WebRTC Applications: What are they and how do they work?

 

WebRTC Logo
WebRTC is a new standard for modern web browsers and mobile devices that enables developers to make use of the microphones and cameras found in most computers and smartphones. What may not be obvious from that description is the huge potential of this standard: imagine being able to take any computer or smartphone and, by doing nothing more than visiting your website, be able to start a voice or even a video conversation. No slow or crash-prone plugins required, no 3rd party opt-in dialog boxes, no need to download anything.

 

While most articles on the Internet that talk about WebRTC focus on the Peer-to-Peer aspect, that is, the fact that WebRTC is designed to facilitate direct communication between two web browsers, the reality is that WebRTC also functions well in a more traditional mode: calling into applications. WebRTC applications need not be significantly different from the traditional voice IVRs with which you are already familiar, but of course the potential for truly remarkable innovations is the real appeal. Since WebRTC already involves a browser, developers have a rich palette with which new ideas can be brought to life. Let’s talk about some possible WebRTC application ideas:

  • Remember those long, 37-page forms you have to fill out when you apply for, say, life insurance? And inevitably, somewhere around the bottom of page 17, in the 4th field that asks about medical conditions, you have a question where the wording isn’t exactly clear and you are not sure how to answer the question. At this point you probably sigh a heavy sigh and pick up the phone to call a support agent…and prepare to explain /again/ how you answered the questions on the first 16 pages to the person who answers the phone. But with WebRTC applications, why not just put that phone in the browser. Then, when you need to call into the agent, the agent can actually see the pages you have already painstakingly typed up — no need to recreate all that context. Not only do you, the prospective customer, leave feeling much happer about the effort you saved, the company and the agent are happier too: the time to solve the problem just went from an average of 8 minutes to 1 minute 17 seconds. That saves them a lot of money, allowing fewer agents to serve the same number of customers.

  • There are several very cool enterprise text-chat startups today: the likes of Hipchat, Campfire, Flowdock. Each of these attempts to enrich normal text conversations by supplying more context. For example, pasted images get rendered directly into the chat stream, and shared files are made into a link that room participants can choose whether or not to download. But what about the most natural communication style? WebRTC applications allow you to click a button and start chatting by voice with those in the room who have also clicked the button? Skype does something like this already (and it is wildly popular), but this is done with nothing more than a web browser. For extra credit, perhaps the chat service records the entire conversation and attaches a transcript to the chat history, enabling the voice conversation to be searched along with the chat.

 

WebRTC Applications are closer than you think

Sounds great right? What does it take to make this happen? Less than you might think.

  1. Your users need a WebRTC capable browser. Today the best choice is usually Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. With a tiny additional download, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari are also supportable. Eventually the goal is for these two companies to add native WebRTC support, something that Microsoft is already known to be working on.

  2. You need a web server – something to host your communications application and coordinate the calls among the peers. For even more functionality, you may want a more traditional voice engine as well, something like Asterisk or FreeSWITCH, both of which support WebRTC natively.

  3. You need an application. This is where we come in. Mojo Lingo can help you take your application ideas and turn them into a working product, all the way from concepts through development to production. We are experts at doing this; check out our About page for more about who we are and our processes.

We hope you have found this information about WebRTC to be useful. If you have questions, never hesitate to contact us. We love hearing ideas and bringing them to reality.

What do you think?