

There are variations of this approach, such as active-active and clustering of machines. Not going to go in the details here.

In general, there are two ways to handle this approach:

  1. Upgrade the passive machines (maybe even just create them just before the upgrade). Once all are upgraded, divert new traffic to them. Kill the old machines one by one as the traffic on them whanes
  2. Employ rolling upgrade, where you upgrade one (or more) machines each time and continue to “roll” the upgrade across your infrastructure. This will reduce your costs somewhat if you don’t plan on keeping 1:1 active/passive setup at all times

(1) above is the classic active/passive setup. (2) is somewhat of an optimization that gets more relevant as your backend increases in its size – it is damn hard to replace everything at the same time, so you do it in stages instead.

Note that in all cases from here on you are going to have at least two versions of your WebRTC media servers running in your infrastructure during the upgrade. You also don’t really know when the upgrade is going to complete – it depends on when people will close their ongoing sessions.

In some ways, the next two cases are actually just answering the question – “but what do we do with the open sessions once we upgrade?”

#3 – Sessions Migration First

Sessions migration first means that we aren’t going to wait for the current sessions to end before we kill the WebRTC media server they are on. But we aren’t going to just immediately kill the session either (as we did in option #1).

What we are going to do, is have some means of persistency for the sessions. Once a new upgraded WebRTC media server machine is up and running, we are going to instruct the sessions on the old machine to migrate to the new one.

How?

Good question…

  • We can add some control message and send it via our signaling channel to the clients in that session so they’ll know that they need to “silently” reconnect
  • We can have the client persistently try to reconnect the moment the session is severed with no explanation
  • We can try and replicate the machine in full and have the load balancer do the switchover from old to new (don’t try this at home, and probably don’t waste your time on it – too much of a headache and effort to deal with anyways)

Whatever the technique, the result is that you are going to be able to migrate rather quickly from one version to the next – simply because once the upgrade is done, there won’t be any sessions left in the old machine and you’ll be able to decommission it – or upgrade it as well as part of a rolling upgrade mechanism.

#4 – Draining First

Draining first is actually draining last… let’s see why.

What we are going to do here is bring up our new upgraded WebRTC media servers, route all new traffic to them and… that’s about it.

We will keep the old machines up and running until they drain out of the sessions that they are handling. This can take a couple of minutes. An hour. A couple of hours. A day. Indefinitely. Depending on the type of service you have and how users interact with it will determine how long on average it will take for a WebRTC media server to drain its sessions with no service interruption.

A few things to ponder about here (some came from the replies to that original tweet):

  • WebRTC media servers can’t hold too much traffic (they don’t scale to millions of sessions in parallel)
    • With a large service, you can easily get to hundreds of these machines
    • Having two installations running in parallel, one with the new version and one with the old will be very expensive to operate
    • The more servers you’ll have, the more you’ll want to practice a rolling upgrade, where not all servers are upgraded at the same time
  • You can have more than two versions of the WebRTC media server running in parallel in your deployment. Especially if you have some really long lived sessions
  • You can be impatient if you like. Let session drain for an hour. Or two. Or more. And then kill what’s left on the old WebRTC media server
  • Media servers might be connected to other types of services – not only WebRTC clients. In such a case, you’ll need to figure out what it means to kill long lived sessions – and maybe decouple your WebRTC media server to further smaller servers
Why Most Developers Lean Towards Draining First?

Gustavo’s poll garnered only 6 answers, but they somehow feel right. They make sense from what I’ve seen and heard from the discussions I’ve had with many vendors out there.

And the reasons for this are simple:

  1. There’s no additional development on the client or WebRTC media servers. It is mostly DevOps scripts that need to reroute new incoming traffic and some monitoring logic to decide when to kill an empty old WebRTC media server
  2. There’s no service disruption. Old sessions keep running until they naturally die. New sessions get the upgraded WebRTC media servers to work on
What’s next?

If you are planning on deploying your own infrastructure for WebRTC (or have it outsourced), you should definitely add into the mix the upgrade strategy for that infrastructure.

This is something I overlooked in my WebRTC Requirements How To – so I just added it into that template.

Need to write requirements for your WebRTC project? Make sure you don’t miss out on the upgrading strategy in your requirements:

Get my WebRTC Requirements How To

The post How do you Upgrade Your WebRTC Media Servers? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

Is WebRTC Safe?

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 12:00

Yes.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of hysteria going on around WebRTC. Mainly it being unsafe to use. So much so, that there are tutorials out there explaining how to disable it in every conceivable browser out there.

This reminds me all of the past (and present?) hysteria around running JavaScript code inside the browser – and again – how to disable it.

If you are developing a WebRTC application AND you care about the security of your service and the privacy of your users, make sure to review my WebRTC Security Checklist.

Get the WebRTC Security Checklist

Why is WebRTC Perceived as Dangerous?

WebRTC is a real time communication technology that is embedded in the browser. It can access your camera and your microphone as well as share the contents of your screen. As such, it enables a browser (and web developers) access to a lot more resources on the device of an end user.

This boils down to two main risks:

  1. Your data can be stolen by nefarious people
  2. Your privacy can be breached by knowing more about your device
1. Your data can be stolen by nefarious people

Here are a few scary ideas:

  • If I can access your microphone, I’ll be able to record all of your conversations
  • If I can access your camera, I’ll be able to snoop on you. Maybe take a nice recording of your intimate moments
  • If I can access your screen remotely, I’ll be able to record what you’re doing. Maybe even control your mouse and keyboard remotely while at it?

With all the goodness WebRTC brings, who wants to be spied on by his own device?

Now, that said, we also need to understand two things here:

  1. The browser isn’t the only game in town to gaining this access to your data and actions
  2. There are measures put in place to limit the ability to conduct in such activities
2. Your privacy can be breached by knowing more about your device

This one I guess is mostly about tracking you over the internet. Which is what ad networks are doing most of the time.

WebRTC gives access to more elements that are unique, which makes fingerprinting of the device (and you) a lot more accurate. Or so they say.

The main concern here are around the exposure of private IP addresses to web servers. There are many out there who see these “IP leaks” as a serious threat. for most of humanity, I believe it isn’t, which is why I’ll gladly publish my private IP address here: 10.0.0.9.

There are other, more nuanced ways in which WebRTC can be used for fingerprinting, such enumerating the device list as part of your device’s unique identity. Which is a concern, until you review the  accuracy of fingerprinting without even using WebRTC. Here are two resources for you to enjoy:

  1. Panopticlick – EFF’s fingerprinting check up ad research. If you are not unique – comment below – I have a feeling your browser is as unique as mine. Their TL;DR? Disable JavaScript (which will be too much work) or use a more “common” browser. I am NOT making this up:
  2. Fingerprintjs2 – one of the many libraries available to fingerprint your browser. It doesn’t use WebRTC, although there’s an “intent” in there to add support to it

In this area, Apple with their new WebRTC support in Safari is leading the way in maintaining privacy. You can read about it in a recent article in the WebKit blog. Look specifically on the sections titled “ICE Candidate Restrictions” and “Fingerprinting”.

Why is WebRTC the Safest Alternative?

If you are a developer looking for a real time communications technology to use in your application, or you are an IT person trying to decide what to deploy in your company, then WebRTC should be your first alternative. Always.

Here’s why.

1. Browser vendors take care security seriously

There are 4 major browser vendors: Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla

All of these vendors are taking care of security and patching their browsers continuously. In some cases, they even roll out new versions at breakneck speeds of 6-8 weeks, with security patches in-between.

If a security threat is found, it gets fixed fast.

While many other vendors can say that they are fixing and patching security threats fast – do they deploy them fast? Do they have the means to do so?

Since browsers get updated and upgraded so frequently, and to hundreds of millions of users, getting a security patch to the field happens rather fast. Philipp Hancke showed and explained some Here are some browser upgrade stats last year. This is from real users conducting appear.in sessions. I asked him to share a more recent graph, and here’s what they’ve had in the last two large browser version cycles for Chrome:

Look at the point in time when each Chrome version got ramped up from less than 30% to over 80% in a span of a couple of days. Chrome 59 is especially interesting. Also note that there are at most 2 versions of Chrome out there with over 95%+ of use. Since they routinely do it, patching and deploying security issues is “easy”.

The only other vendors who can roll out and deploy patches so fast? Operating system vendors (again we end up with Apple, Google and Microsoft), and application developers, through mobile app stores (which sums up to Apple and Google).

Nothing comes close to it.

Takeaway: Assume there will be security breaches or at the very least the need to patch security issues. Which means you should also plan for upgrade policies. Browsers are the best at upgrading these days.

2. You don’t need to redeploy the client software

Lets face it – most users don’t disable the automatic update policy of their browsers. If you’re even remotely interested in security, you shouldn’t disable automatic update policies of ANYTHING.

Manual updates bring with them a world of pain:

(a) When do you upgrade?

Here’s the thing.

How do you know an upgrade is in order? Are you on the list of threat alerts of all the software and middleware you are using in your company? Once a threat is announced and a patch is available – do you immediately upgrade?

When we leave this decision to a human, then he might just miss the alert. Or fail to upgrade. Or decide to delay. Just because… he’s human.

Most software can get updated, but usually won’t do it automatically or won’t do it silently. And automation in this area that is done externally, such as the Kaspersky Software Updater. It works, but up to a point and it also adds another headache to contend with and manage.

If a browser does that for you freely, why not use it?

(b) What if this fails?

Did you ever get a software update to fail?

What about doing that in a company with 100+ employees?

If software fails to update 1% of the time, it means that every time you update something – someone will complain or just fail to update, making you revert back to a manual process.

There are tons of reasons why these processes fail, and most are due to the fact that we all have different firmware, software and device drivers on our machines (see fingerprinting above). This fact alone means that if a software isn’t running on millions of devices already, it will fail for some. I’ve seen this too many times when the company I worked for developed a plugin for browsers.

Anyone not using WebRTC and deploying via software installation will cause you grief here. If this is only in front of employees, then maybe that’s fine. But often times this is also with end user devices – and you don’t want to mess there.

Browser upgrades will fail a lot less often, so better use that and just make use of WebRTC instead of rolling your own proprietary solution.

(c) What about edge cases?

You can’t control your employees and their whereabouts for your upgrades.

People working from home.

People traveling abroad.

People using BYOD and… not having tight enterprise policies on their own home laptop.

If you want less headache in this department, then again – using WebRTC will give you peace of mind that security patches get updated.

Why?

Look at it this way, the engine of WebRTC will always stay secure when you rely on browser and browser updates.

You have control over the backend (or rely on a cloud service provider with an SLA you are paying for exactly for this reason). The backend gets updated for security patches all the time (or as much as you care). The browsers get updated automatically so you can think less about it.

Using proprietary software or legacy VoIP vendor software means you’ll need to patch both backend and client software. This is harder to do and maintain – and easier to miss.

3. WebRTC has inherent security measures in place

This should probably be the first reason…

One thing you hear many complain about is questioning why WebRTC is always encrypted. Somehow, developers decided that sending media in the clear is a good thing. While there might be some reasons to do that, most of them are rather irrelevant for something like WebRTC, meant to be used on unmanaged networks.

WebRTC took the approach of placing its security measures first. This means:

  1. There’s no way send media in the clear. Everything is always encrypted. In other VoIP solutions, you can configure encryption on and off (if encryption is even there)
  2. There’s no way to use WebRTC in websites that aren’t served over HTTPS. This means WebRTC forces developers to use secure connections for signaling – and for the whole site. And no. Using iframes won’t work either
  3. Users are asked to allow access to the their media inputs. Each browser handles this one slightly differently, and these models also changes over time, but suffice to say that the idea here is again – to balance privacy of the users and the usability of the service

Me? I’d rather rely on the security measures placed in browsers. These go through the scrutiny of lots of people who are all too happy to announce these security flaws. Software from vendors that is specific to communications? A lot less so.

And yes. This isn’t enough. WebRTC is the building block used to build an application. A lot of what goes to the security of the finished service will rely on the developers who developed the application – but at least they got a head start by using WebRTC.

Ads and WebRTC

There’s an angle that isn’t much discussed about WebRTC. And that’s the uses it finds in the ad business.

The Bad

Two main scenarios that I’ve seen here:

  1. Fingerprinting. You get better means to know more about who the user behind the browser is
  2. Serving ads themselves. Theoretically, you might be able to serve ads via WebRTC, and that at the moment has the potential to circumvent ad blockers
The Good

There’s the second part of it. When ads are served today, the companies paying for these ads being served like to get their ROI. On the other hand, there are those who would like the money spent on ads to be wasted. So they use bots to click ads. Probably by automating selenium processes.

This is similar in concept to the “I am not a robot” type of entry measures and captchas out there. WebRTC gives another layer of understanding about the user and its behavior – and enables us to know if he is a human or a bot inside that browser. And yes. We can use it for things other than ad serving.

Where do we go from here?

There are two main approaches to security:

  1. Security by obscurity – relying on people not knowing the protocol in place. It works great when you’re small and insignificant, so no one is going to care about you anyway. It falls apart when you become popular
  2. Kerckhoffs’ principle – a system needs to be secure even when we know everything about the system. It works best when many people scrutinize, analyze and try to hack such systems, making it better and more robust through time

WebRTC is in the second category (the first one – security by obscurity – is often criticized for being unsecure by nature).

With all the resources put into WebRTC from all angles, security is also being taken care of and not left behind.

WebRTC is safe to adopt as developers. IT and security people in the enterprise shouldn’t shy away from it either – just make sure the vendor you pick did a decent job with his implementation.

Are you doing what it takes to improve the security of your WebRTC application?

Get the WebRTC Security Checklist

The post Is WebRTC Safe? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

Sound Gurus Finding a Home in WebRTC

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 12:00

When it comes to different verticals and market niches, it seems like WebRTC can fit anywhere.

6 years in, and there are many who still question if WebRTC is the way to go with their use case. This is one of the reasons why I started the WebRTC Dataset. The idea behind it all was to showcase all the variations and services where WebRTC is being used.

Here’s an example for you.

Musicians of all kinds make use of WebRTC. They have services today that are geared towards their specific needs. And I am not talking only about replacing Skype with a marketplace or a searchable directory of experts that can help you take private guitar lessons online.

When I bumped into Profound Studio, I knew this is an area I’d like to write a bit more about, so here it goes.

What I will be doing in this article, is go over some of the vendors found in the WebRTC Dataset, collected over the years, who are playing a role in the sound/music industry in one way or another.

I won’t be picking favorites here – my own experience with music is rather dull – I like to hear music just like anyone else, but I don’t consider myself an expert or a fan of anything really. This means that we’ll be going in alphabetic order of the vendors.

Care 2 Rock

Care 2 Rock is that we-teach-guitar-lessons use case with a twist.

The basic premise is having teaching music lessons of any kind online, through a video call. The twist is that this is a paid/voluntary act on the side of the teacher, who ends up teaching and mentoring a foster care kid in his community.

Profound Studio

Profound Studio connects musicians with recording experts.

This is a marketplace for professionals – not for hobbyists. You can run live classes there or do consultation calls.

sofasession

sofasession is all about musicians making music together online. The majority of it is done asynchronously, where each musician contributes and edits tracks of the final masterpiece, but they don’t need to be live together at the same time. And still, this kind of a use case can use WebRTC.

Here’s a job posting they had from two years ago:

We will use Kurento as media server and extending the service for multitrack mixing and reducing latency by developing latency reducing algorithms for serving content to clients connected via the webRTC protocol.

For the layman, handling audio in realtime in the browser to handle that mixing module that’s inside sofasession requires low latency. The best way to get there is to have something like WebRTC manage it – we are talking about real time here.

I am not sure if and how far they went with their WebRTC support. They do support live jam sessions, but there’s a need to download dedicated software for that. It does use UDP to work, so there still might be some WebRTC in there.

Soundtrap

Soundtrap is similar to sofasessions. It too focuses on musicians collaborating online.

Based in Stockholm, where some of the Google WebRTC team are located, even got it to appear at Google I/O in 2014:

StreetJelly

StreetJelly is about live performances. It allows artists to stream their music live to a global audience.

At the moment, performing and viewing is free. Viewers can tip performers if they want.

On the technical side, StreetJelly uses HTML5 video playback for the viewers and either Flash (now dead) or WebRTC (the new method for StreetJelly) to be able to broadcast the performances. They explain this further here.

Shots in the dark

Other vendors such as Rapt.fm and unltd.fm came and went.

As with any set of startups, the vendors in this space don’t always succeed.

How will others fair? Time will tell.

The Appeal

Music and WebRTC. There’s an appeal there.

VoIP was crap most of the time up until recently. There were two main reasons for it:

  1. The selection of voice codecs, with the dominant ones being narrowband codecs like G.711 or the G.729. When you did get a better sounding codec, it was either protected by patents, not suitable for real time or just stuck in wideband but still focusing on speech and not music
  2. These codecs aren’t usually error resilient. The moment you introduce packet loss (and these happen regularly), the audio quality suffers. So something had to be done in that front

WebRTC comes with Opus “out of the box”. A wideband codec suitable for music – not only speech, which is royalty free, low latency and error resilient. To top it all – it is mandatory in WebRTC and one of only two such codecs (the other one being the ridiculously crappy G.711). What’s not to like as a musician?

Why is this important?

Well… here’s the kicker.

None of it is new.

VoIP and video calling could have done this all before WebRTC.

But it didn’t.

Why?

Costs. Barriers of entry. Finding talent.

WebRTC solves all that, which is why I categorize all of these vendors and many others as WebRTC vendors.

They don’t care about WebRTC as a technology – for them it is just means to an end, which is just fine.

But what about you?

Want to learn more about a specific market niche where real time communications be of use? Want to instantly find who’s there already and what they are doing?

You’d better take a look at the WebRTC Dataset. Especially today, before the earlybird discount ends.

Get access to the WebRTC Dataset

The post Sound Gurus Finding a Home in WebRTC appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

Drilling into the WebRTC Dataset

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 12:00

Knowledge=Power. Which is why the WebRTC Dataset might be just what you need.

A Quick History Lesson

You see numbers flying around about WebRTC all the time. One of them is the number of vendors using WebRTC. 1,200 might sound familiar in that context. Well… it comes from the WebRTC Dataset that I am maintaining.

It all started ages ago. I think it was Alan Quayle who made a shortlist of the companies that were using WebRTC that he knew about. That was somewhere in 2012. Which made me start my own Excel sheet. Which was then converted into a Google sheet. Which was then converted into a whole operation of how to find, catalog and update a dataset.

The reason? One of the main companies who are influencers in WebRTC wanted access to it and were willing to pay, so I made it into a product. Since then it had a few more customers who got exclusive ongoing access to this dataset, and now, I decided to repackage it in a different fashion, making it more accessible to more companies.

What’s in the WebRTC Dataset?

The WebRTC Dataset itself is a collection of vendors and projects who are making use of WebRTC in one way or another. It can be anything from a healthcare service to an outsourcing vendor to a live streaming service or a contact center.

The list includes today around 1,200 vendors and counting – it grows and gets updated on a monthly basis.

You’ll find in the dataset vendors large and small. Anything from Google, Cisco and Facebook to small startups and even individual projects that are popular or interesting enough.

You’ll find there acquisitions made in the industry, with reasons behind them and my own indication of how related they are to WebRTC.

You’ll find there vendors who have shut down. Those who have pivoted and changed their focus.

When the information is publicly known, available or can be found online – the suppliers that are used by a vendor are also indicated.

Here’s an example vendor’s information from the WebRTC Dataset:

The page is split into several parts:

  1. The top part, where general information about the company/project can be found. Including things like size, ranking, status and external sources such as Crunchbase
  2. Then there’s the verbal description and notes, which gets updated through time as the offering evolves
  3. After that, different classifications. These are parameters that you can easily use to filter out or find similarly typed vendors in the dataset
  4. Then come links from other sources as well as my own blog and the latest tweets from that vendor
  5. Last but not least, a quick form in the end allows you to ask anything you have about this vendor and get direct answers from me
Where does this data come from?

All over the web.

Since I am actively working on projects like WebRTC Index and WebRTC Weekly, I got to keep tabs with anything related to WebRTC. I go over the blogs of all the vendors using WebRTC and investigate anything that looks like RTC that I bump into in whatever it is that I am reading. On top of that, I use additional sources like Google Alerts and a few other trade secrets

And I’ve been doing this since 2013.

The data in the WebRTC Dataset got created along the way. First as a resource for me to use whenever I need research information on certain domains. And then because it made sense to package it as a distinct product of its own.

Whatever is on the WebRTC Dataset it is something you can go and find out on your own. But it will take you time. Lots and lots of time.

What can you DO With the WebRTC Dataset?

Lots of things actually. It all depends on what it is you’re trying to gain.

Here are a few ideas and uses that people have been using it for already:

  1. Mark potential companies as leads for your salespeople – if you have a cool solution or service that can fit a certain segment, then you can find some interesting companies who might be interested in what you have to offer in this dataset
  2. Check out your competitors – find who they are. See who their known customers are. Compare them to your own company
  3. Find target markets and their size – need to decide where to put your focus? Should it be Healthcare or should it be Education? Should you offer a click to dial button as a service or go for a video chat widget instead? Who are the competitors in the niche you’re trying to carve for yourself? What are they doing?
  4. Understand market trends – here’s what Serge Lachapelle, who was Group Product Manager at Google heading their WebRTC efforts, had to say of the time he used the WebRTC Dataset:

The dataset enables me to understand where the WebRTC platform is going and make strategic roadmap decisions based on where the innovation and heavy usage lies. Being able to get an updated complete view of the market at any given point in time over a large set of criteria makes it easy to see trends in different industries and verticals that make use of WebRTC.

I am sure you’ll be able to find other ways to use it if you only think about it.

And me?

I use this WebRTC Dataset all the time. One of the things I use it for is my annual “WebRTC State of the Market” infographic.

Here’s the one for 2016 and the one for 2017 that I created.

How about a sneak peak?

If you want to see how the WebRTC Dataset feels like to use, then here’s a short video:

I’m interested. Now what?

Access to the WebRTC Dataset comes at $2,400.

The WebRTC Dataset access gives you 1 month of access to all the vendors there. You’ll be able to download the main worksheet and use it after that month is up.

You can decide to purchase it at any point in time, just head to the WebRTC Dataset page.

While we’re at it – if you decide to purchase before the end of July (even if you plan on using it later on), there’s an early bird discount of $400. Just use coupon code DATASET-EARLYBIRD.

Get the dataset

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Google and WebRTC. An Interview with Niklas Blum

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 12:00

Where are we headed with WebRTC?

Google made an interesting announcement recently. It was about WebRTC 1.0 and Google’s own commitment to it. It seems we’ve come to a point in time when WebRTC is considered a done deal and the rest are just details – getting bugs fixed and polishing its performance.

I wanted to understand a bit more where we are headed, from the point of view of the company who lead the effort up until now. So I reached out to Niklas Blum, who is leading product management for WebRTC at Google, to answer a few of my questions.

 

How is it like to manage something like WebRTC at Google?

WebRTC is an exciting project. It is one of these kind of projects that are only possible at companies like Google and a few other places when you think of scale and impact of the technology. We started about 6 years ago as an open source project in Chrome and now WebRTC is providing the stack for an ecosystem for real-time communication services on Web. From a product management perspective there are tons of requirements impacting the platform – ranging from enterprise multi-party communications to p2p video calling on bad networks and even streaming services. It’s a very challenging and exciting time, with so many opportunities to further evolve the product.

 

What metrics do you use to gauge WebRTC’s success?

We have very practical metrics like number of API requests and amount of media/data being consumed in Chrome from users that opt-in to share this data with us. From a product perspective, I like to measure the impact of the technology on the Internet. You are tracking for example the number of projects and services that build with WebRTC. The latest update I got from you was around 1200 projects and companies. I think this is a great metric reflecting the success of WebRTC and the impact we achieved by open sourcing it.

 

You recently made an announcement in discuss-webrtc around WebRTC 1.0. Why now?

We have reaching our goal of having all the standards defined, and the technology is now stable enough for everyone to use. The web-based RTC ecosystem is becoming mature as more and more services that build on top of WebRTC are getting massive reach.

With Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari supporting WebRTC, about 80% of all installed browsers globally have now WebRTC build in. This is a big milestone for us as we are achieving our initial goal of making audio and video available in all browsers, through a uniform standardized set of APIs. Additionally, formerly application-focused communication services are transitioning towards the Web platform and adopting WebRTC.

About 80% of all installed browsers globally have now WebRTC build in
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We believe that interoperability between different WebRTC browsers is now of key importance to continue growing the adoption of WebRTC. It’s also of key importance to provide stability and a common ground to services and companies for continue growing a user base and eventually a flourishing business.

 

6 years in. What would you say worked great with WebRTC and what needs some improvement?

Our original mission to bring secure p2p real-time communication to the web has become real. This by itself is major contribution to the Web platform and the team is incredibly proud of this achievement. Our current efforts can be split into two main categories:

  1. Finalize the specs in Chrome
  2. Provide enterprise-grade reliability

We are working very hard on performance and to iron out remaining reliability issues in Chrome to make WebRTC the solution of choice for enterprise-grade communication services. These efforts address bugs like missing audio-input from the microphone or when the the camera is not detected. We are also getting close to launching a completely new echo canceller in Chrome for desktop. This should significantly improve the call quality when no headset is used on various devices. Additionally, we have major projects aiming at removing glitches in the audio and video capture and rendering processes. We are porting these time and resource critical processes to Mojo, a new process framework in Chrome. This will allow us to have a much better real-time performance in Chrome.

 

Looking 2 years ahead. What should we expect to see coming to WebRTC? AV1? Support for AR? …

Google is a founding member AOMedia and very active in defining the AV1 bitstream. Once AV1 is finalized we will start work on adding it to WebRTC. AR/VR/Mixed Reality is a completely new technology space with the potential to change how we consume services and media fundamentally. But the platform and overall product/market-fit is still unclear. But adding AR/VR functionality to WebRTC is definitely an interesting idea.

An interesting opportunity for evolving WebRTC is to replace RTP with QUIC. Experimenting with QUIC as media transport protocol could reduce the transport-layer protocol overhead and provide integrated congestion control. We also consider using QUIC for the DataChannel that is being used a lot by p2p CDNs for content distribution. Generally, we believe that there are still quite a few opportunities for reinventing real-time communications.

Looking a bit further ahead, a new mobile network generation (5G) is emerging. Which role WebRTC will play here still needs to be identified. But generally, having more bandwidth and lower latency available will open the door to explore video resolutions >4K and massive parallel connections. Additionally, having new software-defined networking functionality exposed to the application-layer seems to be an interesting option to improve real-time communication services. It will be very interesting to see the opportunities for WebRTC here.

 

During your time as the product manager of WebRTC at Google. What was the thing that surprised you the most?

I am still surprised every day by the creativity of developers building great services on top of WebRTC and the value those provide to users. A company called Qbtech, for example, uses WebRTC in a product that assess symptoms of ADHD. While traditional methods for assessing ADHD typically use subjective rating scales from physicians, Qbtech provides objective measurements by analyzing motion tracking over video. After implementing WebRTC, they went from specialized hardware to a web application that could run on a normal computer — opening up access to this technology to smaller clinics, schools, and even rural providers that might not have the resources for more specialized solutions.

Of course, there are many other great services that use WebRTC, but it’s this kind of out of the box thinking to apply WebRTC beyond its original audio/video calling use case and the value that is created by it that always surprises me.

How can developers contribute to WebRTC?

We have received thousands of user feedback reports and feature requests in the WebRTC and Chromium trackers from the growing WebRTC developer community. This feedback has been extremely valuable to improve WebRTC overall and especially to make it more stable for production usage. Generally, developers can provide feedback at bugs.webrtc.org by filing bugs or feature requests. And if you want to do more – you can become contributors and help us polishing the codebase – either as an individual or a company.

 

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Prepping for that Big WebRTC Product Launch

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 12:00

Are you sure you’re ready with your WebRTC product launch?

Here’s the thing. If you want to have a successful launch at the end of the project, you should focus on the planning phase in the beginning. Oh – and your plan should be different if you are going to self develop it all in-house or have the communication parts of it outsourced to external vendors.

Too often people contact me when they have already budgeted the project, spent the money, have a “product” in hand but it is lacking.

Two extreme cases recently:

  1. A startup hired a development company who said they know WebRTC. They were so good that they said there is no need to use a media server for 8 participants in a session unless the session is being recorded (if you think that way too, then you are more than welcome to take my WebRTC course)
  2. Another startup got delivered a finished product. Just to find out it didn’t even come with a TURN server

We see this even more at testRTC, where I am a co-founder. Companies come to us because they think the product a third party developed for them doesn’t work as expected, and too often it breaks in ways that are unacceptable (like stressing the service with 20 browsers).

The problem is finding these issues too late in the game, and paying dearly for them.

There are lots and lots of images out there that illustrate the issue. I’ll use the one from Raygun:

We can dispute the multipliers. They don’t really matter. But here’s how a typical WebRTC product with outsourced development takes place:

  1. Someone writes down the requirements (amount of detail varies wildly here, and of course, you can use my requirements template)
  2. He sends a few development companies the RFP. Mostly, these will be sent to local developers, but sometimes to other vendors as well
  3. Once responses are back, he will pick one. Almost at random… (I know it isn’t random, but it will mostly lean towards cost, as the one in charge knows little in this domain anyway)
  4. Now we wait. Just like placing a cake in the oven and waiting for it to cook. Once the big day arrives, the customer plays with what he gets back and finds out there are some holes in it. Areas left uncovered, or just an impression of poor media quality

Here’s the problem. Steps (1), (2) and (3) are the Design phase. And no one took any real ownership of it in this scenario.

Step (4) is probably Development,Testing and Staging. And they were all left to an outsourcing vendor. Who is most likely looking at this project from a cost perspective as well – but he doesn’t really care if this gets launched or not. Not really.

The customer got to step (5) immediately. With no milestones along the way. No checkpoints to see if everything is done correctly.

And please don’t sell me the story of agile development and how that will save the day for this customer. With agile he sees the “results” every week or two. In every sprint. But does he really know if that first Design phase was done properly?

Do you think you are getting a stable product that can scale to the millions (or even thousands) of users you plan on having? Are you sure your contractor feels the same way and didn’t build you a proof of concept instead?

Two things to do NOW about your WebRTC project:

#1 – Make sure you have a solid WebRTC architecture

Do you trust your vendor to build you the architecture you need?

Don’t.

You should do your homework or bring someone on “your side” that knows what he is doing.

Go now and look at the architecture you’ve been promised.

Take that architecture you’ve been given by the vendor and get a second opinion. It will be worth the time and effort.

#2 – Register to this free webinar

At testRTC we’ve decided to host a free webinar that deals with these issues exactly. And me? I decided to announce it here as well because I think it fits my readers AND it gets more people to know about testRTC, which is another thing I am a part of.

WebRTC: How NOT to Fail in Your BIG Launch

The webinar will take place on July 25 at 14:30 EDT.

It will be recorded and available for playback, so register now.

See you then!

 

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Introducing the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 12:00

Time for someone to offer an updated view of the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape.

Want to learn more about the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape?

Register to my free Virtual Coffee session

As I am on vacation this week with my family (in Barcelona – ping me if you’re there this week and want to meet and say hi), I will keep this one short.

A few years back, Brad Bush of Genband released a WebRTC Landscape infographic. While he has updated it a couple of times, he since then stopped, leaving the WebRTC space altogether. His site was also lost in the abyss that is the Internet of un-renewed domain names, now hosting a Japanese website promising “services by married women” (Google’s translation).

I figured it was time to create another WebRTC Landscape infographic, but decided to be a bit more focused. Covering the whole WebRTC scene is rather hard, especially trying to do it on the first attempt. Which is why I decided to cover only the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape in my infographic.

So without further ado, here it is:

I had to modify and update this twice already in the past few weeks – just to keep up with the changes in the industry (adding Safari and removing Tropo).

A few quick notes:

  • Permanent, high resolution, updated version can be found here
  • Need it as a PDF? Get it here
  • Feel free to share this and use it where needed
  • Did I miss you? Ping me and we’ll remedy that – I plan on updating this infographic every couple of months
  • Want to learn more? There’s a free Virtual Coffee session next week that will be focused on this Infographic. Register now

See you next week in my Virtual Coffee

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Video Chat for a Website with WebRTC. Where to Start?

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:00

A Video chat widget is something you may want to add to your website. And while WebRTC is the only alternative at the moment, there are many ways in which this can get done.

For all intent and purpose, I will assume we’re going to focus on a WordPress site (like my own, which has no video chat widget because it isn’t needed for my business).

I will base this article on this Quora question and the brief answer I’ve given there:

Which 3rd party software should I use for a video conferencing feature in my company’s intranet?

Company’s intranet using wordpress and we are looking for somehow a whitelabel solution (obviously not skype) which allow employee to be able to do video conferencing on their laptops and mobile devices. (Though it is intranet, it is hosted on the internet just that only for private use)

My answer on Quora:

You need something based on WebRTC (more about WebRTC here).

One way to go, is to search the WordPress plugins directory – webrtc – WordPress Plugins

But – most of the plugins there are too old or dead already.

Here’s a suggestion of 3 different vendors that should work well (even if they don’t have a plugin for WordPress, these can be easily created for them – either by you, a freelancer or the vendor himself once you contact him):

These services are very different and very similar to one another at the same time.

Now, if you fail to find something that meet your exact needs, contact me directly and I’ll be able to help you further.

Intranet or Internet?

The question itself is about a company’s intranet.

Two options here:

  1. The deployment itself is on premise, hosted on the company’s data center and accessible only within the company’s local network or via a VPN
  2. The deployment itself is cloud based and the use of the term Intranet is just to indicate that this is for the company employees’ own consumption and not for customers or other people

The question’s clarification mentions that this is of the second type, but… I don’t really think it matters. The answers here will apply to both.

Also remember that:

  1. You can have WebRTC installed and operated within a company’s local network
  2. You can have a local installation configured to be access externally if and when needed (ugly, but possible)
  3. You can decide to have the WebRTC video chat part executed and hosted over the “cloud” even though everything else (including maybe signaling) is hosted in the company’s local network
What’s the Scenario?

Video chat in a website can take different shapes and sizes.

Here are a few of these:

  • 1:1 video chat widget for potential prospects
  • Video “phone” directory of employees, accessible to people coming to the website. This can be used as a meeting point of the employee and his online “smart” business card
  • Meeting point of users. Not necessarily your employees, where they can discuss the content on the page or a specific topic
  • Virtual conference rooms for group calls. Either internal for employees only or more likely to collaborate with external people as well

This list is probably missing a few more use cases – feel free to suggest them in the comments.

I intentionally left out the more glaring contact center use cases, as these got covered as part of the story of O2’s contact center from a few months ago.

What Features do you need?

There are different requirements that you might be after.

Here are some for you to consider:

  1. 1:1 or group calls? Group calls would require investing more. I’ve seen too many instances recently where mesh was being marketed, promoted and sold as a great and usable solution for group calls (it isn’t. If someone tells you that, know you aren’t dealing with someone with any experience or enough scars)
  2. Screen sharing. Want it? Need it?
  3. Recording. Are you interested in recording these video calls? All of them? Pick and choose? Voice only? Not at all?
  4. Video message. Can a user record and leave a message if no one’s there?
  5. Lobby. Do you need a lobby where people can select the room they want to join? Create new rooms? Find someone specific they want to chat with?
  6. Waiting room. Do you need a virtual waiting room? A place where people need to wait until a moderator or someone verifiable joins?
  7. Authentication. How do people authenticate? Is it part of the solution or will that be done by the fact that they are already on the website? Do you want to be able to have identifiers for these people (you do know we all have names – right?)
  8. Escalate from text. Do you need the ability to escalate a text chat conversation to a video one or the fact that people are on the page and pressed a button is enough to get them in?
  9. Sessions log. Is there a sessions log somewhere where you can see the sessions that were made? Might be something you need
  10. Downtime. Any status page of the service? Any ability to know when that part of the service is down? This is especially important when this is going to be one of your sales or support channels (it means money is involved)
  11. Working hours. Do you need this to appear only in specific hours of the day? Either during working hours or on off-hours
  12. Branding. Do you need this to be white labeled and carry your logo, colors, look and feel, etc. Or are you content with having the logo of a third party in there (with a link to their site of course)
  13. Mobile app. Do you need a mobile app for employees for this? For visitors? What should be the functionality of that mobile app?

Not exhaustive, but should get you started.

If you need to write that down, then you can use my requirements template for it.

How do you want this done?

There are a few WordPress plugins already available out there that use WebRTC and do “things”. Will these be suitable for your needs? I am not sure, but it is worth a shot.

If there aren’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t get it there. For a few 100’s of dollars, you can probably get a developer to wrap an existing solution as a WordPress plugin that is tailored for your needs.

And if you can’t find any existing solution that fits – you can have that developed for a larger sum of money and have it embedded as well.

I guess these are your choices if I had to put them on a graph:

Where do we go from here?

Yes. WebRTC enables putting video chat into websites.

Yes. There are solutions for it.

But somehow, people have an appetite once they see the capabilities.

When you plan on adding WebRTC video chat into your website, decide on the features you need and the budget you have. If they don’t match, either increase the budget or accommodate to it by changing your feature set.

I will be talking later this month in my Virtual Coffee about the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape. I won’t be touching WordPress directly, but this is something you don’t want to miss as it will touch the various development strategies and the tools out there at your disposal.

Join me for a free Virtual Coffee on the WebRTC Developer Tools Landscape. Register now

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Another One Bites the Dust: Tropo Closes its Doors to New Customers

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 12:00

It seems like we’re in an ongoing roller coaster when it comes to CPaaS. Tropo has just closed its doors. At least if you want to be a new customer (which is doubtful at best at this point in time).

Looking for the public announcement that got deleted? You can find it hereTropo and Cisco – Where it all started?

Two years ago (give or take a month), Cisco acquired Tropo. I’ve written about it at the time, trying to figure out what will Cisco focus on when it comes to Tropo’s roadmap. I guess I was quite wrong in where I saw this headed and where it went to…

The two questions I did ask in that article that were probably the most important were:

Will developers be attracted to Tropo or will they look for their solution elsewhere?

Was this acquisition about the technology? Was it about the existing customer base? Was it about the developer ecosystem?

We’ve got an answer to the first question – they went elsewhere. If this was a growing business, then developers would be attracted, but it wasn’t.

Looking back at my recent update to my WebRTC API report, it made perfect sense that this will be shut down soon enough. Just look at the investment made by Tropo and then Cisco into the platform:

Nothing serious was done for developers on the WebRTC part of the platform since September 2014, and then after the acquisition, focus of the Tropo developers went to Cisco Spark.

This answers my second question – this wasn’t about technology or customers or even the existing developer ecosystem of Tropo. It was about the developers of Tropo and their understanding of developer ecosystems. It was about talent acquisition for Cisco Spark. Why kill the running business that is Tropo? I really don’t know or understand. I also fail to see how such a signal can be a good one to developers who plan on using other Cisco APIs.

When an API vendor (CPaaS, WebRTC or other) discontinues its APIs or stops investing in developers. What…
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I don’t know what was the rationale of Cisco to acquire Tropo in the first place. If all they wanted was the talent, then this seems like too big of a deal to make. If it was for the platform, then they sure didn’t invest in it the needed resources to make it grow and flourish.

Now, here’s why I think this move took place, and it probably happened at around the time of the acquisition and in parallel to it.

UCaaS or CPaaS? The Shifting Focus

We’ve got two worlds in a collision course.

UCaaS – Unified Communications as a Service – the “modern” day voice and video communications sold to enterprises.

CPaaS – Cloud Communications as a Service – the APIs used by developers to embed communications into their products.

UCaaS has a problem. Its problem is that it always saw the world in monochrome. If you were an organization, then ALL of your communication needs get met by UCaaS (or UC, or convergence or whatever name it had before). And it worked. Up to a point. Go to most UC or UCaaS vendors’ websites and look at their solutions or industries section.

The screenshot above was taken from Polycom’s homepage (couldn’t find one on Cisco since their move to Cisco Spark). Now, notice the industries? Education, Healthcare, …

All of these industries are now shifting focus. Many of the solutions found in these industries that used to go to expensive UC vendors are now going to niche vendors offering solutions specifically for these niches. And they are doing it by way of WebRTC. Here are a few examples from interviews I’ve had done over the years on this site:

You’ll even find some of these as distinct verticals in my updated WebRTC for Business People free report.

The result? The UCaaS market is shrinking because of WebRTC and CPaaS.

The UCaaS market is shrinking because of WebRTC and CPaaS
Click To Tweet

Why is this happening? Three reasons that come to play here:

  1. Cloud. And the availability of CPaaS to build whatever it is that I want
  2. WebRTC (and CPaaS), that is downsizing this thing we call communications from from a service into a feature – something to be embedded in other services
  3. The rise of the gig economy. In many cases, a business is offering communications not between its employees at all, but rather between its users. Think Uber – drivers and riders. Airbnb – hosts and travelers. Upwork – employers and freelancers.

With the rising popularity of the dominant CPaaS vendors, there’s a threat to UCaaS: at the end of the day, UCaaS is just a single example of a service that can be developed using CPaaS. And you start to see a few entrepreneurs actually trying to build UCaaS on top of CPaaS vendors.

If I had to draw the relationship here, I’d do it in this way probably:

Just the opposite of what UC vendors have imagined in the last two decades. And a really worrying possibility of how the future may look like.

What should a UCaaS vendor do in such a case?

Add APIs!

So now UCaaS vendors are trying to add APIs to serve as their CPaaS layer on top of their existing business. Most of them do it with the intent of making sure their UCaaS customers just don’t go elsewhere for communications.

Think of a bank that has an internal UCaaS deployment. He now wants to build a contact center. He has 3 ways of doing that:

  1. Go to a contact center vendor. Probably a cloud based one – CCaaS
  2. Build something using CPaaS. By himself. Using external developers. Or just someone that is already integrated with CPaaS
  3. Try and do something with his UCaaS vendor

If (3) happens, then great.

If (1) happens, then it is fine, assuming the UCaaS vendor offers contact center capabilities as well. And if he doesn’t, then there’s at least a very high probability that there’s no real competition between him and that CCaaS vendor

If (2) happens… well… that can be a threat in the long run.

And did we talk about Uber, Upwork and Airbnb? Yes. They have internal communications between their employees. Maybe there’s some UCaaS in there. But most of the communications generated by these companies don’t even involve their employees – only their customers and users. Where the hell do you fit UCaaS in there?

The APIs are there as a moat against the CPaaS vendors. Which is just where Cisco decided to place Tropo. As Cisco’s moat for its UCaaS offering – Cisco Spark. The Tropo team are there to make sure the APIs are approachable and create the buzz and developer ecosystem around it.

Quite an expensive moat if the end result was just killing Tropo in the process (the asset that was acquired).

The Surprise Announcement

Last week, Tropo had a blog post published on their site and had it removed after a few hours.

Since Tropo publish the full post content into their RSS, and Feedly grabs the content and has it archived, the information in that post was not lost. I copied it from Feedly and placed it in a shared Google Doc – you can find it here.

The post is no longer on Tropo’s website. A few reasons why this may be:

  • Someone higher up probably decided to do this quietly by contacting the most active customers only
  • The post was published too early, and Cisco wanted to break the news a bit later
  • The post got too many queries from angry developers, so they took it down, until they rewrite it to a more positive note

That last one is what I think is the real reason. And that’s because after reading it more than once, I still find it rather confusing and not really clear.

This announcement from Tropo has two parts to it:

  1. We’ve got your back with our great Cisco Spark commitment to developers (an API portal, a marketplace, ambassadors program and an innovation fund)
  2. Tropo is dead if you aren’t on to Cisco Spark. But we will honor our SLA terms (because we must)

That first part is about CPaaS serving UCaaS. Cisco Spark is UCaaS with a layer of APIs that Cisco is now trying to grow.

It is also about damage control – if you’re a Tropo user, then this whole acquisition thing by Cisco probably ended bad for you. So they want to remind you about the alternatives they now offer.

The second part is about how they see current Tropo developers:

  • If you want to onboard to Tropo as a new customer, then tough luck. Doors are closed. Go elsewhere. Or go enroll to the Cisco Spark ISV Program
  • If you are just trying the system out and have an account in there that has no apps in production environment (i.e – you are a freeloader and not a paying customer) – you will be thrown out, no questions asked
  • If you are an existing paying customer running in production, then Tropo “will honor all contractual obligations”

This reads to me like the acquisition of AddLive by Snapchat. First, the service was acquired and closed its doors to new customers. It honored existing contracts. And it shut down its platform to all existing customers this year – once all contracts have ended.

So –

  1. Don’t expect Tropo to renew existing paying contracts
  2. Expect Cisco to push paying Tropo customers to Cisco Spark instead
  3. Tropo won’t add new features, and the existing ones, including any support to them will deteriorate, but will still fit into the SLA they have in place
Where Will Tropo Customers Go?

Tropo was predominantly about voice and SMS.

It was also the biggest competitor of Twilio some 6-7 years ago, when both with comparable in size and focus. Or at least until Tropo shifted its focus from developers to carriers.

There are two places where Tropo customers can go:

  1. Cisco Spark. I think this won’t happen in droves. Some will be headed there, but most will probably go look for a different home
  2. Other CPaaS vendors. Mostly Twilio, but some will go to Nexmo, Plivo or Sinch. Maybe even TeleSign

The big winner here is Twilio.

The big losers are the developers who put their fate in Tropo.

CPaaS: Buyers Beware

As I always say, the CPaaS market is a buyers beware one.

Developers can and should use CPaaS to build their applications. It will reduce a lot of the upfront costs and the risks involved in starting a new initiative. It gives you the ability to explore an idea, fine tuning and tweaking it until you find the right path in the market. But it comes at a price. And I don’t mean the money you need to put in order to use CPaaS. I mean the risk involved in the fluidity of this market.

CPaaS and WebRTC APIs. A buyers beware market
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The trick then, is to pick a CPaaS vendor that doesn’t only fit your feature requirements, but is also here to stay. And it is hard to do that.

Large companies are not necessarily the right approach – Cisco/Tropo as an example. Or AT&T shutting down its WebRTC APIs.

Small startups aren’t necessarily the answer either – they might shut down or pivot. SightCall pivoted. OpenClove has silently closed doors.

Dominant players might not be a viable alternative – if you consider Tropo such a player, and Cisco as a sure bet of an acquirer – and where it now ended.

You can reduce these risks if you know who these CPaaS vendors are and where they are headed. If you follow them for quite some time and understand if and what they are investing on. And if you need help with that, just follow my blog or contact me.

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10 Tips for Choosing the Right WebRTC Open Source Media Server Framework

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:00

Too many WebRTC open source projects. Not enough good ones.

Ever went to github to search for something you needed for your WebRTC project? Great. Today, there’s almost as many WebRTC github projects as there are WebRTC LinkedIn profiles.

Today, there’s almost as many WebRTC github projects as there are WebRTC LinkedIn profiles.
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Some of these code repositories really are popular and useful while others? Less so.

Here’s the most glaring example for me –

When you just search for WebRTC on github, and let it select the “Best match” by default for you, you’ll get PubNub’s sample of using PubNub as your signaling for a simple 1:1 video call using WebRTC. And here’s the funny thing – it doesn’t even work any longer. Because it uses an old PubNub WebRTC SDK. And that’s for an area that requires less of an effort from you anyway (signaling).

Let’s assume you actually did find a WebRTC open source media server that you like (on github of course). How do you know that it is any good? Here are 10 different signals (not WebRTC ones) that you can use to make that decision.

Need to pick a WebRTC media server framework? Why not use my Free Media Server Framework Selection Worksheet when checking your alternatives?

Get the worksheet1. Do You Grok the Code?

If you are going to adopt an open source media server for your WebRTC project then expect to need to dive into the code every once in awhile.

This is something you’ll have to do either to get the darn thing to work, fix a bug, tweak a setting or even write the functionality you need in a plugin/add-on/extension or whatever name that media server uses for making it work.

In many of the cases I see when vendors rely on an open source WebRTC media server framework, they end up having to dig in its code, sometimes to the point of taking full ownership of it and forking it from its baseline forever.

To make sure you’re making the right decision – check first that you understand what you’re getting yourself into and try to grok the code first.

My own personal preference would be a code that has comments in it (I know I have high standards). I just can’t get myself behind the notion of code that explains itself (it never does). So be sure to check if the non-obvious parts (think bandwidth estimation) are commented properly while you’re at it.

2. Is the Code Fresh?

Apple just landed with WebRTC. And yes. We’re all happyyyyy.

But now we all need to shift out focus to H.264. Including that WebRTC media server you’ve been planning to use.

Oh – and Google? They just announced they will be migrating slowly from Plan B to Unified Plan. Don’t worry about the details – it just changes the way multiple streams are handled. Affecting most group calling implementations out there.

And there was that getstats() API change recently, since the draft specification of WebRTC finally decided on the correct definition of it, which was different than its Chrome implementation.

The end result?

Code written a year or two ago have serious issues in actually running.

Without even talking about upgrades, updates, security patches, etc.

Just baseline “make it work” stuff.

When you check that github page of the WebRTC media server you plan on adopting – make sure to look when it was last updated. Bonus points if you check what that update was about and how frequently updates take place.

3. Anyone Using It?

Nothing like making the same mistakes others are making.

Err… wrong expression.

What you want is a popular open source WebRTC media server. Anything else has a reason, and that reason won’t be that you found a diamond in the rough.

Go for a popular framework. One that is battle tested. Preferably used by big names. In production. Inside commercial products.

Why? Because it gives you two things you need:

  1. Validation
  2. Ecosystem

It gives you validation that this thing is worth something – others have already used it.

And it gives you an ecosystem of knowledge and experience around it. This can be leveraged sometimes for finding some freelancers who have already used it or to get assistance from more people in the “community”.

I wouldn’t pick a platform only based on popularity, but I would use it as a strong signal.

4. Is This Thing Documented?

What you get in a media framework for WebRTC is a sort of an engine. Something that has to be connected to your whole app. To do that, you need to integrate with it somehow – either through its APIs when you link on it – or a lot more commonly these days by REST APIs (or GraphQL or whatever). You might need both if you plan on writing your own addon/extension to it.

And to do that, you need to know the interface that was designed especially for you.

Which means something written. Documentation.

When it comes to open source frameworks, documentation is not guaranteed to be of specific quality – it will vary greatly from one project to another.

Just make sure the one you’re using is documented to a level that makes it… understandable.

If possible, check that the documentation includes:

  • Some introductory material to the makeup and architecture of the project
  • An API reference
  • A few demos and examples of how to use this thing
  • Some information about installation, configuration, maintenance, scaling, …

The more documentation the better off you will be a year down the road.

5. Is It Debuggable?

WebRTC is real time and real time is hard to debug.

It gets harder still if what you need to look at isn’t the signaling part but rather the media part.

I know you just LOVE adding your own printf and cout statements in your C++ code and try reproducing that nagging bug. Or better yet – start collecting PCAP files and… err… read them.

It would be nice though if some of that logging, debugging, etc would be available without you having to always add these statements into the code. Maybe even have a mechanism in place with different log levels – and have sensible information written into the logs so the time you’ll need to invest in finding bugs will be reduced.

Also – make sure it is easy to plug a monitoring system to the “application” metrics of the media server you are going to use. If there is no easy way to test the health of this thing in production, it is either not used in production or requires some modifications to get there. You don’t want to be in that predicament.

While at it – make sure the code itself is well documented. There’s nothing as frustrating (and as stupid) as the self explanatory code notion. People – code can’t explain itself – it does what it does. I know that the person who wrote that media server was god incarnate, but the rest of us aren’t. Your programmers are excellent, but trust me – not that good. Pick something maintainable. Something that is self explanatory because someone took the time to write some damn good comments in the tricky parts of the code. I know this one is also part of grokking the code, but it is that important – check it twice.

For me, the ability to debug, troubleshoot and find issues faster is usually a critical one for something that is going to get into my own business. Just a thought.

6. Does it Scale?

Media servers are resource hogs (check this video mini series for a quick explanation).

This means that in most likelihood, if your business will become successful in any way, you will need more than a single media server to run at “scale”.

You can always crank it up on Amazon AWS from m4.large up to m4.16xlarge, but then what’s next?

At the end of the day, scaling of media servers comes down to adding more machines. Which is simple enough until you start dealing with group calls.

Here’s an example.

  • Assume a single machine can handle 100 participants, split into any group type (I am simplifying here)
  • And we have 10 participants on average in each call
  • Each group call can have 2 participants, up to… 50 participants

Now… how do we scale this thing?

How many machines do we need to put out there? When do we decide that we don’t add new calls into a running machine? Do we cascade these machines when they are fully booked? Throw out calls and try to shift them to other machines?

I don’t know, but you should. At least if you’re serious about your product.

You probably won’t find the answers to this in the open source WebRTC media server’s documentation, but you should at least make sure you have some reasonable documentation of how to run it at scale, and not as a one-off instance only.

7. What Languages Does it Use?

They wrote it in Kotlin.

Because that’s the greatest language ever. Here. Even Google just made it an official one for Android.

What can go wrong?

Two things I look for in the language being used:

  1. That the end result will be highly performant. Remember it’s a resource hog we’re dealing with here, so better start with something that is even remotely optimized
  2. That I know how to use and have it covered by my developers

Some of these things are Node.js based while other are written in Java. Which one are your developers more comfortable with? Which one fits better with your technology plans for your company in the next 5 years?

If you need to make a decision between two media servers and the main difference between them for you is the language – then go with the one that works better for your organization.

8. Does It Fit Your Signaling Paradigm?

Three things you need in your WebRTC product:

  1. Signaling server
  2. STUN/TURN server
  3. Media server

That 3rd one isn’t mandatory, but it is if you’re reading this.

That media server needs to interact with the signaling server and the STUN/TURN server.

Sure. you can use the signaling capabilities of the media server, but they aren’t really meant for that, and my own suggestion is not to put the media server publicly out there for everything – have it controlled internally in your service. It just doesn’t make architectural sense for me.

So you’ll need to have it interacting with your signaling server. Check that they both share similar paradigms and notions, otherwise, this in itself is going to be quite a headache.

While at it – check that there’s easy integration between the media server you’re selecting and the STUN/TURN server that you’ve decided to use. This one is usually simple enough, but just make sure you’re not in for a surprise here.

9. Is the License Right For You?

BSD? MIT? APL? GPL? AGPL?

What license does this open source WebRTC media server framework comes with exactly?

Interestingly, some projects switch their license somewhere along the way. Jitsi did it after its acquisition by Atlassian – moving from LGPL to a more permissive APL.

The way your business model looks like, and the way you plan to deploy the service are going to affect the types of open source licenses you will want and will be able to adopt inside your service.

There are different types of free when it comes to open source licenses.
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Every piece of code you pick and use needs to adhere to these internal requirements and constraints that you have, and that also includes the media server. Since the media server isn’t something you’ll be replacing in and out of place like a used battery, my suggestion is to pick something that comes with a permissive open source license – or go for a commercial product instead (it will cost you, but will solve this nagging issue).

I’ve written about open source licenses before – check it out as well.

10. Is Anyone Offering Paid Support For It?

Yes. I know.

You’re using open source to avoid paying anyone.

And yet. If you check many of the successful and well maintained open source projects – especially the small and mid-sized ones – you will see a business model behind them. A way for those who invest their time in it to make a living. In many cases, that business model is in support and custom development.

Having paid support as an option means two things:

  1. Someone is willing to take ownership and improve this thing and he is doing it as a day job – and not as a hobby
  2. If you’ll need help ASAP – you can always pay to get it

If no one is offering any paid support, then who is maintaining this code and to what end? What would encourage them to continue with this investment? Will they just decide to stop investing in it next month? Last month? Next year?

Making the Decision

I am not sure about you, but I love making decisions. I really do.

Taking in the requirements and the constraints, understanding that there’s always unknowns and partial information. And from there distill a decision. A decisive selection of what to go with.

You can find more technical information on media servers in this great compilation made by Gustavo Garcia.

After you take the functional requirements that you have, and find a few suitable open source WebRTC media frameworks that can fit these requirements, go over this list.

See how each of them addresses the points raised. It should help you get to the answer you are seeking about which framework to go with.

Towards that goal, I also created a Media Server Framework Selection Sheet. Use it when the need comes to select an open source WebRTC media server framework for your project.

Get the worksheet

 

The post 10 Tips for Choosing the Right WebRTC Open Source Media Server Framework appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

WebRTC iOS 11 Support. Are We There Yet?

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:00

Last week WWDC was a happy occasion for those who deal with WebRTC. For the first time, we got the official word – and code – of WebRTC on Apple devices – WebRTC iOS and WebRTC Safari support is finally here.

I spent the time since then talking to a couple of developers and managers who either tinkered with Safari 11 already or have to make plans in their products for this development.

I came out a bit undecided about this whole thing. Here are where things stand.

Apple’s Coverage

The WebKit site has its own announcement – as close as we’ll ever get to an official announcement from Apple with any detail it seems.

What I find interesting with this one (go read it – I’ll wait here):

  • Google isn’t mentioned (god forbid). But their “LibWebRTC open source framework” is. Laughed my pants off of this one. The lengths companies would go to not mention one another is ridiculous
  • WebRTC in WebKit isn’t mentioned. Two years ago I opined it wouldn’t move the needle. And it seems like it didn’t – or at least not enough for Apple to mention it in this WebKit announcement
  • TokBox and BlueJeans are mentioned as early beta. TokBox I understand. Can’t miss one of the dominant players in this space. But BlueJeans? That was a surprise to me
Previous Coverage

First things first, here are some posts that were published already about Apple’s release of WebRTC Safari (in alphabetical order):

I’ve ignored a few generic posts that just indicated WebRTC is out there.

Most relevant Twitter thread on this?

Testing out Safari 11's #WebRTC support on #macOS High Sierra. pic.twitter.com/zSpTfMlRj5

— Saúl Ibarra Corretgé (@saghul) June 6, 2017

Who’s Missing?

Well… the general media.

I haven’t really seen the keynote. I find the Apple keynotes irrelevant to my needs, so prefer not to waste my time on them. My understanding is that WebRTC took place there as a word in a slide. And that’s HUGE! Especially considering the fact that none of the general technology media outlets cared to mention it in any way.

Not even the general developers media.

What was mentioned instead were things like the iOS file manager. That seems a lot more transformative.

This isn’t a rant about general media and how they miss WebRTC. It is a rant about how WebRTC as a technology has not caught the attention at all, outside a little circle of people.

Is it because communications is no longer interesting?

At a large developers event here in Israel on that same week, there were 6 different tracks: Architecture, Full stack, Philosophy, Big Data, IOT, Security. No comms.

Not sure what the answer…

On one hand, WebRTC is transformative and important. On the other hand, it is mostly ignored. #iOS
Click To Tweet
WebRTC Safari Support

So what did get included in the WebRTC Safari implementation by Apple?

  • The basics. GetUserMedia and PeerConnection
  • One-on-one voice and video calls seem to work well across browsers AND devices (including things like Safari to Edge)
  • Opus is there for audio
  • H.264 only for video. There is no VP8 or VP9. More on that later
  • The code supports Plan B, if you are into multiparty media routing
  • Data Channel is supported, but too buggy to be used apparently
  • No screen sharing. Yet
  • This is both for the desktop and mobile:
    • WebRTC Safari support is there for the macOS in the new version of safari
    • WebRTC iOS support is there for iOS 11 – via the Safari web browser, and maybe(?) inside WebViews

This is mostly expected. See below why.

WebKit, Blink and WebRTC

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. There was a browser rendering engine called WebKit. Everyone used WebKit. Especially Google and Apple. Google used WebKit for Chrome. And Apple used WebKit for Safari.

And then one day, in the middle of the development of WebRTC, Google decided enough is enough. They forked WebKit, renamed it to Blink, removed all excess code baggage and never looked back.

Apple never did care about WebRTC. At least not enough to make this thing happen until last week. I hope this is a move forward and a change of pace in Apple’s adoption of WebRTC.

Here’s what I think Apple did:

  • Seems like they just took the Google code for WebRTC and hammered at it until it fit nicely back into WebKit (ignoring WebRTC in WebKit in the process)
  • How did they modify it? Remove VP8. Add H.264 by hooking it up with the hardware codec in iOS and on the Mac
  • And did the rest of the porting work – connecting devices, etc.
  • Plan B is there because. Well. Google uses Plan B at the moment. And it just stands to reason that the code Apple had was Plan B
WebRTC Safari and Interoperability

When it comes to WebRTC, the question is one of browser interoperability. There aren’t many browser vendors (I am counting four major ones).

The basics seem to work fine. If you run a simple peer-to-peer call between any of the 4 browsers, you’ll get a call going. Voice and video. The lowest common denominator for that seems to be Opus+H.264 due to Safari. Otherwise, Opus+VP8 would also be a possibility.

The challenge starts when what you’re trying to do is multiparty. While H.264 is supported by all browsers, the ability to use simulcast with H.264 isn’t. At the moment, Chrome doesn’t support simulcast with H.264. The current market perception is that multiparty video without simulcast is meh.

Doing group calling?

  • Go for audio only
  • Force everyone to use H.264 if you need Safari (either as a general rule or when the specific session has someone using Safari) – and understand that simulcast won’t be available to you

Now it is going to become a matter of who blinks first: Google by adding H.264 simulcasting to Chrome; or Apple by adding VP8 to Safari.

The Next Video Codec War

Which leads us to the next frontier in the video codec wars.

If you came in late to the game, then know that we had over 3 years of continuous bickering regarding the mandatory video codec in WebRTC. Here’s the last I wrote about the codec wars when the Alliance of Open Media formed some two years ago.

At the time, both VP8 and H.264 were defined as mandatory video codecs in WebRTC. The trajectory was also quite obvious:

After  H.264 and VP8, there was going to be a shift towards VP9 and then a leap towards AV1 – the new video codec currently being defined by the Alliance of Open Media.

Who isn’t in the alliance? Apple.

And it seems that Apple decided to bank on HEVC (H.265) – the successor of H.264. This is true for both iOS and macOS. This is done through hardware acceleration for both the encoder and the decoder, with the purpose of reducing storage requirements for video files and reducing bandwidth requirements for streaming.

But it goes to show where Apple will be going with WebRTC next. They will be adding HEVC support to it, ignoring VP9 altogether.

There’s a hefty cost in taking that route:

  • H.264 is simple yet expensive – when you use it, you need to pay up royalties to a single patent pool – MPEG-LA
  • HEVC is complex AND expensive – when you use it, you need to pay up royalties for MULTIPLE patent pools – MPEG-LA, HEVC Advance, Velos Media. Wondering which one you’ll need to pay for and how much? Me too

Which is why I think Apple is taking this route in the first place.

Apple has its own patents in HEVC, and is part of the MPEG-LA patent pool.

And it knows royalties is going to be complex and expensive. Which makes this a barrier for other vendors. Especially those who aren’t as vertically integrated – who needs to pay royalties here? The chipset vendor? The OS vendor? The handset manufacturer?

By embedding HEVC in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, Apple is doing what it does best – differentiates itself from anyone else based on quality:

  • It has hardware acceleration for HEVC. Both encoding and decoding
  • It starts using it today on its devices, and “magically” media quality improves and/or storage/network requirements decrease

Google, and Android by extension, won’t be adding HEVC. Google has taken the VP9 route. But in VP9 most solutions are software based – especially for the encoder. Which means that using VP9 eats up CPU. Results look just as good as HEVC, but the cost is higher on CPU and memory needs. Which means an “inferior” solution.

Which is exactly what Apple wants and needs. It just doesn’t care if interoperability with other devices requires lowering quality as the perception of who’s at fault will fall flat on Android and Google and not on Apple.

So…

Don’t expect to see VP9 or AV1 anytime soon in Apple’s roadmap. Not for WebRTC and not for anything else.

Dan Rayburn covers the streaming side (non-WebRTC) of this HEVC decision quite nicely on StreamingMedia.

Oh, and while at it, Jeremy Noring wrote a well thought rant about this lack of support for VP8 and VP9. His suggestion? Go vote for bug #173141 on WebKit. It probably won’t help, but it will make you feel a bit better

The only way I see this being resolved? If Google retracts their support for H.264 and just blatantly removes it from Chrome until Apple adds VP8 to Safari. I’ll be happy to see this happening.

FaceTime , Multiparty and WebRTC

Apple has FaceTime.

And FaceTime probably doesn’t use WebRTC. I am not sure if it ever will.

When Google came out with WebRTC, they had the Hangouts (now Meet) team about a year behind in its adoption of WebRTC as their underlying technology – but the intent and later execution was there.

When Microsoft came out with WebRTC, Skype didn’t support WebRTC. But they did launch Skype for Linux which is built somewhat on top of WebRTC, and Skype for Web which is taking the same route. Call it ORTC instead of WebRTC – they are one and the same as they are set to merge anyway.

Apple? Will they place FaceTime on top of WebRTC? I see no incentive there whatsoever.

Can Cisco change this? Rowan Trollope broke the news titled “Cisco and Apple Announce New Features” that WebEx and Cisco Spark now work on Safari – no download needed. I’ll translate it for you by adding the missing keyword here – WebRTC. Cisco is using WebRTC to do that. And since their stack is built atop H.264, they got that working on Safari.

Cisco and Apple here is interesting. While Cisco mentions this in the headline as if these new features were done jointly, Apple isn’t really acknowledging it. There’s no quote from an Apple representative, and at the same time, Cisco isn’t mentioned in the WebKit announcement – TokBox and BlueJeans are.

One wonders.

Back to FaceTime. Which is a 1:1 video chat service.

And the fact that many look into group video chat and other multiparty video configurations.

Will Apple care enough to support it well in WebRTC? Will it move from Plan B to Unified Plan? Will it care about simulcast? Will it invest in SVC? Will it listen and work with Cisco on its multiparty needs for the benefit of us all?

Older Devices

Apple will not be upgrading iPhone 5 devices to iOS 11. That’s a 5 years old device.

In many requirement documents I see a request to support iPhone 4.

Will this bump the general audience out there to focus on iPhone 6 and upwards, seeing what Apple is doing as well? Will this mean vendors will need to port WebRTC on their own to support older devices?

Time will tell, but I think that switching to iPhone 6 and above and focusing there makes sense.

Chrome/Firefox support on iOS

Here’s a question for you.

If you use Chrome or Firefox on iOS. And open a URL to a site using WebRTC. Will that work?

Here’s the catch.

The reason there was no real browser for iOS that supported iOS until today? Apple mandates WebKit as the rendering engine on any browser app that comes to its AppStore.

Now that WebKit is getting official WebRTC support – will Chrome and Firefox add WebRTC support to their iOS browsers?

And if they do – you’ll be getting the Apple restrictions. I can just see the WebRTC developer teams at Google and Mozilla cringing at this thought.

This can get really interesting if and when Apple decides to add HEVC support to WebRTC in its WebKit implementation of iOS. You’ll get Chrome on iOS with H.264 and HEVC and Chrome everywhere else with H.264, VP8 and VP9.

Fun times.

What Should Developers Do?

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The question I’ve been asked multiple times already:

Do I need to build an app? Should I wait?

The suggest at the moment is wait. Question is for what and until when exactly.

If you are looking for a closed app and planning on developing native, then go with whatever worked for you until today. This news item just isn’t for you.

If you are looking for browser support on iOS, then go with Safari and plan on enabling H.264 video codec in your service. Don’t wait up for VP8.

If you want something that will be cross platform app development using HTML5, then wait. Webview WebRTC support in iOS is still an unknown. If it gets there in the coming months then waiting a few more minutes probably won’t make a real difference for you anyway.

My Updated Cheat Sheet

As it is, this change with Safari, iOS and macOS required some necessary updates in my resources.

First to update is the WebRTC Device Cheat sheet. You can find the updated one in the same download page.

One last thing –

Join my and Philipp Hancke for Virtual Coffee

I planned for a different Virtual Coffee session this month. One about developer tools. It got bumped into July.

The one in June will cover the iOS announcement and its ramifications. My guest this time will be Philipp Hancke.

The session takes place on Monday, June 19 at 15:30 EDT.

It is free to join, but will not be available later as a recording (unless you are a customer).

Register now

The post WebRTC iOS 11 Support. Are We There Yet? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

With WebRTC, Don’t Never Ever Mix Media and Signaling

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 12:00

And while at it – don’t mix signaling with NAT traversal.

Somehow, many people are asking these question in different phrasing, taking different angles and approaches to it. The thing is, if you want to build a robust production worthy service using WebRTC, you need to split these three entities.

If you haven’t already, then I suggest you check out my free 3-part video mini course on WebRTC servers.

Now, let’s dive into the details a bit –

Signaling Servers

Signaling servers is something we all have in our WebRTC products.

Why?

Because without them there’s no call. At all. Not even a Hello World example.

It is that simple.

You can co-locate the signaling server with your application server.

Here are a few things that you probably surmised about these servers already:

  1. You can scale a single server to handle 1000’s or event 100,000’s of connections and sessions in parallel
  2. These servers must maintain state for each user connected to them, making them hard to scale out
  3. Oftentimes, decisions that take place in these servers rely on external databases
  4. Latency of a couple 100’s of milliseconds is fine for these servers, but it is rather easy to be abusive and have that blown out of proportion if not designed and implemented properly (a few high profile services that I use daily come to mind here)

Did I mention signaling servers are written in higher level languages? Java, Node.js, Rails, Python, PHP (god forbid), …

NAT Traversal Servers

STUN and TURN is what I mean here.

And yes, we usually cram STUN along with TURN. TURN is the resource hog out of the two, but STUN can be attached to the same server just because they both have the same general purpose in life (to get the media flowing properly).

This is why I will ignore STUN here and focus on TURN.

Sometimes, people forget to TURN. They do so because WebRTC works great between two browser tabs or two people in the same office without the need for TURN, and putting Google’s STUN server URL is just so simple to do… that this is how they “ship” the product. Until all hell breaks loose.

TURN ends up relaying media between session participants. It does that when the participants can’t reach each other directly for one reason or another. This kind of a relay mechanism dictates two things:

  1. TURN will eat up bandwidth. And a lot of it
  2. Your preference is to place your TURN server as close it to the participant as possible. It is the only way to improve media quality and reduce latency, as from that TURN server, you have more control over the network (you can pay for better routes for example)

While you might not need many TURN servers, you probably want one at each availability zone of the cloud provider you are using.

Oh – and most NAT traversal servers I know are written in C/C++.

Media Servers

Media Servers are optional. So much so that they aren’t really a part of the specification – they’re just something you’d add in order to support certain functions. Group calls and recording are good examples of features that almost always translate into needing media servers.

The problem is that media servers are resource hogs compared to any of the other servers you’ll be needing with WebRTC.

This means that they end up scaling quite differently – a lot faster to be exact. And when they fail or crash (which happens), you still want to be able to reconnect the session nicely in front of the customer.

But the main thing is that it has different specs than the other servers here.

Which is why in most cases, media servers are placed in “isolation”.

There’s a point in placing media servers co-located with TURN servers – they scale somewhat together when TURN is needed. But I am not in favor of this approach most times, because TURN is a lot more Internet facing than the media server. And while I haven’t seen any publicity around hackers attacking media servers, it is probably only a matter of time.

And guess what? Media Servers? They are usually implemented in C/C++. They say it’s for speed.

Why Split them up?

Because they are different.

They serve different purposes.

And most likely, they need to be located in different parts of your deployment.

So just don’t. Place them in separate machines. Or VMs. Or Docker. Or whatever. Just have them logically separated and be prepared to separate them physically when the need arise.

If you want to understand more about WebRTC servers, then try out my free WebRTC server side mini course. You won’t regret it.

The post With WebRTC, Don’t Never Ever Mix Media and Signaling appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

Is Twilio Redefining CPaaS?

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 12:00

Twilio’s Jeff Lawson had a really interesting keynote at their Signal event. I think Twilio is trying to redefine what CPaaS is. If this works for them, it will make it doubly hard for their competitors.

This is going to be long, as the keynote was long and packed full with information and details that pave the road to what CPaaS is going to be in 2020.

I suggest you watch this keynote yourself –

What I loved the most? The beginning, where Jeff refers to code as making art. I have to agree. In my developer days, that was the feeling. Coding was like building with lego bricks without the instructions or sitting down to paint on T-shirts (yes – I did that in my youth). When a CEO of a company talks about coding as art and you see he truly believes it – you know that what that company is doing must be… art.

Before we Begin

One term you didn’t hear at the keynote:

CPaaS

One term that was there every other slide:

This was about developers, who is the buyer and how software APIs are everywhere.

It was also about how CPaaS is changing and Twilio is now much bigger than that – in the traditional sense of what CPaaS means.

It wasn’t said out loud, but the low level APIs that everyone are haggling about – SMS and voice – are nice, but not where the future lies.

Twilio by the Numbers

The numbers game was reserved for the first 13 minutes of the keynote, where Jeff asserted Twilio’s distinct leadership in this market:

  • 28 billion interactions (a year)
  • 70 countries (numbers in) today; plan to grow to numbers in a 100 countries “by this summer”
  • Over 900 employees; Over 400 in R&D
  • 30,000 annual deployments (the number of times a year Twilio is introducing new releases… in a continuous delivery mechanism to an operational cloud service) – this enables shipping faster with less mistakes. The result? 3.5 days between new product or feature launch
  • 1.6 million developer accounts on Twilio; 600,000 new accounts in the past year; doubling YoY
  • 99.999% API availability – and 99.999% success rate
  • 0 APIs killed

More about the two last bullets later.

Here’s what Twilio deployed in the past year:

To me, this is becoming hard to follow and grasp, especially when I need to look at other vendors as well.

If you look at it, you’ll see that Twilio has been working hard in multiple vectors. The main ones are Enterprise, IP communications and “legacy” telephony.

The main messages?

  1. Twilio is the largest player in the communication API space
  2. Twilio is stable and solid for the enterprise
  3. Twilio is globally available and rapidly expanding to new countries
  4. Twilio is fast to introduce new features

All this boils down to stating that a competitive advantage can be best achieved on top of Twilio.

Twilio’s New Layering Model

If you’ve been watching this space, you might have noticed that I tend to use this model to explain CPaaS feature sets:

And this is how Jeff explained it on stage in Twilio’s Signal event 2016:

Building blocks. Unrelated. Could have been placed horizontally one next to the other to get the same concept. But piling them on top of each other is great – it shows there’s lots and lots of services and features to use.

2017 brings with it a change in the paradigm and a new layers model that Jeff explained, and was later expanded with more details:

The funny thing is that this reminded me of how we explained the portfolio and API layers in our VoIP products at RADVISION more than 10 years ago. It is great to see how this translates well when shifting from on premise APIs to cloud APIs. But I digress.

Back to the layering model.

The Super Network wasn’t given much thought in this time around. There were announcements and improvements in this area, but these are a given by now. For those who wish to outmaneuver Twilio by offering a better network – that’s going to be tough without the layers above it.

Then there’s the Programmable Communications Cloud, which is where most of the CPaaS vendors are. This is what I drawn as my own perspective of CPaaS services. The names have changed a bit for the Twilio’s services – we’ve got Programmable Chat now instead of IP Messaging. SMS has 3 separate building blocks here instead of one, and the baseline one is called Programmable SMS – keeping the lower level Communications APIs with a nice naming convention of Programmable X.

The interesting part of this story comes in the Engagement Cloud. Jeff made a point of explaining the three aspects of it: Systems, Departments and Individuals. And the thing about the Engagement Cloud is that services there are actually best practices – they aren’t “functional” in their nature. So Twilio are referring to the APIs in this layer as Declarative APIs.

The Engagement Cloud

The main difference between what’s in the Engagement Cloud and the Programmable Communications Cloud? In the Programmable Communications Cloud you know as a developer what will happen – you ask to send an SMS and the SMS is sent. With the Engagement Cloud, you ask for a message to reach someone – and you don’t really care how it is done – just that it will be done in any channel that fits best.

No Channel To Rule Them All

What is that “any channel that fits best”?

That’s based on what Twilio decides in the modules they offer in the Engagement Cloud, and it is where the words “best practices” were used during the event.

Best practices are powerful. As a supplier, they show you know the business of your customer to a point where you can assist him more than just by giving him the thing that he think he needs. It places you often as a trusted advisor, or one to go to in order to decide what it is you are going to do. After all – you own the best practices, so why not follow them?

It is also where the most value is to be made moving forward.

SMS is probably still kind when it comes to revenue in CPaaS. Not only for Twilio, but for all players in the market. And while this is nice and true, it is also a real threat to them all:

Yes. SMS is growing in use.

Yes. The stupid term A2P (Application 2 Person) is growing rapidly and it is done using SMS.

Yes. People prefer that over installing apps, receiving emails and getting push notifications.

Yes. People do read SMS messages. But I am not sure if they trust them.

Here’s a quick story for you.

Airbnb.

I use them once in awhile. I was just planning a trip with the family for July. Found the dates. Booked the flights. Found an Airbnb to stay at. Reserved a place – and was asked if I am cool with push notifications. I clicked yes. And here’s what I got the next moment on my phone:

Businesses might be recommended to use SMS to reach their customers, but the prices of SMS urges businesses to seek other, cheaper channels of communications at the same time.

There is no money to be had in Communications APIs in the long term.
Click To Tweet

There is already a price war at this level. Vendors trying to be “cheaper than X”. Developers complaining about the high prices of CPaaS, not understanding the real costs of developing and maintaining such systems.

What’s in Twilio’s Engagement Cloud

Which is where the Engagement Cloud comes – or more accurately – the best practices and smarts on top of just calling communications APIs.

Twilio are now offering 4 APIs in that domain:

  1. Authy – handling authentication type scenarios, including but not limited to the classic 2FA
  2. Notify – a notification service from applications and services to users. It started as SMS, continued with the addition of push notifications, but now supports multiple channels
  3. TaskRouter – a way to connect incoming tasks with workers who can handle them. Can be used to build queuing systems in contact centers
  4. Proxy – a mechanism to send connect between people in two separate groups – riders and drivers for example. Suitable for the sharing economy or when the “agents” aren’t “employees” or are loosely “controlled” by the organization
Omnichannel

The interesting bit here is that these all started as functional building blocks. But now the stories behind them are all about multi-channel.

SMS is great, but it isn’t the answer.

IP messaging is great, but it isn’t the answer.

Facebook messenger with its billion+ users is great, but it isn’t the answer.

XKCD says it best:

With such a model in which we live in, programmable communications need to be able to keep track of the best means to reach a person. And so Twilio’s Engagement Cloud is about becoming Omnichannel (=everywhere) with the smarts needed to pick and choose the best channel per interaction.

Are we there yet with the current Twilio offering? I don’t know. But the positioning, intent, roadmap and vision is crystal clear. And with Twilio’s current speed of execution, it is going to happen sooner rather than later.

Vendor Lock-in

The great thing about this layer of Engagement Cloud for Twilio is that it is going to be hard to replace once you start using it.

How hard is it to replace an API that sends out an SMS to a phone number with another API that does the same? Not much.

But how hard is it to replace best practices wrapped inside an API that decides what to do on its own based on context? Harder. And getting even more so as time goes by and that piece of module gets smarter.

Twilio gets a better handle on its customers with the Engagement Cloud. It makes it a lot harder for developers to go for a multi-vendors strategy where they use SMS from the CPaaS vendor whose price is the lowest.

Developer’s Benefits

Why would developers use these Engagement Cloud modules from Twilio?

Because they save them a ton of time and even a lot more in headaches.

Today, there are 3 huge benefits for developers:

  1. Logic – the logic in these modules is one you get for “free” here. No need to write it on your own and make the decisions on your own
  2. Best practices – I know that your contact center is unique, but it probably adheres to similar queuing mechanisms as all the rest. You end up using similar/same best practices as others in your domain, and having these already pre-built is great. Maybe you can even improve your own business simply by using best practices and not do it alone
  3. Multiple vendors – adding channels means figuring out the APIs and craziness of multiple providers. No fun. You get a single API to rule them all. What’s not to like?

These areas are usually those that developers usually don’t like to deal with. That third one especially is a real pain – after you did it for 2 vendors/channels – connected it to SMS and maybe Facebook Messenger, it feels boring to add the next channel. But now you don’t have to anymore. And don’t you get me started with how the APIs there deprecated and changed through time.

Machine Learning and its CPaaS Role

Twilio talked about Machine Learning in two new APIs that it is introducing: Speech Recognition and Understand

The Speech Recognition one is a bit less interesting. It is done in partnership with Google, using Google’s engine for it. The smarts on Twilio’s side here is the integration and how they are stitching these capabilities of text to speech throughout their line of products.

Here what Twilio is doing is acting in the most Twilio-like approach – instead of developing its own speech recognition tech, or using a 3rd party that gets installed on premise, it decided to partner with Google and user their cloud based speech recognition technology. And then making it easier for developers to consume as part of the bigger Twilio offering.

The real story lies elsewhere though – in Twilio Understand.

While Speech Recognition is a functional piece where you feed the machine with voice and get text, Understand is about modeling your use case and then having the machine parse text based on that model.

It is also where Twilio seems to have gone it alone (or embedded a third party internally), building its real first customer-facing Machine Learning based product.

In the past few years we’ve seen huge growth in this space. It started with Big Data, turned Analytics, turned Real Time Analytics, turned Decision Engines, turned Machine Learning.

Companies use this type of capabilities in many ways. Mostly internally, where Twilio probably had been doing that already. But embedding machine learning and big data, making products smarter is where we’re headed. And for me, this is the first instance I’ve seen by a CPaaS vendor taking this route.

It is still a small step, as Understand is another piece of API – a module – that you can use. And just like many of Twilio’s other APIs, you can use it as a building block integrated with its other building blocks. It is a move in the right direction to evolving into something much bigger.

LinkedIn shows that Twilio has several data scientists (the man power you need for such tasks), though none of them was “kind enough” to offer details of his role or doings at Twilio

Moving forward, I’d expect Twilio to hire several more people in that domain, beefing up its chops and starting to offer these capabilities elsewhere.

The only competitor at the moment who is seeing that is Cisco Spark – with their recent acquisition of MindMeld.

The great thing about machine learning? People feel and assume that it is super hard. Which means it is worth paying for.

The Enterprise

Here’s where enterprises find a home at Twilio’s Signal 2017 keynote. Best to just show it in slides:

Twilio’s API calls success rate. This goes on top of its 99.999% API availability and this is where Jeff wants you to focus – not on getting an API returning an error (would would still fall under availability) but rather on how many successful results you get from the APIs.

Since Twilio launched, none of its APIs was ever deprecated or killed (haven’t checked it myself but this is what Jeff wants you to remember).

Twilio has been working hard on reaching out to enterprises. It introduced an Enterprise plan last year. Implemented ISO 2700. Added Public Key Validation. Introduced support for Enterprise SSO.

All these are great, but what I think resonates here the most are the above two items.

99.999% Success Rate

Enterprises LOVE this.

SLAs. Guarantees. All the rage.

Twilio is operating at 99.999% uptime and is happy to offer a 99.99% guarantee in its enterprise SLA:

For an enterprise to go for Twilio requires two leaps of faith:

  1. Leaping from on premise to the cloud. Yes. I am told everyone’s migrating to the cloud, but this is still painful
  2. Picking Twilio as its vendor of choice and not its natural enterprise vendors (known as ISVs)

When you pick Twilio, who’s giving you any guarantees?

Well… Twilio does. At 99.99% while maintaining 99.999% across all of its services to all of its customers.

That’s a powerful message. Especially if you couple it with 30,000 deployments a year.

0 APIs Killed

This one is REALLY interesting.

In the world of APIs where everything is in the cloud with a single copy running (it isn’t, but bear with me a second), having someone say that they offer backward compatibility to all of their APIs is huge.

The number of changes you usually need to follow with APIs on the internet is huge. If you have a product using third party APIs, then every year or two, you need to make some changes to have it continue to work properly – because the APIs you use change.

0 APIs kills means that if an enterprise writes their code today for a project they have, it won’t need to worry about changes to it due to Twilio. Now, in many cases, enterprises develop a project, launch it and then are happy to continue with it as is without further investment (or budget). Which means that this kind of a soft guarantee is important.

How does Twilio do it?

They launch products in beta and run the beta for long periods of time. During that time, they get developers to use and tinker with the APIs, collect feedback and when they feel ready, they officially launch it – at which point the API is deemed stable.

It works well because Twilio has lots and lots of customers, some willing to jump on new offerings and take the risk of having things break a bit during those beta periods.

The end result? 0 APIs killed.

Will it Blend?

I believe it will.

Twilio has introduced a new paradigm for they way it is layering its product offerings.

In the process, it repositioned all of its higher level APIs as the Engagement Cloud. It stitched these APIs to use its lower Programmable Communications APIs, adding business logic and best practices. And it is now looking into machine learning as well.

It is a powerful package with nothing comparable on the market.

Twilio are the best of suite approach of CPaaS – offering the largest breadth of support across this space. And it is making sure to offer powerful building blocks to make developers think twice before going for an alternative.

Twilio isn’t for everyone. And other CPaaS vendors do have their place. But increasingly, these places become niches.

Is there more?

Yes.

This analysis is long, but by no means full.

There were a lot of other aspects of the announcements and Twilio’s moves that require more thought and details. The pricing model on group Programmable Video is one of them. Third Party Add Ons in certain domains (especially for analytics) is another. Or Twilio heading into the UI layer. And then there’s serverless via Twilio Functions. This isn’t even an exhaustive list…

I won’t be going into these here, but these are things that I am actively looking at.

Contact me if you are interested in understanding more about this space.

Want to make the best decision on the right WebRTC platform for your company? Now you can! Check out my WebRTC PaaS report, written specifically to assist you with this task.

The post Is Twilio Redefining CPaaS? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

WebRTC for Business People – The 2017 Edition

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:00

WebRTC for Business People – The 2017 Edition

The revamped WebRTC for Business People report is now published.

I’ve been reviewing the stats of the content here lately, and noticed that people still find their way and download my WebRTC for Business People report.

My only problem with it is that it was already old – and showing it: There’s no serious mention of the advances made by Microsoft Edge towards WebRTC support, nothing about the difficulty of finding experienced WebRTC developers.

But most of all – the use cases it mentioned. Some of them were companies that got acquired. Others were shutdown. Some stagnated in place, or are now on life support.

That’s not a good way to introduce someone to the topic of WebRTC.

So a rewrite was in order here, which brought me to work with a few sponsors:

They were kind enough to make the investment needed for me to put the time and effort into it.

WebRTC for Business People – what’s in the 2017 edition?

Well…

First off – the report is still free. You can download it, print it, read it online – practically do whatever you want with it.

I’ve refreshed the visuals and updated the analysis part with data from 2015 until 2017 (the time that have passed since the last update to the report). Did you know that WebRTC is still growing linearly in all relevant parameters that you can check?

No hype here. Just solid, steady growth. The minor change in github projects trajectory? That started when Google moved their WebRTC samples and demos from Google code to github.

I wonder if this will change when Apple adds WebRTC to Safari and iOS.

I removed all the nonsense in the report about SIP and H.323. These protocols still exist, but more often than not, people don’t look at them and compare them with WebRTC – because WebRTC has gone way beyond these signaling protocols.

Oh – yes – and I completely rewritten all the vendor use cases and the segments I look at in this report. Here’s the new set of vendors in the report:

If you are interested in WebRTC, the ecosystem around it and understand how companies are using it today – in the real life – making real commercial use of it – then check out this report.

Download the report

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Announcing my Virtual Coffee sessions

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:00

Time to start another ongoing project. This time – my Monthly Virtual Coffee sessions about WebRTC, CPaaS, APIs and comms in general.

Some time in 2015-2016, I decided to host Virtual Coffee sessions. Once a month, I’d pick a subject, create a presentation and host a meeting with my customers. All of them. It was open for questions and it was fun. It stopped because… I don’t know. It just did.

Ever since then, I wanted to do something similar. I found I like talking and interacting with people, and I want to do it more.

Which is why I am now announcing the new Virtual Coffee with Tsahi.

Here’s how it will go down:
  • The live sessions are free to join. For anyone
  • Recording of the session will be available to my customers only
  • Topic will be selected and announced a week or more in advance
  • This will happen once a month. Hopefully
How will this be announced?

I won’t be using this blog to publish future sessions – sorry.

The sessions will be announced through Crowdcast (the service I started using for such events lately), so follow me there. And through my newsletter, so if you’re not subscribed – do it now.

What topics will I cover?

I really don’t know…

If you want something specific – drop me a line.

Our 1st Virtual Coffee together

The first topic I want to tackle?

CPaaS, WebRTC, Differentiation and M&A

When? May 23 @ 15:30 EDT

There are over 20 different CPaaS vendors out there, and that number is growing and shrinking at the same time:

  • AT&T closing their Enhanced WebRTC APIs
  • Cisco acquiring Tropo
  • Vonage acquiring Nexmo
  • CLX Communication acquiring Sinch
  • RingCentral adding APIs to its UCaaS
  • TeleSign announcing self service CPaaS, only to get acquired

I want to take the time to review some of this M&A activities, as well as show how different vendors are trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd.

Join me for this Virtual Coffee with Tsahi

Oh – if you you have questions for this already – just ask them on Crowdcast once you register.

See you there!

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What is WebRTC and What is it Good For?

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:00

What is WebRTC and What is it Good For? This 7-minute video provides a quick introduction to WebRTC and demonstrates why it is growing in importance and popularity.

Covered in this video:

  • What is WebRTC?
  • Current state of adoption of WebRTC
  • Why is it so much more than just a video chat enabler
  • The power of “Open Source” in WebRTC
  • How WebRTC works
  • Five reasons to choose WebRTC
What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is an HTML5 specification that you can use to add real time media communications directly between browser and devices.

Simply put:

WebRTC enables for voices and video communication to work inside web pages.

And you can do that without the need of any prerequisite of plugins to be installed in the browser.

WebRTC was announced in 2011 and since then it has steadily grown in popularity and adoption.

By 2016 there has been an estimate from 2 billion browsers installed that are enabled to work with WebRTC. From traffic perspective, WebRTC has seen an estimate of over a billion minutes and 500 terabytes of data transmitted every week from browser communications alone. Today, WebRTC is widely popular for video calling but it is capable of so much more.

A few things worth mentioning:

  • WebRTC is also completely free
  • It comes as open source project that has been embedded in browsers but you can take and adopt it for your own needs
  • This in turn has created a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem around WebRTC of a variety of open source projects and frameworks as well as commercial offerings from companies that help you to build your products
  • WebRTC constantly evolving and improving, so you need to keep an eye on it
So, how does WebRTC work?Code and API

It is important to understand from where we are coming from: If you wanted to build anything that allowed for voice or video calling a few years ago, you were most probably used C/C++ for that. This means long development cycles and higher development costs.

WebRTC changes all that: it takes the need for C/C++ and replace it with a Javascript API.

WebRTC comes with a Javascript API layer on the top that you can use inside the browser. This makes it far easier to develop and integrate real time communications anywhere. Internally, WebRTC is still mostly implemented using C/C++, but most developers that use WebRTC won’t need to dig deep into these layers in order to develop their applications.

Availability

WebRTC today is available in most modern browsers. Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge support it already, while Apple is rumored to be in the process of adding WebRTC to Safari.

You can also take WebRTC and embed it into an application without the need of browser at all.

Media and access

What WebRTC does is allow the access to devices. You can access the microphone of your device, the camera that you have on your phone or laptop – or it can be a screen itself. You can capture the screen of the user and then have that screen shared or recorded remotely.

Whatever WebRTC does that does in the real time, enabling live interactions.

WebRTC isn’t limited to voice and video. It allows sending any type of data any arbitrary data

There are several reasons WebRTC is a great choice for real time communications
  1. First of all, WebRTC is an open source project
    1. It is completely free for commercial or private use, so why not use it?
    2. Since it is constantly evolving and improving, you are banking on a technology that would service you for years to come
    3. WebRTC is a pretty solid choice – It already created a vibrant ecosystem around it of different vendors and companies that can assist you with your application
  2. WebRTC today is available in browsers and most modern browsers today support it
    1. This has enabled and empowered the creation of new cases and business models
    2. From taking a Guitar or a Yoga lesson – to medical clowns or group therapy – to hosting large scale professional Webinars. WebRTC is capable of serving all of them and more
    3. WebRTC not limited to only browsers because it is also available for mobile applications
      1. The source code is portable and has been used already in a lot of mobile apps
      2. SDKS are available for both mobile and embedded environments so you can use WebRTC to run anywhere
    4. WebRTC is not only about for voice or video calling
      1. It ss quite powerful and versatile
      2. You can use it to build group calling service, add recording to it or use it only for data delivery
      3. It is up to you to decide what to do with WebRTC
    5. WebRTC takes the notion of communication service and downgrades it into a feature inside a different type of service. So now you can take WebRTC and simply add communication in business processes you need within your application or business

So what other choice do you really have besides using WebRTC?

The idea around WebRTC and what you can use it for are limitless. So go on start building whatever you need and use WebRTC for that.

Embed this video on your own site for free! Just copy and paste the code below…

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/217448338" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

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What to Expect when Deploying WebRTC in Contact Centers?

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 12:00

Contact centers are the main adopters of WebRTC still. This is clearly reflected by my infographic of the WebRTC state of the market 2017.

Motto:“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Western Union telegraph company memo, 1877.

Think you know how WebRTC fits in a contact center? Check out with The Complete WebRTC Contact Center Uses Swipefile

Get the swipefile

Recently, Jaroslav from iCORD, told me the stats they now see from the contact center deployment they have in O2 Czech Republic, who also happen to be their parent company.

How is O2 CZ making use of WebRTC in their Contact Center?

What they did isn’t the classic approach you will see to WebRTC in contact centers, but rather something slightly different. If you are a customer of O2 CZ and you are thinking of making a purchase on their website, you have the option to leave a number for them to immediately get back to you:

And yes – there is also an “exit intent”  on that sales page, so if try to leave this page, it will appear as a popup.

How is a phone call related to WebRTC you ask? Well… it isn’t. Unless you factor in the fact that we now know what web page the user is on.

What happens next, is that a contact center agent will call back to the user, and the user will see something new on his browser – a shared space between him and the agent that just called him.

This shared space will enable the agent to browse the same page the customer was on, and move on from there elsewhere. It also includes annotations – the agent can draw or mark things on the screen. One last thing – the user will see the video of the agent, but will not share his video.

See? They even haggle and write down discount prices right on the webpage.

Now, if the interaction started with a phone call, the agent in the contact center can instruct the customer to go to the O2 CZ website and enter a PIN code there – and magically get to the same experience.

Here’s a diagram to show the communication channels we now have between the customer and the contact center agent:

Why this approach?

  1. Customers continue using the phone. Same way they did in the past
  2. There’s no reliance on the customer’s camera, microphone or muted speaker volume
  3. It got stitched right into the existing contact center O2 CZ already had in place
The results

But was this effective? Was it worth the effort?

O2 CZ have been running this contact center service throughout 2016, and took the time to analyze the results. They did so only for sales related calls – the money makers.

Here’s what they found out:

Using this approach is much more efficient than a simple phone call.

Let’s stop right here for a second and soak that statement.

We’re talking about a contact center.

Of a mid-sized European carrier (4 million subscribers).

The type of those where I am told over and over would NOT adopt WebRTC because it does not support Internet Explorer 4. Oh. And this specific service falls back to Flash if the customer’s browser doesn’t support WebRTC and even decreases further in feature set to static screenshot and PDF file sharing for those who don’t even support Flash.

And they are already doing it for a full year.

Successfully.

In production.

In front of live customers.

Who would have thought a non-startup company that isn’t located in Silicon Valley and operated by 16-year olds would be able of doing such a ridiculous thing like deploy WebRTC in production directly to where money gets negotiated with customers.

— end of rant —

Back to the results.

Call length on average dropped

It takes 30% less time to negotiate and close a deal than a regular phone call and considerably shorter than text chat. This may seem a bit backwards – the fact that chat takes the longest and a video session the shortest, but that’s the experience of this contact center.

How about succeeding to close a deal and make a sale? WebRTC gets closed deals 25% more than regular phone calls. Chat is slightly less successful than WebRTC but more successful as phone. These values were measured on session landing at sales agents’ desk once those irrelevant and redirected were filtered out.

And the customer satisfaction? Over 20% rate the service 5 stars at the end of the interaction and 7% left positive textual evaluation of the service. Compared to the traditional IVR system that’s really high.

Where does this lead us?
  1. There are many ways to deploy WebRTC in a contact center
  2. WebRTC is already being used by contact centers – successfully
  3. Done right, there’s huge value in adding WebRTC to your customer engagement. It adds efficiency and improves customer satisfaction, resulting with higher value to both sales and care
Want to learn more of the various ways WebRTC fits in with contact centers?

Get my free WebRTC Contact Center Uses Swipefile

And if you are looking for more information about the O2 CZ deployment details – especially the technical ones, Jaroslav will be happy to have a conversation with you.

 

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6 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Hiring a WebRTC Outsourcing Vendor

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 12:00

How do you find good WebRTC outsourcing talent?

At least once a week.

That’s about the current rate in which I bump into a hiring or talent question related to WebRTC.

Recently, I got a few calls with companies that went through the process of working with an outsourcing vendor who developed their app and got stuck.

Sometimes it was due to bad blood going between the two companies. But more often than not it was because the company that approached me wasn’t happy with the delivered results. The application that was developed just didn’t really work as expected. Looking at some of these apps, it was easily apparent to see that the developers were clueless about WebRTC. Things like wrong NAT traversal configurations (or none at all), or the use of mesh media delivery for large multiparty video sessions are the most obvious warning signs here.

If I had to think why this is so, my guess it boils down to three reasons:

  1. WebRTC is still rather new. 5 years. So there’s still not enough mileage on it for most developers
  2. It isn’t Web and it isn’t VoIP. But it is also Web and VoIP together. Which means many seem to misunderstand it
  3. Skilled WebRTC developers are hard to find. Less than 12,000 profiles with that term on LinkedIn’s now 500 million profiles

When you go and ask from an outsourcing vendor to build you a service, the answer you will get is “sure thing”. And then a price and a timeline. That’s their business, and most would often use that project as their jumping board towards another domain of expertise for them. Many of these outsourcing vendors won’t invest in learning new technologies without a customer paying for that investment.

This means that a lot of the market for WebRTC outsourcing is a market of lemons. Which is why it is so important you check and validate your prospective WebRTC outsourcing vendor before signing an agreement with him.

Picked a WebRTC outsourcing vendor? Here are a few quick telltale signs that will help you determine just how knowledgeable he is about WebRTC:

Get the WebRTC Outsourcing Vendor Signals swipefile

Here are 6 questions to ask yourself before you hire a WebRTC outsourcing vendor.

#1 – Do I know my own requirements?

There are two parts to knowing your requirements from the product:

  1. Knowing and understanding your business and the interactions you want for it
  2. Understanding what’s realistic for you with WebRTC to set your expectations accordingly – this also means understanding the costs of certain features versus how important they are for you

For that, I suggest you use something like my WebRTC requirements template.

#2 – Am I their first WebRTC customer?

This is a biggie.

Try. Not. To be. Their FIRST. Customer. That does. WebRTC.

Don’t be their first customer doing WebRTC.

Make sure you’re not the first one they build a WebRTC product for.

Their first WebRTC project? You shouldn’t be the one they do it for.

Got the point?

One more time if you missed it:

I knew that picture (and font) would come in handy some day.

#3 – Is the team working for me built a WebRTC product before?

This one is somewhat tricky, and I must say – a bit new in my list of top questions to a WebRTC outsourcing vendor.

If you’ve been reading this from the start instead of skimming through, you might have seen the number 12,000. This number is higher than the number of profiles in LinkedIn that have the term WebRTC in them anywhere. It means that with some of these WebRTC outsourcing vendors, the people put in place on your project might not be the ones who know WebRTC – these are already fully booked by other clients – or they might have gone elsewhere (with the demand of WebRTC developers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them learn the trade in one vendor and move on to the next).

I’ve seen it happen once or twice before.

So make sure that not only does the vendor knows WebRTC well – he is also placing the right people on your project. And understand that there are times when not the whole team must know WebRTC to develop a successful project.

#4 – Can I validate what they build for me?

Developers who don’t know and understand WebRTC won’t be able to deliver a commercial product for you.

If they don’t understand the server side of WebRTC and its implications (check my free mini course on WebRTC server side), then the end result will run great between you and your pal sitting next to you, but when you take it to production it will fail spectacularly.

Things to look for:

  1. Not configuring NAT traversal properly (public STUN servers, no TURN servers, no TCP or TLS configurations for TURN)
  2. Using mesh instead of mixing or routing the media (see here) – in plain English, not using a media server in scenarios that beg for it to be used
  3. Not testing for scale (see here)
  4. Not checking the result in varying network conditions

While some of these can be solved just by more testing (and focused testing – one where the tester actually knows what to look for), there are times when the architecture selected for the product is just all wrong. It should have been apparent from the get go that it won’t hold water.

But anyways – make sure you’ve got a plan in place on what and how to test to validate that that thing that was given to you as the finished good is actually the finished good and not finished for good.

#5 – Should I ask for something On Premise or CPaaS based?

This goes back to #1, but slightly different. Probably should have placed it as #2.

Developing your own product from scratch will be more expensive than using a CPaaS vendor. CPaaS vendors are those vendors that take the whole hassle of real time communications, wrap it with their nice API and manage it all for you (and yes, I wrote a report about them).

Whenever I sit down with an entrepreneur that wants a product I start there when it comes to vendor and technology stack selections. Trying to understand his restrictions and requirements. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are deterred by the seemingly high pricing of CPaaS vendors. Especially at the beginning – when they believe they will get to a million monthly active subscribers within a month. Well… it won’t happen to you. And if it does, a VC or two will probably be happy to foot that bill, understanding you probably found a real boon.

What should you do?

  1. Read this one. And then read this one from Chris Kranky
  2. Make your  decision on that build vs buy decision (in both you will be building – don’t worry)
  3. Revisit your initial requirements
  4. Revisit that vendor you plan on working with
#6 – Who is the owner of this project on my end?

Someone needs to be the owner of this project on your end.

Yes. You have a WebRTC outsourcing vendor developing this thing for you, but you need someone to have that vendor behave and deliver.

That someone needs to understand WebRTC well enough to handle the requirements, the discussions with the vendor for all the issues that will arise along the way.

I’d also recommend having that someone on the payroll and not external.

If you don’t have such a someone then you effectively selected you for that job. Congrats!

Do Your Homework

If you plan on starting a project that makes use of WebRTC, and you plan on using a WebRTC outsourcing vendor for it, start by doing your homework.

Make sure you have the answers to the questions above.

And if you need help along the way – with the requirements, the architecture, the vendor to select, the process – you know where to find me.

Picked a WebRTC outsourcing vendor? Here are a few quick telltale signs that will help you determine just how knowledgeable he is about WebRTC:

Get the WebRTC Outsourcing Vendor Signals swipefile

The post 6 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Hiring a WebRTC Outsourcing Vendor appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

Should Browser Vendors be Responsible for their User’s WebRTC Actions?

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:00

Security is… complex. Even with WebRTC.

I’ve always been one to praise the security measures placed in  WebRTC.

While WebRTC is a secure protocol by nature, it seems that browsers take different approaches to who needs to take responsibility of any additional means of security.

The gist of it:

  • WebRTC is secure by default
  • Whenever a developer’s mistake can be thwarted by tweaking WebRTC – it gets tweaked
  • Whenever a security hole is found, it gets fixed and deployed by the browser vendors faster than most other companies in the industry can even perceive the notion of a threat

Seriously – what’s not to like?

Recently though, I started thinking about it. How do browser vendors think about security? How much do they take it upon themselves to be the guardians of their users? His trusted guide in the big bad world that is the Internet?

Which brings me to the big one –

Are browser vendors responsible to the actions of their users when it comes to WebRTC?

It seems that they have different approaches and concepts to this one.

Google Chrome

Moto: Users are stupid and should be protected

That’s how I’d put their mindset to words.

getUserMedia

Chrome has long been one to clamp down on where and when can WebRTC be used.

They started off with voice and video working on HTTP and HTTPS, while HTTP access granting to the camera and microphone were forgotten, and required a user’s approval each and every time.

They shifted towards HTTPS only. You can’t access the microphone or the camera in an HTTP page.

Persistence

The decision a user made is persistent. If you granted a domain access to your microphone or camera – Chrome remembers it – for eternity. Your only way of revoking that is by clicking the camera icon on the address bar (if you can even notice it):

Oh, and for persistency – Chrome offers you two choices:

  1. Ask when there’s a need (and Chrome will remember the answer for that domain for you)
  2. Never ever share your device

No middle-ground here.

Screen sharing

You can share your screen with Chrome.

But it will ask the user each time for his permission.

And to enable screen sharing, you will first need to create a Chrome Extension for your web app and have the user install it. Not a biggie, but a hurdle.

Now, to publish a Chrome Extension on the Chrome Web Store, you’ll need to pay a small $5 fee.

Why? Fraud – obviously:

You see, screen sharing is considered by Google (and most other browsers) as more of a security threat than camera and microphone access.

By forcing the Chrome Extension, Google raises the bar against abuse, and can theoretically remove any abusive accounts and extensions with better tracability to their source.

The only real downside of it? I have over 10 icons on my toolbar now in Chrome, and most of them are for screen sharing on different services. Once a move I remove a few of them to declutter my browser. Yuck.

Mozilla Firefox

Moto: Users are intelligent

Maybe. But not all of humanity. Or even the billion or two that use browsers.

getUserMedia

In Firefox, getUserMedia will work in HTTP.

Not sure if persistence can be configured for Firefox for HTTP websites. I guess it is akin to herd immunity in vaccination. Since Chrome is THE browser, developers make sure their WebRTC service works on Chrome (lets call it Chrome first?) so their service starts by running only on HTTPS anyway.

Persistence

Anyways, Philipp Hancke wrote a great post about getUserMedia and timing with browsers. Here’s how timing looks for appear.in from the moment getUserMedia is called and until it is completed:

Firefox tend to take longer to complete its getUserMedia calls. Philipp attributes it to this little UI design in Firefox:

In Firefox, if you want to decision (allow/disallow) to be persisted, you need to opt in for it. And for appear.in, most people don’t opt in.

This is great, especially for the Don’t Allow option (it is quite a hassle to remove that restriction from Chrome once you decided not to allow such access in a session).

Screen sharing

For screen sharing, Firefox used to have a whitelist of domains you had to register on to get screen sharing to work.

From Firefox 52, this restriction has been removed. Mozilla wrote a post about it, explaining their millions of users around the world about the dangers.

I am not sure about you, but I’ve learned early on as a developer catering to developers that other developers are stupid (if you are a developer, then I am sorry, but bear with me – and read this one while you’re at it). So when I wrote code for developers, I made sure that if they screw things up, we crash spectacularly. The reasoning was, the sooner we crash the faster our customers (who are developers) will fix their bugs – and do that during development – so they won’t get into deadlocks or weird crashes in production that are way harder to find. These were the good old days of C programming.

Now… if developers are stupid, then what would mere users do about their understanding of security and threats?

In Firefox, they need to read and understand that yellowish warning when all they want to do is share their screen now – after all – people are waiting for them to do so in the session already.

With such a warning… I am not sure I am going to be in a trusting mood no matter the site.

While I mostly prefer Firefox approach for getUserMedia permissions, I think Chrome does a better job at it with the extensions mechanism.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge has started to support WebRTC (finally).

While I a, in the process of installing my Creators update (where I am promised proper support for WebRTC), this will take more time than I have to get some nice screenshots of what Edge is doing.

So I asked Philipp Hancke (like I do about these things).

Here’s what I got:

  • Edge enable persistence for getUserMedia
  • It has a model similar to Firefox – you need to opt-in for persistency
  • It doesn’t support screen sharing yet

Download the WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet to learn more on how to get WebRTC to as many devices and environments as possible.

Are Browser Vendors Responsible for Our WebRTC Actions?

Yes they are.

In the same approach that browser vendors are taking in HTTPS everywhere, removing Flash from the web, protecting against known phishing sites, etc; they need to also protect users from the abuse of WebRTC.

The first step is by not allowing developers to do stupid (by forcing encryption and DTLS-SRTP for example). The second one and just as important is by not allowing users to do stupid.

 

The post Should Browser Vendors be Responsible for their User’s WebRTC Actions? appeared first on BlogGeek.me.

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