Happy 5th birthday, OpenTok iOS SDK

Almost exactly 5 years ago, we announced the release of the OpenTok iOS SDK. In the years since, the product has evolved and grown into a cornerstone of the OpenTok platform. We are still pushing towards ever more endpoints today, as we were then. Some amazing things have happened over this history; let’s have a look at the highlight reel.

The Apps

Plenty of communications tools were available for end-users back in 2012, but none exposed face-to-face communications to the mobile developer. Within a month of our release, we saw the launch of the first mobile dating app that used our service, Date.fm.

Over time, we would watch the predictable turn into the unpredictable. We saw first hand what happens when brilliant developers get their hands on our technology. Few could have predicted the creation of Double Robotics, much less the beloved J9000 that followed. The robotics movement didn’t stop with Double: The intuitive and friendly Kubi from Revolve Robotics continues to capture our imagination of where telepresence will go next.J9000 Double Robot

Today, iOS developers are using our SDK to power even more applications we never anticipated. From social video chat applications like live.ly, Monkey, and Fam, to some of the top hitters in modern education technology, like Cambly and Varsity Tutors, we are witness to ever more expansion of the mobile real-time communications space.

Technology Evolution

Eight months after the first iOS SDK release, we began the transition from a Flash-based technology over to WebRTC-centric communications. In November 2012, we announced the first ever public release of an iOS SDK that supports WebRTC, available to any developer. What once felt like an endearing little side project would quickly turn into the heart of our platform.

that hair though

One of my first posts was a demo playing with iOS Core Graphics and facial recognition features. That concept turned out to be a popular request. By summer of 2014, we began offering support of video capture manipulation with our first major rewrite of the product. Versions 2.2.0 of the iOS and Android SDKs furthered the ability for hackers and tinkerers to fulfill any vision of customization in their OpenTok-powered applications. With this new technology, I did what any sensible engineer would do: I embraced the power of Internet cats.

We tirelessly continue to expand the technology and functionality of the OpenTok iOS SDK. Highlights include:

  • Video and audio device drivers to completely customize the media experience
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264 support to reduce energy consumption
  • Audio-only fallback and reconnections for varying network environments

What’s next?

It hardly seems coincidence that the availability of such tools for mobile developers has preceded a major shift in how our youngest generation is socializing and interacting online. Putting the right tools in the hands of developers has always been a predicate to innovation. If you can believe that the availability of new technology takes a few years to steep before the wave of massive adoption arrives, the OpenTok iOS SDK was an important point of inception for us.

It’s hard to end an ongoing history lesson; we can only narrate up to the present. Hidden beneath the maintenance cycle lays our motivation behind the whole effort. 5 years of sustained effort in any pursuit will give lessons that only first-hand experience can give. Uplifting a reliable product in the midst of so many moving targets is a seldom acknowledged juggle. While we may not know what comes next, we give thanks for a successful 5 years of supporting mobile developers on our platform, and hope for another 5 more to come.