David, Goliath and WebRTC

Lenovo X-1-Carbon Frontal-GotoMeetingFreeThe WebRTC movement is certainly gathering steam. World+Dog are now running along side that train, hoping to jump on and play with all the cool kids. It’s a fast moving train. Late comers may have a tough time getting on-board. When they do get aboard they may find that the best seats are already taken.

This opinion arises from a stream of chatter surrounding larger companies that are starting to play in WebRTC space. While it’s nice to see larger players starting to engage, I have a difficulty getting enthused about what they’ve actually done.

For example, Citrix having launched into beta a free video chat application under its GotoMeeting brand. I was a GotoMeeting user from their earliest days. I argued with my employer about the value that was to be found in the $49/mo they asked for the service. He initially balked at $600/yr, but eventually succumb when it became evident that I could save considerable travel expense by leveraging remote access for ad hoc customer support. Some years later that company actually adopted GotoAssist, which is an outstanding service.

That said, what GotoMeeting offers at free.gotomeeting.com is hardly worth a mention. It’s basically the same as Talky.io which has been around for almost a year. OK, it has GotoMeeting branding. Big deal!

Free-GotoMeeting-com-1-600px

In fact, it’s not even as functional as Talky.io. It’s limited to three participants and doesn’t let you specify the name of the room. I was also puzzled by the fact that the video presented was 4:3 aspect ratio. In 2014 nothing should default to 4:3 aspect ratio.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It works. It looks nice. But it’s nothing special. It lacks any of the functionality the defines GotoMeeting, which is why it’s such a disappointment. HDFaces it certainly isn’t. It may be free, but no-one would pay for it.

Other large players are starting to make noises about WebRTC. LifeSize still operates their experimental gateway, which I’ve mentioned previously. They’ve also done some podcasts assuring the faithful that WebRTC is not going to torpedo their boat.

Polycom has also acknowledged the existence of HMS WebRTC. In the blog at the Polycom Community Nick Hawkins, Senior Director, Advanced Technology, Asia Pacific, penned an item entitled, “Why WebRTC is key to unlocking mass adoption of video collaboration.” There’s also a video of a recorded interview. In true Polycom form it 100% smooth, staged…and I would argue, late to the party. Less than inspirational.

Then again, WebRTC is less than ideal from the perspective of a traditional MCU vendor. It’s more likely to involve the sort of selective forwarding unit that was described in VUC484 by Alex Eleftheriadis of Vidyo.

Given the hype/movement WebRTC must be seen as an opportunity, but opportunity for what exactly? Gateways into the soon-to-be-legacy world of SIP and H.323! To see it any other way might send the world spinning off its CloudAXIS.

There are numerous players already active in WebRTC-space. Most are smaller companies. Some are doing amazing things. The larger companies are going to have to do better to make a meaningful impression.

  • Good post Michael. The big boyz are in NO hurry to create a real cool/useful WebRTC app, they’re protecting their own money trains. They’ll “hijack the train” down the tracks somewhere.