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Where to find Quality WebRTC Resources

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:00

It’s easy, as long as you know where to look for it.

This was published yesterday. Oftentimes, the things I read out there about WebRTC sounds just like this conversation from Dilbert’s life.

WebRTC is elusive. It is located in the cracks between VoIP and the web – a place where most people are just clueless. My own pedigree is VoIP. About 6 years ago, as an “aging” CTO trying to build a cloud service with an API for developers that runs a VoIP service, I was given an important lesson – there’s much to be learned from a 24 year old kid with milk teeth. In a span of a year and a half I got introduced to agile methodologies, internet scale, continuous deployment and a slew of other techniques – none of them was given the term we use today – but they were all there. It helped me later in understanding how and why WebRTC is so transformative.

As we head into 2016, I guess it is time to state a few of the great resources out there for WebRTC – the places I rely on in my own reading about WebRTC.

The Bloggers

Out of the people out there that cover WebRTC, there are 3 that I make it a point to read. All of them are good friends of mine:

The Vendors

Most company blogs suck. Big time. They are boring, and usually read like brochures or press releases. There are a few decent corporate blogs covering WebRTC – some of them can be considered mandatory reading.


TokBox has the best corporate blog all around if what you are looking for is WebRTC related information. Now that they have recruited Philipp Hancke they probably will improve further.

Between their new offerings and features announcements are gems of information in the form of whitepapers of certain verticals and insights on WebRTC from the service they operate. They also run TechToks that get recorded and published on YouTube.

The blog is another great resource, especially when it comes to covering getstats() related stuff and media quality. Highly recommended.


I’ve written my own guest post on the AT&T Developers blog once or twice, so I know how they operate. While being a large corporation has a lot of limitations, when they publish content about WebRTC or adjacent technologies – it is worth the time to read.

A testament to that is the recent series of WebRTC UX/UI posts they have commissioned from &yet – mandatory reading for anyone who delves into web apps for WebRTC.


While Sinch’s blog hasn’t been too interesting when it comes to WebRTC lately, earlier this year they had great content to share. Lately, it tends to be around use cases of their customers – totally interesting, but from a different angle.

I’d register on their blog if I were you to keep posted. I am sure they’ll have interesting articles for us next year as well.

WebRTC Digest & Blacc Spot Media

Blacc Spot Media started WebRTC Digest they also run their own Blacc Spot Media blog. Both are great resources with good content.

The digest site is all about acquisitions and money raising in the space, while Blacc Spot Media tries to cover the industry and the ecosystem.

At times, there needs to be some further validation to the vendors being written about there (some aren’t really doing WebRTC but are in the real time space), but all in all, one of the better resources out there.


By far the best place for WebRTC developers to go.

In-depth and timely content.

If you aren’t subscribed – then please do.

WebRTC Weekly

If you don’t want to subscribe to too many resources, and are in the need for a single source, then Chris Kranky and me operate the WebRTC Weekly. Subscribe by email to receive one email a week with links to the relevant articles and posts from all over the web related to WebRTC.

There are three reasons why something doesn’t get included in the WebRTC Weekly:

  1. Trash content, which either isn’t accurate or just too shallow
  2. Repetitive, of something that was already covered in the weekly (usually at a higher quality)
  3. We missed it… email us with things you think we should include

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Twilio and WebRTC: An Interview with Al Cook

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 20:55
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Twilio: Al Cook

December 2015

Communication API

Cloud Communication APIs.

[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]

API platforms fascinate me. Especially communication API platforms. You can’t get any bigger than Twilio these days. This year, they’ve announced and launched a slew of new capabilities – task routing, video calling, IP messaging and a lot of enhancements to their existing services.

I’ve been wanting to land an interview with Twilio for quite some time. I was happy when Al Cook, Director of Product Marketing at Twilio, obliged. Here’s what he had to say.


What is Twilio all about?

Twilio is a cloud communications platform. We provide programmable building blocks that developers use to embed communications into their mobile and web apps – from voice, messaging, and video to authentication. So when you are communicating with your Uber driver via text or anonymous phone call, calling Hulu customer support, or shopping via text with the help of your Nordstrom personal shopper, that’s Twilio. Or to give a WebRTC example – when you call a customer support team powered by Zendesk, the agent is talking to you over a WebRTC connection powered by Twilio. We have over 700,000 developers generating over 50 billion API transactions a year. In WebRTC we’ve powered over half a billion minutes of WebRTC to date.


Twilio Video went to public beta today. You’ve been in private beta for a while. How is it going? What have you learned?

That’s right, the private beta started in May and we collaborated with developers to build the right solution, with the right developer experience. Video is in public beta as of now. Now anyone can sign up for immediate access to our WebRTC-powered web and mobile SDKs, and the cloud-based signaling/media services that power them.

During the private beta we onboarded several thousand developers from our base. This group size was critical for gaining useful feedback and insights, while still allowing meaningful interactions.

Interesting. Did you check what users do during the private beta?

During the private beta onboarding, we asked participants to tell us about their use cases. I read every single entry and categorized the use cases. The top categories break out as follows:

  • 21% healthcare
  • 14% support (in-app enterprise customer support, visual customer support)
  • 12% tutoring
  • 10% collaboration
  • 5% recruiting
  • 5% call an expert
  • 4% marketplace / sharing economy
  • 4% interpretation services (including assistive deaf/blind services)

Two of the big areas we spent considerable time refining during the beta were improving the mobile media stack performance, and building a signaling model that allows us to continue to add new capabilities for multi-party, multi-endpoint IP and carrier communications.


I have to ask. These developers in the private beta – how many of them were existing Twilio developers who just added video versus new ones?

It’s a mix. A lot of folks are with us because they want multiple channels of communication, and so video is a natural extension for them. But we’ve also had a lot of people who were new to Twilio, and excited to have a better alternative than their current video solution.


How is your video offering different from other alternatives that are out there today?

We believe this solution is not available anywhere else. Here’s some insight on the areas where we invested the most time to ensure we were building the right solution for needs that had not been addressed.

  • Without this, each communication capability would either have to be built from scratch or individually purchased and pieced together, if possible. And that’s just the beginning. Our SDKs are designed as a platform to add more communication channels over time.
  • We designed a conversation model that scales in volume, use case and breadth of different endpoint types. Conversations can be either call-based or room-based; start peer-to-peer and move to network-mixed; and interoperate with SIP endpoints and carrier endpoints. Our signaling model is built to fulfill this vision. Some features are enabled today; others are coming. The important thing is we’ve laid the foundation for one platform that can power all communications needs.
  • Our pricing makes it accessible to everyone, and to scale to the very largest deployments. Most video services require per user fees, which are expensive for starting-up and scaling. Twilio video is aimed at infrastructure level pricing where it’s faster and cheaper than building and operating your own service at any scale. And users get the benefit of our ongoing work to deliver high quality and resiliency.


What excites you about working in WebRTC?

To me, the most exciting aspect of WebRTC – and really programmable real-time communications more generally – is that it stands to fundamentally change the way we communicate. Through every iteration of the phone, the basic interaction hasn’t really changed. Historically, there has been little-to-no ability to gain immediate context of why the caller is calling, what they were doing beforehand, and what they may need. Embedding communications into applications allows for a far more meaningful and relevant communication. Imagine calling your car insurance company from your car insurance app following an accident, and instantly the call is routed with the right prioritization based on the GPS of your phone to an agent who speaks your prefered language. The app enables you to instantly share a video feed of the accident scene and collaboratively annotate the video using the app. All this while the agent captures the information in their record system to avoid a separate visit from a damage appraiser.

We believe every single app will have communications built into it. Every. Single. App.


Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?

WebRTC/ORTC is moving at such a velocity that 5 years out is pretty hard to forecast. But we believe:

  • In this timeframe, browser support should be ubiquitous. We’ve seen Microsoft Edge get there already (barring video codec support), and we know Apple is working on it for Safari.
  • Ubiquitous doesn’t mean standardized or non-contentious. We expect to continue to see differences in implementation of particular features that the developer will either have to keep track of and deal with directly, or use an SDK such as Twilio Video.
  • Media quality requires continuous improvement. We’ll continue to make it better and more resilient to bad networks.  However, in this timeframe, there will remain some networks that are not viable for real-time video.
  • Mobile in-app usage will be the most important use case for consumers. This means that most consumers won’t be using Google’s latest WebRTC engine off the shelf, but rather a version that has been packaged – and often modified and enhanced – along the way.
  • B2C Communications will focus on high-value, contextual interactions. Low-value B2C interactions will be increasingly handled through self-service channels. WebRTC will be one of the core technologies powering the high value segment.


If you had one piece of advice for those thinking of adopting WebRTC, what would it be?

Experiment – and think about how you scale the experiments that find success. It’s relatively simple to get a basic WebRTC call working. But plan for what happens if your new service finds success. Consider how will you scale, maintain and operate your TURN media relay. How will you collect and analyze voice quality diagnostics from all your endpoints. How will you interoperate with SIP networks and PSTN networks.


Given the opportunity, what would you change in WebRTC?

Some improvements have been addressed by ORTC. We’re big fans of these improvements and we look forward to the standards combining.

We would like more control over the media stack in a browser environment, if the browser makers could figure out a secure way to enable this. We spend a considerable amount time testing and measuring voice quality in impaired networks. In fact, we open-sourced the testing tool we use. On the mobile side, we operate the media stack and we do a lot of fine tuning to constantly improve the media quality.  This includes taking into account the performance of different networks and hardware configurations. Whether it’s adding codecs to use in particular scenarios, adding Forward Error Correction (FEC) techniques, or other areas we are working on. But when our endpoints call a browser-based endpoint, they have to fall back to the default media stack and it is not possible to layer on additional media enhancements, which is why we’d like more control in the browser environment.

In the more immediate time frame, the subject of handling QoS in WebRTC is tricky, and far from standardized. Plus, QoS behavior, like with much of WebRTC, tends to require significant reverse engineering to establish the exact behavior in different scenarios. We’re happy we can provide this capability on behalf of our customers – but we’d like more control over the experience.


What’s next for Twilio?

We’ve talked about a few of them – interoperability with SIP endpoints and PSTN endpoints for example. Of course we’re also working on SFU functionality for large scale video conferences – that should be no surprise to our customers. But we want to provide this capability in such a way that a developer doesn’t have to choose between either peer-to-peer routing or SFU mixed. The solution should intelligently move from one to another as the call topology requires. We also want a solution that scales beyond any existing solutions. And then, well…that’s enough to keep us busy for now Tsahi.

The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.


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SaferMobility and WebRTC: An Interview With Matthew Mah

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 12:00

Your private 911 system.

[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]

I have seen a lot of applications lately that target public safety. Some offer you a “ghost” partner to “walk” with you home, while others focus on the reporting aspects.

SaferMobility targets the authorities as the owners of the system (college campuses, municipalities, business zones, etc) and provides a mobile application to the users. It is reimagining how a 911 service would look like if it was being specified today.

Matthew Mah, CTO of SaferMobility, was kind enough to answer my questions on what role WebRTC plays in their service.


What is SaferMobility all about?

SaferMobility focuses on using the capabilities of modern smartphones for enhancing safety. The public safety system in the United States is built around wired telephones, and it is more difficult for authorities to respond to mobile phones because they are harder to locate than fixed telephones. The modern smartphone has audio, video, location, and text capability that just are not being used efficiently yet.


There are many other safety related apps out there. What differentiates you from the rest of the pack?

Our systems focus on real-time interaction with authorities. Authorities receive enhanced calls with audio, video, location, and text information in real-time without it having to filter through friends or storage systems.


You told me you launched your service using Flash. Why did you migrate to WebRTC?

WebRTC is a huge improvement over Flash in terms of security, support, and capability. Adobe is not really interested in supporting Flash for mobile devices, so capabilities like acoustic echo suppression are not available. This makes a huge difference in communication quality.


What signaling have you decided to integrate on top of WebRTC?

We use a proprietary message system built on websockets.


Backend. What technologies and architecture are you using there?

Our Java application server runs Tomcat with a PostgreSQL database. It handles the signaling and issues commands to a media server for recording capabilities. We currently run on Dialogic’s Extended Media Server (XMS).

Mobile. You decided to port WebRTC to iOS and Android on your own. How was the experience?

Porting was difficult because of compatibility issues between our WebRTC media server with web, iOS, and Android clients. We would get two clients to work with the server, then upgrade the server and have two different clients work.

For stability on the web side, the nwjs project has been very helpful for producing an application that works even while the web browser updates are racing ahead and frequently breaking things.


Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?

WebRTC will replace stagnant technologies like Flash. The ability to communicate through the browser will also lower the barrier for application development.


If you had one piece of advice for those thinking of adopting WebRTC, what would it be?

Be prepared for things to change quickly because WebRTC is still growing and maturing.


Given the opportunity, what would you change in WebRTC?

Aside from the expected growing pains, I am pleased with WebRTC.


What’s next for SaferMobility?

There’s a huge opportunity to improve public safety, security services, and general communication with modern mobile devices, and SaferMobility will be part of making those improvements.

The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.

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The Hidden Gems of WebRTC Goodness May Well Lie Within GetUserMedia Itself

Wed, 12/09/2015 - 12:00

WebRTC GetUserMedia is more important than the rest of this communication stack.

Who would have believed? With all the magic and distraction that video calling from a browser brings with it, the real treasure trove resides in the basics – WebRTC GetUserMedia.

Simplifying things, WebRTC has 3 distinct areas/APIs to it:

  1. GetUserMedia, allowing access to camera and microphone inside the browser
  2. PeerConnection, taking care of all the mess that is a voice/video call
  3. Data Channel, making it possible to send any arbitrary message across browsers directly

I’ve pointed up in the past how WebRTC GetUserMedia gets used by Mailchimp and WhatsApp. Taking a camera snapshot is nice, but what else can we achieve with this access we’ve been given?


Chris Kranky had an idea a few weeks ago. Measuring how much you’re yapping in a call as opposed to listening. So he made it happen. On a shoestring budget, some connections and a bit of time and TalkLessNow was born.

How it works?

The website is quite spartan. When you go on a phone call (not a WebRTC one), you just press the green Call button on

The code on the site “listens” through the machine’s microphone to your call. Whenever it hears enough of a volume – it assumes you’re talking. If the volume is lower than its configured threshold – you’re listening.

Just WebRTC GetUserMedia. No PeerConnection or any other fuss.

Will it work?

Here in Israel, I am sure the results won’t be good. We’re used to talking over each other and interrupting. Efficiency at its best. If in a call between Israelis it shows less than 70% of talk time per participant, I’ll crown that session a success.

Seriously though, we should be listening a lot more than we’re talking.

Same but different

The now defunct Guitar Tuner works the same way. It doesn’t work anymore because the site is served on HTTP and WebRTC GetUserMedia now requires HTTPS to work with the latest Chrome release (progress, you know).


Here’s another example.

Ziggeo is making use of WebRTC to record videos. They do that by employing WebRTC GetUserMedia, storing the resulting media locally and at the end of the recording sending it to their servers. The sending part doesn’t occur via WebRTC.

There’s an interesting interview with Susan Danziger, CEO of Ziggeo from last week that you should read.

Is this Real Time Communications?


It works. It gives business value – and in ways that weren’t really possible up until today.

There’s a lot more to WebRTC than classic VoIP.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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The First WebRTC Earthquake in Video Conferencing: Acano vs Polycom

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 12:00

The future isn’t what it used to be.

I’ve been babbling here a lot about the enterprise video conferencing market and WebRTC’s role in disrupting it. When it first came out, I believed the existing companies are going to be struggling with it. I was mostly ignored by these companies – it is hard to see what’s just around the corner when you’re stuck in the echo chamber of your company and its immediate industry.

When I meet old colleagues of mine from the video conferencing industry and see them working in the same companies, I suggest they leave. Find another company or industry, because the outcome is known – just the timing factor is missing. They dismiss it, probably thinking that I am saying it our of a grudge to the company. I am not.

What happened in November should hit home.

We had two separate news items that in some cosmic way happened in the same week:

  1. Cisco acquired Acano. For $700M USD. A company with around 350 employees (that’s $2M per employee)
  2. Polycom announced closing its Israeli office. Moving the operations to India. That’s 200 employees + 80 contractors

Dumbing things down a bit:

  • Acano was about building a cloud MCU. Polycom Israel was about building an on-premise MCU
  • Acano started life in 2012, making immediate use of WebRTC. Polycom just launched their first MCU to support WebRTC this year (2015)

It isn’t that WebRTC is the reason why Acano succeeded and Polycom Israel has failed. It is that the mindset of these two companies was different. Acano looked into what can be done in this modern age and made use of WebRTC to get there. Polycom looked at how they slowly evolve their product offering. I am sure people in Polycom knew about WebRTC. It probably was on roadmaps and discussions since 2012, never to be given priority, because who needs it? It can’t compete with the high end systems of Polycom. But then the basis of competition changed. What customers care about changed. It isn’t anymore about resolutions and frame rates. It’s about utility and usability – something most video conferencing companies never knew how to handle.

Polycom Israel didn’t have the foresight to make themselves attractive enough to their corporate overlords in San Jose. Probably because they weren’t given the opportunity to do so. The end result? They just weren’t important. Their technology and architecture is now stable and understood enough to move it to countries with lower salaries.

I remember doing a training to developers about WebRTC in 2014. I asked people in the room what they do. There were media engineers and signaling protocols developers. I told them that they are going to be out of work. They saw it as a joke. Some of them are now updating their resume.

What is it that you are doing for a living? What is your company developing? Does it make sense? Do you take the effect WebRTC (and other technologies) have on your job seriously?


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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Ziggeo and WebRTC: An Interview With Susan Danziger

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 12:00
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Ziggeo: Susan Danziger

December 2015

Video recording

Asynchronous video meets WebRTC.

[If you are new around here, then you should know I’ve been writing about WebRTC lately. You can skim through the WebRTC post series or just read what WebRTC is all about.]

One area where WebRTC is making strides recently is video streaming. Some of the hyped use cases today are those that enable broadcasting in real time, but there’s another interesting approach – one where WebRTC is employed when the video consumption is asynchronous from its creation.

Ziggeo is an API provider in this specific niche. I met with Susan Danziger, CEO of Ziggeo, and asked her to share a bit of what it is they do with WebRTC and how it is being adopted by their customers.


What is Ziggeo all about?

Ziggeo is the leader in asynchronous (recorded) video offering a programmable video recorder/player through our API/native SDKs.


You started by working on an HR interviews platform. What made you pivot towards a video recording API platform instead?

In building our own video recording/playback solution for the platform, we realized what a complicated and time-consuming process building our own solution was.  We had to make sure that videos could be recorded and played across all devices and browsers (even as new ones were released) and build a permissions-based security solution that would withstand hackers.  We were surprised there were no off-the-shelf solutions available so decided a bigger opportunity would be to release our technology as an API — and then native SDKs (and shortly thereafter closed our B2C platform).


On the same token – you have Flash there. Why did you add WebRTC? Wasn’t Flash enough for your needs?

For the most part our customers hate Flash.  And no wonder: browsers that support Flash have an awful user experience in which you need to basically hit 3 different buttons before you can begin recording from your web camera (once to resume the suspended Flash applet and twice to access the camera).

We added WebRTC to avoid Flash whenever possible.  That said, for certain browsers, e.g. Safari and Internet Explorer we need to default to Flash as they don’t yet support WebRTC.


How are customers reacting to the introduction of WebRTC to Ziggeo?

Customers love it!  In fact, our customers seek us out in part because we’re the only API for asynchronous video recording that supports WebRTC.


Can you share a few ways customers are using Ziggeo?

In addition to recruiting (where candidates introduce themselves on video), we’ve seen Ziggeo used for training (e.g. trainees record video sales pitches for feedback); dating (potential dates exchange video messages); “Ask Me Anything” (both questions and responses on video); e-commerce (products introduced on video and video reviews recorded); advertising (user-generated videos submitted for contests or for use in commercials); and journalism (crowd-sourcing videos for news from around the world).  I’m still waiting for someone to create a video version of Wikipedia where pieces of knowledge are recorded on video from around the world — that would be the most amazing use case of all.


A video version of Wikipedia. Have it in Hebrew and I’ll sign up my daughter on it.

You don’t use the Peer Connection APIs at all – Just getUserMedia. Why did you make the decision to record locally and not use the Peer Connection and record on the server?

Folks like to re-record locally so we chose not to use unnecessary resources.  We pride ourselves on making our technology as efficient and seamless as possible.

How do you store the file locally and how do you then get it to your data centers?

We use IndexedDB to store the file locally and then push it using chunked http.


Viewing. Over what protocols do you do it, and how do you handle the different codecs and file formats?

Protocols: Http pseudo streaming, HLS, rtmp, rtsp

Formats: we transcode videos to different formats (mp4, webm) and resolutions


Where do you see WebRTC going in 2-5 years?

We imagine there will be full support of WebRTC across all browsers and devices as well as better support for client-side encoding of video data.


Given the opportunity, what would you change in WebRTC?

We’d like to see improved support for consistent resolution settings as well as for encoding


What’s next?

We’re planning the 2nd Annual Video Hack Day in NYC for this coming May.  You can find more information here at: or follow @videohacknyc on Twitter

The interviews are intended to give different viewpoints than my own – you can read more WebRTC interviews.

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The Unconnected Messaging World

Tue, 12/01/2015 - 12:00

You are not always connected.

You are not always connected.

You are not always connected.

Truely you aren’t.

I know you like to think you are, but get over it – this isn’t the case.

From the unveiling of AWS IOT platform @ re:Invent 2015

Every week I need to take my daughter to her artistic gymnastics lessons. And then I have 90 minutes of quality time. With myself. While I usually use it to continue reading on my Kindle, I try once in awhile to actually work at that time. The problem is, that the cellular reception in the waiting hall is less than satisfactory and the mosquitoes make it impossible to sit outside – where it is a lot nicer with much better reception.

I quickly learned that working there is close to impossible, as reception is flaky – not something I can rely on with my line of work which requires an intravenous internet connection at all times. But there are quick things that I can do at that time – which most usually than not includes messaging.

Offline Messaging

Here’s what I found out about the 3 top messaging apps on my phone recently:



WhatsApp rocks when it comes to be able to send messages even when I am offline. It uses the store and forward technique both on the client and on the server:

  • If the user has no internet connection, the message is stored locally until such a connection is restored. This approach works only for text messages – you can share images or videos with it
  • If the receiver has no internet connection, then the message is stored on the WhatsApp server until a point in time when the recipient is available – this works for all types of messages

You just can’t ask for more.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is rather poor when it comes to offline behavior. I does manage its own store and forward mechanism on the server side, which means that if you send a message when you are online – the recipient will see it when he becomes online.

But, you can’t send anything if you aren’t online. Hangouts isn’t kind enough to store it locally until you are online.

This makes for a poor experience for me in that gymnasium waiting room, where the network comes and goes as it pleases. Or when I am riding the elevator going downstairs from my apartment and need to send some quick messages.


Slack needs to be connected. At least as far as my understanding of it is.

If you open the app, it tries to connect. If you send a message while it is connected – great.

If you try sending when it isn’t connected – it will fail.

But sometimes, it believes that it is connected and it isn’t. In such a case, killing the Android app and restarting it will be the only remedy to be able to send anything out.


Offline Frameworks

Communication frameworks are tricky. The idea is that you have a network to be able to communicate, but as we’ve just seen – this isn’t always the case.

So where do we stand with different frameworks? I had these 3 examples readily available out the top of my head for you:

Matrix History Storage

Matrix (interviewed here in the past) also went to great lengths to deal with offline scenarios. In the case of Matrix, it was about decentralization of the network itself, and how can you “self heal” and synchronized servers that go down min-conversation.

This makes it easy to add and remove servers during runtime, but it doesn’t help me in my daughter’s gymnasium class. I haven’t found any information stating that Matrix can (or can’t) send a message while the sender client is offline.

Twilio and Message History

Twilio announced its own IP Messaging capability. While this isn’t yet generally available, the concepts behind these APIs are outlined on that page.

To make things simple – it includes store and forward on the server (recipient can be offline when sender sends and vice versa); but it probably doesn’t include sending while the sender is offline.

As this is still under development/testing, my suggestion would be to add the “sender is offline” scenario and support it from the SDK.

Amazon Device Shadow

At AWS re:Invent 2015, Amazon unveiled its IOT platform – the building blocks it has on offer for the Internet of Things.

In many ways, the Internet of Things is… connected. But in many other ways it might not be connected at all times. I’ve seen several interesting IOT frameworks overcome these in various means. Here’s AWS take on it – they create what they call a device shadow.


Werner Vogels does a great job of explaining this. I suggest viewing the whole session and not just the 1 minute explainer on device shadow.

Why is it important?

We are never always truly online. As messaging becomes one of the central means of communicating – both between people as well as devices – it needs to take this into account. This means covering as many offline use cases as possible and not just assume everything is connected.

Doing this can be tricky to get right, and in many cases, it would preferable for developers to go with a solid framework or a service as opposed to building it on their own. What most frameworks still miss today is that nagging ability to send a message while the user is offline – storing it locally and sending once he comes online.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Messaging

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 12:00

Machine learning and artificial intelligence in messaging will become commonplace.

Who would have thought that the most personal and manual form of interaction between humans can be mechanized? Years a go, it started with presence and instant messaging. People found out ways to communicate other than the phone call. Today, messaging is so prevalent that you have to take it seriously:

  • In the consumer space, we’re talking about a billion users for these platforms. WhatsApp at 900 million is the closest to reach its first billion soon enough
  • In the enterprise space, a single hiccup of Slack yesterday, sending many to vent off on Twitter

What is interesting, is how artificial intelligence is starting to find a home in messaging apps – consumer or enterprise ones – and where this all is headed.

I couldn’t care less at this moment if the interface is textual or speech driven. I might cover this in a later article, but for now, let’s just assume this is the means to an end.

Here are a few examples of what artificial intelligence in messaging really means:

The Silent Administrator

You are in a conversation with a friend. Chatting along, discussing that restaurant you want to go to. You end up deciding to meet there next week for lunch.

I do this once a month with my buddies from school. We meet for lunch together, talking about nothing and everything at the same time. For me, this conversation takes place on WhatsApp and ends up as an event on my Google Calendar.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that event created auto-magically just because I’ve agreed with my friends on the date, time and place of this lunch?

This isn’t as far fetched as it seems – Google is already doing similar stuff in Google Now:

  • Prodding me when the time comes to start the commute to a meeting
  • Tracking flight delays when it finds an itinerary in my Gmail
  • Giving me the weather forecast on mornings, and indicating “drastic” weather changes the night before
  • Providing multiple time zones when I travel

Google Now is currently connecting to apps on the phone through its Google Now on Tap, giving it smarts over a larger portion of our activities on our phones.

Why shouldn’t it connect to Hangouts or any other messaging service scouring it for action items to take for me? Be my trusted silent administrator in the back.

A few years ago, a startup here in Israel, whose name I fail to remember, tried doing something similar to the phone call – get you on a call, then serve ads based on what is being said. Ads here are supposed to be contextual and very relevant to what it is you are looking for. I think this is happening sans ads – by giving me directly what I need from my own conversations, the utility of these messaging services grows. With a billion users to tap to, this can be monetized in other means (such as revenue sharing with service providers that get promoted/used via conversations – booking an Uber taxi or a restaurant table should be the obvious examples).

In the enterprise space, the best example is the Slackbot, which can automate interactions on Slack for a user. No wonder they are beefing up their machine learning and data science teams around it.

Knowledge base Connectivity

That “chat with us” button/widget that gets embedded into enterprise websites, connecting users with agents? Is it really meant to connect you to a live agent?

When you interact with a company through such a widget, you sometimes interact today with a bot. An automated type of an “answering machine” texting you back. It reduces the load on the live agents and enables greater scalability.

This bot isn’t only used to collect information – it can also be used to offer answers – by scouring the website for you, indexing and searching knowledge bases or from past interactions the live agent had with other users.

I recently did a seminar to a large company in the contact center space. There was a rather strong statement made there – that the IVR of the future will replace the human agents completely, offering people the answers and support they need. This is achieved by artificial intelligence. And in a way, is part of the future of messaging.

Speaking with Brands

If you take the previous alternative and enhance it a bit, the future of messaging may lie with us talking to brands from it.

As messaging apps are becoming platforms, ones where brands and developers can connect to the user base and interact with them – we are bound to see this turning into yet another channel in our path towards omnichannel interactions with customers. The beauty of this channel is its ability to automate far better than all the rest – it is designed and built in a way that makes it easier to achieve.

Due to the need to scale this, brands will opt for automation – artificial intelligence used for these interactions, as opposed to putting “humans on the line”.

This can enable an airliner to sell their flight tickers through a messaging service and continue the conversation around that flight plans with the customer throughout the experience – all within the same context.

The Virtual Assistant / Concierge

Siri? Cortana? Facebook M? Google Search?

These are all geared towards answering a question. You voice your needs. And they go searching for an answer.

These virtual assistants, as well as many other such assistants cropping up from start ups, can find a home inside messaging platforms – this is where we chat and voice are requests anyway, so why not do these interactions there?

Today they are mostly separated as they come from the operating system vendors. For Facebook, though, Facebook M, their concierge service, Messenger is the tool  of choice to deliver the service. It is easy to see how this gets wrapped into the largest messaging platforms as an additional capability – one that will grow and improve with time.

Why is this important?

Artificial Intelligence is becoming cool again. Google just open sourced their machine learning project called TensorFlow. Three days go by, and Microsoft answers with an open source project of its own – DMTK (Microsoft Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit). Newspapers are experimenting with machine written news articles.

Messaging platforms have shown us the way both in the consumer market and in the enterprise. They are already integration decision engines and proactive components and bots. The next step is machine learning and from there the road to artificial intelligence in messaging isn’t a long one.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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For Cisco, Slack Would Have Been a Better Acquisition than Acano

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:00

Why buy into legacy?

Last week, Cisco made another acquisition in the WebRTC space. This time, Cisco acquired Acano. Acano is a rather new company that started life in 2012 – close to WebRTC’s announcement.

Acano makes use of WebRTC, though I am not sure to what extent. There are 2 reasons Cisc lists for this acquisition:

  1. Interoperability – support for “legacy” video conferencing, Microsoft Skype and WebRTC
  2. Scalability

To me, scalability comes from thinking of video conferencing in the mindset of WebRTC – WebRTC services are mostly cloud based and built to scale (or at least should be). Old video conferencing models thought at the scale of a single company at best, with business models fitting the high end of the market only.

That brings me to why. Why is Cisco buying into legacy here?

If there’s anything that is interesting these days it is what happens in the realm of messaging. And for Cisco, this should mean Enterprise Messaging. I already stated earlier this year that Enterprise Messaging is a threat to Unified Communications.

Don’t believe me? How about these interesting moves:

  1. Atlassian, owner of HipChat (=Enterprise Messaging) acquiring BlueJimp, authors of the popular open source Jitsi Video bridge
  2. HipChat (yes, the same one), writes a cheaky post comparing Skype (=Unified Communications) to HipChat (=Enterprise Messaging). Guess who they favor?
  3. Slack searching for developers to “build audio conferencing, video conferencing and screen sharing into Slack”
  4. Cisco launching its own Cisco-Spark – a video conferencing service modeled around messaging
  5. Unify launching circuit – a video conferencing service modeled around messaging
  6. Broadsoft announcing UC-one – a video conferencing service modeled around messaging

Which brings me back to the question.

Why buy into legacy? At scale. With interoperability. Using fresh technology. But legacy nonetheless.

Why not go after Slack and just acquire it outright?

When Cisco wanted a piece of video conferencing, they didn’t acquire RADVISION – its main supplier at the time. It went after TANDBERG – the market leader.

Then why this time not buy the market leader of enterprise messaging and just get on with it?

Congrats to the Acano team on being acquired.

For Cisco, though, I think the challenges lie elsewhere.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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4 Reasons Vendors Neglect Testing WebRTC Services

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 12:00

Testing WebRTC is tricky.

If there’s something I learned this past year from talking to companies when showcasing the testRTC service, is that vendors don’t really test their WebRTC products.

Not all of them don’t test, but most of them.

Why is that? Here are a few reasons that I think explain it.

#1 – WebRTC is a niche for them – an experiment

You’ve got a business to run. It does something. And then someone decided to add communications to it. With WebRTC no less.

So you let them play. It isn’t much of an effort anyway. Just a few engineers hammering away. Once you launch, you think, you’ll see adoption and then decide if it is worthwhile to upgrade it from a hobby to a full time business.

The thing is, there’s a chicken and egg thing going on here. If you don’t do it properly, how will adoption really look? Will it give you the KPIs you need to make a reasonable decision?

WebRTC is rather new. As an industry, we still don’t have best practices of how to develop, test and deploy such services.

#2 – It’s a startup. Features get priority over stability

Many of the vendors using WebRTC out there are startups. They need to get a product out the door.

It can be a proof of concept, a demo, an alpha version, a beta one or a production version. In all cases, there’s a lot of pressure to cram more features into the product and show its capabilities than there are complaints about its stability or bugs.

Once these companies start seeing customers, they tend to lean more towards stability – and testing.

As we are seeing ourselves by running testRTC (=startup), there’s always a balancing act you need to do between features and stability.

#3 – They just don’t know how

How do you test WebRTC anyway?


If you view it as a VoIP technology, then you are bound to fail – the VoIP testing tools out there don’t really have the mentality and mindset to help you:

  • Testing browsers continuously because they get updated so frequently isn’t something they do
  • They don’t really know how to handle the fact that there’s no signaling protocol defined

The flexibility and fast paced nature of the web and WebRTC aren’t ingrained into their DNA.


If you view this as a web technology, then you’ll miss all the real time and media aspects of it. The web testing tools are more interested in GUI variability across browsers than they are with latencies and packet loss.

  • How do you different network configurations? Does a firewall affect your results?
  • You do know that you need multiple browsers for the simplest use case testing with WebRTC. How do you synchronize them within the test?

While web tools are great for testing web apps, they don’t fit the VoIP nature that exist in WebRTC.

#4 – They don’t have the tools

You know, if you wanted to test WebRTC a year or two ago, your best alternative was to use QA teams that click manually on buttons – or build your own test infrastructure for it.

Both alternatives are wasteful in resources and time.

So people sidestepped the issue and waited.

These days, there are a few sporadic tools that can test WebRTC – changing the picture for those who want to be serious about testing their service.

Don’t take WebRTC testing lightly

I just did a webinar with Upperside Conferences. If you want to listen in on the recording, you can register to it online.

Whatever your decision ends up being – using testRTC or not – please don’t take testing WebRTC implementations lightly.

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Can Apple Succeed with Two Operating Systems When Google and Microsoft are Consolidating?

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 12:00

One OS to rule them all?

It seems like Apple has decided to leave its devices split between two operating systems – Mac and iOS. If you are to believe Tim Cook’s statement, that is. More specifically, MacBook (=laptop) and iPad (=tablet) are separate devices in the eyes of Apple.

This is a strong statement considering current market trends and Apple’s own moves.

The iPad Pro

Apple’s latest iPad Pro is a 12.9 inch device. That isn’t that far from my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro with its 13.1 inch. And it has an optional keyboard.

How far is this device from a laptop? Does it compete head to head in the laptop category?

Assuming a developer wants to build a business application for Apple owners. One that requires content creation (i.e – a real keyboard). Should he be writing it for the Mac or for iOS?

Tim Cook may say there’s no such intent, but the lines between Apple’s own devices are blurring. Where does one operating system ends and the other begins is up for interpretation from now on. One which will change with time and customer feedback.

Apple had no real intent of releasing larger iPhones or smaller iPads. It ended up doing both.

Microsoft Windows 10

Windows 10 is supposed to be an all-encompassing operating system.

You write your app for it, and it miraculously fits smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs. That’s at least the intent – haven’t seen much feedback on it yet.

And I am not even mentioning the Surface Tablet/Laptop combo.

Google Chrome OS / Android

Google has its own two operating systems – Android and Chrome OS. Last month Alistair Barr informed of plans in Google to merge the two operating systems together.

The idea does have merit. Why invest twice in two places? Google needs to maintain and support two operating systems, while developers need to decide to which to build their app – or to develop for both.

Taking this further, Google could attempt making Android apps available inside Chrome browsers, opening them up to even a larger ecosystem not relying only on their own OS footprint. Angular and Material Design are initiatives of putting apps in the web. A new initiative might be interpreting Android’s Java bytecode in Chrome OS, and later in Chrome itself.

Who to believe?

On one hand, both Microsoft and Android are consolidating their operating systems. On the other, Apple doesn’t play by the same rule book. Same as we’ve seen lately in analytics.

I wonder who which approach would win in the end – a single operating system to rule them all, or multiple based on the device type.

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WebRTC Demand isn’t Exponentially Growing

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:00

A long, boring straight line.

In some ways, WebRTC now feels like a decade ago, when every time we said “next year will be the year of video”. For WebRTC? Next year will be the year of adoption.

Adoption is hard to define though. What does it really means when it comes to WebRTC?

WebRTC has been picked up by carriers (AT&T, Comcast and others if you care about name dropping), most (all?) video conferencing and unified communication vendors, education, banking and healthcare industries, contact centers.

While all is well in the world of WebRTC, there is no hype. A year and a half ago I wrote about it – the fact that there is no hype in WebRTC. It still holds true. Too true. And too steadily.

The chart below is a collection of 2 years of data of some of the data points I follow with WebRTC. I hand picked here 4 of them:

  • The number of github projects mentioning WebRTC
  • The number of questions/answers on Stack Overflow mentioning WebRTC
  • The number of users subscribed to the discuss-webrtc Google group
  • The number of LinkedIn profiles of people deciding to add WebRTC to their “resume”

In all of these cases (as well as other metrics I collect and follow), the trend is very stable. There’s growth, but that growth is linear in nature.

There are two minor areas worth mentioning:

  1. LinkedIn had a correction during September/October – a high increase and then an immediate decrease. Probably due to spam accounts that got caught by LinkedIn. I’ve seen this play out on Google+ account stats as well about a year ago
  2. github and StackOverflow had a slight change in their line angle from the beginning of 2015. This coincides with Google’s decision to host its samples and apprtc on github instead of on – probably a wise decision, though not a game changer

Some believe that the addition of Microsoft Edge will change the picture. Statistics of Edge adoption and the statistics I’ve collected in the past two months show no such signs. If anything, I believe most still ignore Microsoft Edge.

Where does that put us?

Don’t be discouraged. This situation isn’t really bad. 2015 has been a great year for WebRTC. We’ve seen public announcements coming from larger vendors (call it adoption) as well as the addition of Microsoft into this game.

Will 2016 be any different? Will it be the breakout year? The year of WebRTC?

I doubt it. And not because WebRTC won’t happen. It already is. We just don’t talk that much about it.

If you are a developer, all this should be great news for you – there aren’t many others in this space yet, so demand versus supply of experienced WebRTC developers favors developers at the moment – go hone your skill. Make yourself more valuable to potential employers.

If you are a vendor, then find the most experienced team you can and hold on to them – they are your main advantage in the next years when it comes to outperforming your competitors when it comes to building a solid service.

We’re not in a hyped up industry as Internet of Things or Big Data – but we sure make great experiences.

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WebRTC Data Channel find a home in Context

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 12:00

There’s a new home for the WebRTC Data Channel – it found its use lately in context.

Ever since WebRTC was announced, I’ve been watching the data channel closely – looking to see what developers end up doing with it. There are many interesting use cases out there, but for the most part, it is still early days to decide where this is headed. In the last couple of weeks though, I’ve seen more and more evidence that there’s one place where the WebRTC Data Channel is being used – a lot more than I’d expect. That place is in adding context to a voice or video call.

Where did my skepticism come from?

Look at this diagram, depicting a simplified contact center using WebRTC:

We have a customer interacting with an agent, and there are almost always two servers involved:

  1. The web server, which got the two browsers connected. It acts as the signaling server for us, and uses HTTP or Websockets for its transport
  2. The media server, which can be an SBC, connecting both worlds or just a media server that is there to handle call queuing, record calls, etc.

The logic here is that the connection to the web server should suffice to provide context – why go through all the trouble of opening up a data channel here? For some reason though, I’ve seen evidence that many are adopting the data channel to pass context in such scenarios – and they are terminating it in their server side and not passing it direct between the browsers.

The question then is why? Why invest in yet another connection?

#1 – Latency

If you do need to go from browser to browser, then why make the additional leg through the signaling server?

Going direct reduces the latency, and while it might not be much of an issue, there are use cases when this is going to be important. When the type of context we are passing is collaboration related, such as sharing mouse movements or whiteboarding activity – then we would like to have it shared as soon as possible.

#2 – Firewalls

We might not want to go through the signaling server for the type of data we wish to share as context. If this is the case, then the need to muck around with yet another separate server to handle a Websocket connection might be somewhat tedious and out of context. Having the WebRTC data channel part of the peer connection object, created and torn down at the same time can be easier to manage.

It also has built in NAT and Firewall traversal mechanisms in place, so if the call passes – so will the context – no need to engineer, configure and test another system for it.

#3 – Asymmetry

At times, not both sides of the session are going to use WebRTC. The agent may as well sit on a PSTN phone looking at the CRM screen on his monitor, or have the session gateway into a SIP network, where the call is received.

In such cases, the media server will be a gateway – a device that translates signaling and media from one end to the other, bridging the two worlds. If we break that apart and place our context in a separate Websocket, then we have one more server to handle and one more protocol to gateway and translate. Doing it all in the gateway that already handles the translation of the media makes more sense for many use cases.

#4 – Load Management

That web server doing signaling? You need it to manage all sessions in the system. It probably holds all text chats, active calls, incoming calls waiting in the IVR queue, etc.

If the context we have to pass is just some log in information and a URL, then this is a non-issue. But what if we need to pass things like screenshots, images or files? These eat up bandwidth and clog a server that needs to deal with other things. Trying to scale and load balance servers with workloads that aren’t uniform is harder than scaling uniform work loads.

#5 – Because We Can

Let’s face it – WebRTC is a new toy. And the data channel in WebRTC is our new shiny object. Why not use it? Developers like shiny new toys…

The Humble WebRTC Data Channel

The data channel has been around as long as WebRTC, but it hasn’t got the same love and attention. There’s very little done with it today. This new home it found with passing context of sessions is an interesting development.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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Is there any Room for WebRTC in Gaming?

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 12:00

A few use cases where WebRTC can be found in gaming.

When WebRTC first came out, everyone were in frenzy trying to figure out which verticals will end up using WebRTC. One of the verticals that keeps popping up, but never sticking around for long is gaming.

When discussing WebRTC and gaming, there’s more than a single use case – there are a few dominant one; and I wanted to share them here this time.

#1 – Social Games

Remember Cube Slam? Google’s first demo of WebRTC, where you can play a game with someone else and see him on the other side?

That was a demo. Jocly Games is the best example I have. Jocly Games offer turn by turn board games where your opponent is another player somewhere. If you wish, you can see each other during the game by the help of WebRTC. I’ve interviewed Michel Gutierrez, the CEO of Jocly Games two years ago.

Roll20 does a similar thing for multiplayer RPG games.

#2 – Motion Sensor

While I haven’t seen any serious game using this, the fact that you can get a camera feed into a game means you can track movement. And if you can track movement – you can use it to control something.

How about a game of Snake?

#3 – Multiplayer Gaming

Multiplayer games require synchronization between players. The better the connection the more responsive the game. And where latency is important, there’s room for WebRTC’s data channel.

Two and a half years ago, Mozilla released a proof of concept of sorts. Its own WebRTC demo, focused on the data channel. It was a game called BananaBread. It is a first person shooter where the players communicate their positions and actions directly with each other using the data channel.

This year, I reviewed a book about multiplayer game development in HTML5. While the WebRTC part of it was skinny compared to the rest, it did mention its capability.

In the wild, I haven’t seen any evidence of this being used a lot. I assume it is due to the relative complexity of implementing it and taking care of cases where some players can’t use the data channel or must relay it via TURN servers.

#4 – Controller and Display

This is something I haven’t seen up until recently, and now I’ve seen it several times in the same month.

AirConsole uses this technique. To some extent, Ericsson’s Remote Excavation demo takes the same approach.

The idea is one device holds the controls over the other. In our case, a game controller and the PC/console running the game (on a browser of course). Once the two pair up using a WebRTC data channel, the latency involved in passing commands from the controller to the device are minimized.

What am I missing?

4 different typical use cases. None used in any popular game. None considered “best practices” or common approaches to game development.

  • Are there more use cases for gaming with WebRTC?
  • Is any of them making headway in large scale commercial games that I am unaware of?
  • Is there a reason why none of them is catching up?


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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WebRTC Testing Challenges: An Upcoming Webinar and a Recent Session

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 12:00

Announcing an upcoming free webinar on the challenges of WebRTC testing.

This week I took a trip to San Francisco, where the main goal was to attend WebRTC Summit and talk there about the challenges of WebRTC testing. This was part of the marketing effort we’re placing at testRTC. It is a company I co-founded with a few colleagues alongside my consulting business.

During the past year, we’ve gained a lot of interesting insights regarding the current state of testing in the WebRTC ecosystem. Which made for good presentation material. The session at the WebRTC Summit went rather well with a lot of positive feedback. One such comment made was this one that I received by email later during that day:

I liked much your presentation which indeed digs into one of the most relevant problems of WebRTC applications, which is not generally discussed in conferences.

My own favorite, is what you can see in the image I added above – many of the vendors our there just don’t make the effort to test their WebRTC implementations properly – not even when they go to production.

I’ve identified 5 main challenges that are facing WebRTC service developers:

  1. Browser vendor changes (hint: they are many, and they break things)
  2. NAT traversal (testing it isn’t trivial)
  3. Server scale (many just ignore this one)
  4. Service uptime (checking for the wrong metric)
  5. Orchestration (a general challenge in WebRTC testing)

The slides from my session are here below:

Overcoming the Challenges in Testing WebRTC Services from Tsahi Levent-levi


That said, two weeks from now, I will be hosting a webinar with the assistance of Amir Zmora on this same topic. While some of the content may change, most of it will still be there. If you are interested, be sure to join us online at no cost. To make things easier for you, there are two sessions, to fit any timezone.

When? Wednesday, November 18

Session 1: 8 AM GMT, 9 AM CET, 5 PM Tokyo

Session 2: 4 PM GMT, 11 AM EDT, 8 AM PDT

Register now


Test and Monitor your WebRTC Service like a pro - check out how testRTC can improve your service' stability and performance.

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Can Apple’s On-Device Analytics Compete with Google and Facebook?

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 12:00

I wonder. Can Apple maintain its lead without getting deep and dirty in analytics?

Apple decided to “take the higher ground”. It has pivoted this year focusing a lot around privacy. Not maintaining user keys for one, but also collecting little or no information from devices and doing as much as possible analytics on device. For now, it seems to be working.

But can it last?

Let’s head 5 or 10 years into the future.

Now lets look at Google and Facebook. Both have voracious appetite to data. Both are analytics driven to the extreme – they will analyze everything and anything possible to improve their service. Where improving it may mean increasing its stickiness, increasing ROI and ARPU, etc.

As time goes by, computing power increases, but also the technology and understanding we have at our disposal in sifting through and sorting out huge amounts of data. We call it Big Data and it is changing all the time. A year or two ago, most discussions on big data were around Hadoop and workloads. This year it was all about real time and Spark. There’s now a shift happening towards machine learning (as opposed to pure analytics), and from there, we will probably head towards artificial intelligence.

To get better at it, there are a few things that need to be in place as well as ingrained into a company’s culture:

  1. You need to have lots and lots of data. The more the merrier
  2. The data needs to be available, and the algorithms put in place need to be tweaked and optimized daily. Think about how Google changes its search ranking algorithm all the time
  3. You need to be analytics driven. It needs to be part and parcel of your products and services – not something done as an afterthought in a data warehouse to generate a daily report to a manager

These traits are already there for Google and Facebook. I am less certain regarding Apple.

Fast forward 5 to 10 years.

  • Large companies collect even more data
  • Technologies and algorithms for analytics improve
  • Services become a lot more smart, personalized and useful

Where would that leave Apple?

If a smartphone (or whatever device we will have at that time) really becomes smart – would you pick out the shiny toy with the eye candy UI or the one that gets things done?

Can Apple stay long term with its stance towards data collection policies or will it have to end up collecting more data and analyzing it the way other companies do?

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Where’s the of WebRTC’s Data Channel?

Mon, 11/02/2015 - 12:00

Someone should build a generic fallback…

If you don’t know then here’s the gist of it:

  • is a piece of JS client code, and a server side implementation
  • It enables writing message passing code between a client and a server
  • It decides on its own what transport to use – WebSocket, XHR, SSE, Flash, pigeons, …

It is also very popular – as a developer, it lets you assume a WebSocket like interface and develop on top of it; and it takes care of all the mess of answering the question “but what if my browser/proxy/whatever doesn’t support WebSocket?

I guess there are use cases where the WebRTC data channel is like that – you’d love to have the qualities it gives you, such as reduced server load and latency, but you can live without it if you must. It would be nice if we’d have a popular interface to do just that – to attempt first to use WebRTC’s data channel, then fallback to either a TURN relay for it or to WebSocket (and degrading from there further along the line of older transport technologies).

The closest I’ve seen to it is what AirConsole is doing. They enable a smartphone to become the gamepad of a browser. You get a smartphone and your PC connected so that whatever you do in the phone can be used to control what’s on the PC. Such a thing requires low latency, especially for gaming purposes; and WebRTC probably is the most suitable solution. But WebRTC isn’t always available to us, so AirConsole just falls back to other mechanisms.

While a gaming console is an obvious use case, and I did see it in more instances lately, I think there’s merit to such a generic framework in other instances as well.

Time someone implemented it

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Apple WebRTC Won’t Happen Soon

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 12:00

Don’t wait up for Apple to get you WebRTC in the near future.

Like many others, I’ve seen the minor twitter storm of our minuscule world of WebRTC. The one in which a screenshot of an official Apple job description had the word WebRTC on it. Amir Zmora does a good job of outlining what’s ahead of Apple with adding WebRTC. The thing he forgot to mention is when should we be expecting anything.

The below are generally guesses of mine. They are the roadmap I’d put for Apple if I were the one calling the shots.

When will we see an Apple WebRTC implementation?

Like anyone else, I am clueless to the inner workings of Apple. If the job postings tell us anything it is that Apple are just starting out. Based on my experience in implementations of media engines, the time it took Google, Mozilla and Microsoft to put a decent release out, I’d say:

We are at least 1 year away from a first, stable implementation

It takes time to implement WebRTC. And it needs to be done across a growing range of devices and hardware when it comes to the Apple ecosystem.

Where will we see an Apple WebRTC implementation?

Safari on Mac OS X. The next official release of it.

  • This one is the easiest to implement for with the least amount of headache and hardware variance
  • I am assuming iOS, iPhone and iPad get a lot more stress and focus in Apple, so getting something like WebRTC into them would be more challenging

The Safari browser on iPad and iPhone will come next. Appearing on iPhone 6 and onwards. Maybe iPhone 5, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

We will later see it supported in the iOS WebView support. Probably 9-12 months after the release of Safari on iOS.

The Apple TV would be left out of the WebRTC party. So will the Apple Watch.

Which Codecs will Apple be using?

H.264, AAC-ELD and G.711. Essentially, what they use in FaceTime with the addition of G.711 for interoperability.

  • Apple won’t care about media quality between Apple devices and the rest of the world, so doing Opus will be considered a waste of time – especially for a first release
  • H.264 and AAC-ELD is what you get in FaceTime today, so they just use it in WebRTC as well
  • G.711 will be added for good measures to get interoperability going
  • VP8 will be skipped. Microsoft is skipping it, and H.264 should be enough to support all browsers a year from now
Will they aim for ORTC or WebRTC APIs?

Apple sets its sights on Google. They now hold Microsoft as best-friends with the Office releasing on iOS.

On one hand, going with ORTC would be great:

  • Apple will interoperate with Microsoft Edge on the API and network level, with Chrome and Firefox on the network level only
  • Apple gets to poke a finger in Google’s eye

On the other hand, going with WebRTC might be better:

  • Safari tends to do any serious upgrades with new releases of the OS. Anything in-between is mostly security updates. This won’t work well with ORTC and will work better with WebRTC (WebRTC is expected to be finalized in a few months time – well ahead of the 1 year estimate I have for the Apple WebRTC implementation)
  • Microsoft Edge isn’t growing anywhere yet, so aligning with it instead of the majority of WebRTC enabled browsers might not make the impact that Apple can make (assuming they are serious about WebRTC and not just adding it as an afterthought)

Being adventurous, I’d go for ORTC if I were Apple. Vindictiveness goes a long way in decision making.


On launch day, I am sure that Bono will be available on stage with Tim Cook. They will promise a personal video call over WebRTC running in WebKit inside Safari to the first 10 people who stand in line in Australia to purchase the next iPhone.

And then again, I might be mistaken and tomorrow, WebRTC will be soft launched on the Mac. Just don’t build your strategy on it really happening.



Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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IOT Messaging – Should we Head for the Cloud or P2P?

Tue, 10/27/2015 - 12:00

A clash of worlds.

With the gazillions of devices said to be part of the IOT world, how they interact and speak to each other is going to be important. When we talk about the Internet of Things, there are generally 3 network architectures that are available:

  • Star topology
  • P2P
  • Hubs and spokes
1# – Star Topology

The star topology means that each device gets connected to the data center – the cloud service. This is how most of our interent works today anyway – when you came to this website here, you got connected to my server and its hosting company to read this post. When you chat on Facebook, your messages goes through Facebook’s data centers. When your heat sensor has something to say… it will probably tell it to its server in the cloud.

  • We know how it works. We’ve been doing it for a long time now
  • Centralized management and control makes it easier to… manage and control
  • Devices can be left as stupid as can be
  • Data gets collected, processed and analyzed in a single place. This humongous amounts of data means we can derive and deduce more out of it (if we take the time to do so)
  • Privacy concerns. There’s a cloud server out there that knows everything and collects everything
  • Security. Assuming the server gets hacked… the whole network of devices gets compromised
  • As the number of devices grows and the amount of data collected grows – so do our costs to maintain this architecture and the cloud service
  • Latency. At times, we need to communicate across devices in the same network. Sending that information towards the cloud is wasteful and slower
2# – P2P

P2P means devices communication directly with each other. No need for mediation. The garage sensor needs to open the lights in the house and start the heating? Sure thing – it just tells them to do so. No need to go through the cloud.

  • Privacy. Data gets shared only by the devices that needs direct access to the data
  • Security. You need to hack more devices to gain access to more data, as there’s no central server
  • Low latency. When you communicate directly, the middleman isn’t going to waste your time
  • Scale. It is probably easier to scale, as the more devices out there doesn’t necessarily means most processing power required on any single device to handle the network load
  • Complicated management and control. How do these devices find each other? How do they know the language of one another? How the hell do you know what goes in your network?
  • There’s more research than real deployments here. It’s the wild west
  • Hard to build real smarts on top of it. With less data being aggregated and stored in a central location, how do you make sense and exploit big data analytics?
3# – Hubs and Spokes

As with all technology, there are middle ground alternatives. In this case, a hubs and spokes model. In most connected home initiatives today, here’s a hub device that sits somewhere in the house. For example, Samsung’s SmartThings revolves around a Hub, where all devices connect to it locally. While I am sure this hub connects to the cloud, it could send less or more data to the cloud, based on whatever Samsung decided to do with it. It serves as a gateway to the home devices that reduces the load from the cloud service and makes it easier to develop  and communicate locally across home devices.

  • Most of what we’d say is advantageous for P2P works here as well
  • Manageability and familiarity of this model is also an added bonus of this model
  • Single point of failure. Usually, you won’t build high availability and redundancy for a home hub device. If that device dies…
  • Who’s hub will you acquire? What can you connect to it? Does that means you commit to a specific vendor? A hub might be harder to replace than a cloud service
  • An additional device is one more thing we need to deal with in our system. Another moving part
But there’s more

In the recent Kranky Geek event, Tim Panton, our magician, decided to show how WebRTC’s data channel can be used to couple devices using a duckling protocol. To keep things short, he showed how a device you just purchased can be hooked up to your phone and make that phone the only way to control and access the purchased device.

You can watch the video below – it is definitely interesting.

To me this means that:

  1. We don’t discuss enough the network architectures and topologies that are necessary to make IOT a reality
  2. The result will be hybrid in nature, though I can’t say where will it lead us


Kranky and I are planning the next Kranky Geek - Q1 2016. Interested in speaking? Just ping me through my contact page.

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WebRTC Mobile to Web? Make Sure You Think at Web Speeds

Mon, 10/26/2015 - 12:00

Learn to run faster.

WebRTC isn’t yet standardized. It is on the way there. That said, there are already more than 800 different vendors and services out there that are making use of it – many in production, with commercial services.

There are main 3 approaches to a WebRTC-based service:

  1. Browser based service, where the user interacts with the service solely through a web browser
  2. App based service, where users interact with the service via WebRTC mobile apps
  3. Hybrid approach, where the users can interact via a web browser or a WebRTC mobile app

That third alternative is the most challenging. The reason for the challenge isn’t a technical one, but rather one of mind set.

Fippo, who knows about the WebRCT testing service I am a part of, sends me every once in awhile issues he bumps into. This one that he shared with me recently from the webrtc-discuss group was an eye opener: someone running a native C++ app got WebRTC compiled and linked to his own app, and assuming it will work with browsers. And it did. Up until recently:

Chrome 46 started sending UDP/TLS/RTP/SAVPF in the profile field of the m-line as has been announced a while back in!topic/discuss-webrtc/ZOjSMolpP40

Your library version has to be pretty old to be affected by this (parsing this should have been supported since mid-2014).

Here are some thoughts about this one:

  • If you run WebRTC in browsers, your main concern about interoperability is around
    • Browsers changing their APIs and deprecating past capabilities
    • Working the kinks of interoperability across browser vendors
  • If you wrap WebRTC in your app and use it there alone, then your concerns are minor – you live in a rather “protected” world where you control everything
  • If you connect from an app to a browser with WebRTC, you’ll need to maintain the WebRTC library in your own app
    • Making sure it works with the latest browser
    • Updating and patching it as you move along

It means that mobile apps must run at the speed of the browser – whenever a new browser version gets released, you must be sure it works with your own version of WebRTC in your app. You should probably get your version updated at the same speed (that’s every 6 weeks or even less, once we’ll have 3 full browsers supporting it properly).

What are you to do if that’s your use case? Here are some suggestions:

#1 – DIY only if you can commit

Don’t put someone in your team to port WebRTC on your own.

If you do, then make sure you know this isn’t a one-time effort. You’ll need to make investments in upgrading the ported library quite frequently.

To be on the safe side, I’d suggest putting the ongoing investment (not the initial porting) at around 50% of a developer’s capacity.

Also remember you have two platforms to deal with – Android and iOS.

Can’t commit to the ongoing maintenance effort? This alternative isn’t for you.

#2 – Outsource to an independent developer with care

If you decide to use someone externally, who would take the WebRTC library, port it for you, assist you in integrating and optimizing it to your needs – make sure he will be there for the long run.

Same as you’ll need to invest internally to maintain this code, you’ll need to be able to call upon that person in the future.

Things to consider:

  • Placing an exact price of future work of maintenance into the proposal – you don’t want to do the initial work just to find out the price hikes in the future when you need that contractor the most
  • Make sure in your agreement with him his availability to you
  • Budget appropriately these additional future work
#3 – Use an official product

The other alternative? Use an official product that gets you WebRTC as an SDK to mobile. Frozen Mountain’s IceLink comes to mind as a good solution.

You essentially outsource the headache of maintaining WebRTC’s interoperability with browsers to someone who does that for a living in a product package.

Make sure in the agreement with such vendors that you get regular updates and upgrades – and that these are guaranteed to work with the latest versions of the browsers (and even with the available beta versions of the browsers).

Check how regularly the vendor releases a new SDK and which ones are mandatory to upgrade to due to browser interoperability issues. Plan accordingly on your end.

#4 – Go for a WebRTC API Platform

Have your worries of this whole mess outsourced to someone else. Not only the mobile SDK part, but the whole real time comms platform.

You need to pick a vendor out of a very large set of potential vendors, which is why I’ve written and updated my own report on WebRTC APIs over the years.

Make sure to take a look at how well the vendor you select works with mobile and is committed to upgrading his own support for it.

It ain’t easy

Getting WebRTC to work well for the long run on mobile and web at the same time isn’t easy. It requires commitment as opposed to a one time effort. Be prepared, and make sure you take the approach that fits you best.

At least until WebRTC stabilizes (no reason for this to happen in the coming year), you’ll need to keep running at the speed of the browsers.


Planning on introducing WebRTC to your existing service? Schedule your free strategy session with me now.

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