We believe WebRTC is one of the most important technologies to hit the web in many years. There is a significant opportunity for WebRTC to help deliver on the promise of the open web—but for communication and collaboration.
In several of our colleague Henrik Joreteg's talks the past couple years, he's said, "WebRTC needs more Open Web hackers!" It's very true.
But WebRTC is much more complicated than other browser APIs that web developers deal with.
It seems, from our vantage point, like a large portion of the users of WebRTC have not been Open Web hackers.
We have no problem with companies and telcos using and adopting WebRTC (and have even helped companies like AT&T to do so), but we feel that WebRTC still isn't accessible enough to a community of developers we care so much about: Open Web devs.
When Henrik created SimpleWebRTC two years ago, it aimed to help do this. Many people have created projects with it. But there is a bigger need than what SimpleWebRTC does.
We've found that doing WebRTC very well requires a broad combination of tech expertise. It's easy enough to put together a WebRTC demo, but shipping a real production quality product is no easy task.
And as we've worked on Talky and other WebRTC applications, we've found all kinds of challenging corners. Configuring TURN servers is hard. Having large group video conversations is hard. Native applications are hard. Command and control is hard. And having been designed as a more powerful low-level API, ORTC is going to be even harder for web developers to grasp.
Because consulting is the core of &yet's business, we've built a team capable of solving these problems. But we strongly believe it shouldn't require a specialized team to build something great with WebRTC.
WebRTC needs better documentation, easier tools, and clearer onboarding.
We are grateful for browser vendors' work in adopting this ambitious spec. We are grateful for their efforts to interoperate and participate in standards. But we can't rely on them to bridge this gap for us.
The imminent arrival of ORTC and IE support represents a pivotal moment in WebRTC. While this is going to increase complexity in the ecosystem, it's also a chance to get right a lot of what hasn't worked very well so far for WebRTC in terms of empowering web developers to build with it.
We need a community effort that's fully independent from browser vendors to do that. And this effort needs to be openly governed.
We need to embrace players contributing useful technology to the WebRTC ecosystem, and encourage everyone to find commonalities and ways to collaborate in our open source code, so we can put less energy toward solved problems and more towards the hard stuff.
A rising tide floats all boats—but the WebRTC sea level is still desperately low.
Here's how we propose raising that level:
- Use an open GitHub repo to organize, discuss, and prioritize efforts.
- Reach out to the web developer community and find out what developers need.
- Form a group of developers to discuss and advocate for specific improvements to browser APIs, using collaborative resources like iswebrtcreadyyet.com.
- Set up an event in early 2015 to rapidly speed up discussion and collaboration.
We're calling this effort "WebRTC for the Web," we're organizing it at github.com/webrtcftw alongside a lot of other amazing folks who have led the way for WebRTC. Whatever your skill level with WebRTC, we'd love to have you involved in the discussion. It's been awesome to see some of the conversations so far.
What do you say? Are you in?