What WebRTC Santa Clara Said About The State of Play

With last week’s WebRTC Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, California coming to a successful conclusion, the second big WebRTC event of the year is now behind us.  Sure, there are other WebRTC-related conferences – the IIT RTC conference in Chicago, the WebRTC Summit at Cloud Expo, next month’s WebRTC 2013 conference in Paris – but with what looked like 700 people in attendance, the twice-annual WebRTC Conference and Expo is the big one.

TokBox had an exciting week at the conference.  We introduced a number of major enhancements to our OpenTok video platform, including archiving, dynamic frame rate control, and TURN over TCP, and we extended the platform to include a native application SDK for Android.

Once again, we were pleased to kick off the conference with a keynote which talked about mobile usage of WebRTC, demonstrated our new intelligent quality controls, and showed a financial services application which leveraged archiving integrated with OpenTok for Customer Service.  We even had an OpenTok-powered robot onstage!

Fun and games aside, the biggest takeaways from the conference came in what we heard from attendees, be they enterprise customers, telcos, analysts or fellow vendors:

  • At this conference, people knew why they were interested in WebRTC.  Earlier this year in Atlanta, people were still trying to figure out where WebRTC fit in the landscape.  This is a huge step forward for the industry.
  • It was clear that there is real hunger for a WebRTC archiving solution.  Everyone, from Google to the analysts, was really excited that we brought this to the WebRTC party, and that we are already putting it into the hands of customers through a beta program.
  • People are familiar with the basics of WebRTC.  Conversations are now starting to address subtleties of use cases, or implications of technology corner cases, both of which are up a level from the basics.  A year ago, people were figuring out that WebRTC lets you put live video into a browser.  This year, people were asking us if our dynamic frame rate capability interfered with recorded video quality for our archiving capability (answer:  no, it doesn’t).
  • There was a general understanding that WebRTC needs to work in mobile contexts.  This was a huge part of our keynote message – highlighting not just the need but the work we have been doing in this regard – and it was good to see this resonate across all communities attending, both in conference content and in conversations.
  • We are starting to see vendor evolution in the space already.  Some small vendors present at WebRTC Expo in Atlanta mid-year were already gone from this conference, no doubt victims of bad timing and financial pressure.  Larger players increased their presence and their commitment.  For the first time, traditional communications or infrastructure players started to show up in volume, trying to demonstrate their relevance to this quickly evolving space.  Depending on the company, sometimes it was difficult to tell smokescreen from real substance.
  • There is a continuing bifurcation between WebRTC-centric offerings, which are trying to carve out new markets and new use cases on the basis of the new standard, and WebRTC interoperability offerings, which are using WebRTC as an endpoint to a traditional infrastructure.  While there is undoubtedly real value to some of these interoperability plays, watching some of their spokespeople struggle to make a relevant case to a pretty astute audience was a little like watching someone paint lipstick on a pig.
  • The market is growing.  By far the most important takeaway from the conference is that this is a vibrant, growing market.  The market is still very early by many metrics, but is rife with interesting use cases, and pregnant with potential.  Over the coming twelve months, it is clear that the market will start to converge on the first set of big winners, reinforcing the players that will matter.

Between Melih Onvural’s live coding demo of OpenTok archiving, TokBox’s presence on the exhibition floor, and the opening keynote demos that our team worked so hard to pull together and that I was privileged to be able to run in front of the 700-strong audience, we had a great conference.  And we were very pleased to be able to deliver a single clear and consistent message:  We think WebRTC is terrific, but to develop and deliver enterprise-grade applications, developers and enterprises need more than just a standard.  They need OpenTok.

And in that vein, we were very happy, and humbled, to be awarded Best in Show WebRTC supplier at WebRTC Conference and Expo.  Out of eight evaluation categories, TokBox reportedly finished first in three, and second in two others.  For the biggest WebRTC conference of the year, with every major WebRTC supplier in attendance, it was quite an honour – one we take very seriously.

With the conference behind us, the work is still just beginning.  We look forward to continuing to push the state of WebRTC forward, working hand in hand with the major browser vendors and with the standard committee itself.  And above all else, we look forward to helping customers deliver enterprise-grade commercial applications incorporating WebRTC video and through those apps, to bringing the best possible live video experience to end users everywhere.