Have you used Join.me or WebEx or GotoMeeting? Frustrating, yes?
I typically start setting up at least 10 min before I have to enter a conference call. All of these products first require me to download and install a plug-in, which then always updates, then it takes a few minutes to connect and then finally I am in.. It’s so painful that I would just rather use Skype – but wait, I can’t use Skype screen sharing with multiple callers unless I have a premium account. Well, I don’t really blame Skype here – they do have to make money somehow.
Fear not – Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) is here! Without getting into too much technical details, basically WebRTC allows sharing of audio and video (and text of course) right from the browser! Open browser, allow mic access, and voila – you are in the conference!
I am sure you can imagine the implications – you, even as a hobbyist developer, can actually incorporate functionality available in Google Hangouts or WebEx or Join.me! As a technology, WebRTC was made open source by (who else!) Google in May 2011. Now it is jointly developed and sponsored by Google, Mozilla Foundation and Opera. The key challenge browser based real time communications faced was that it was almost impossible to get control of a user’s mic and camera from a browser. Which is why Java or Flash was used to build installable plug in.Of course that changed when Google, et al put their minds to it.
Safari does not yet support the technology because, well… its Apple, those guys really don’t like anything they did not invent. Internet Explorer does not support it either – well…its Microsoft, they also don’t like anything they did not invent -especially if it is browser based. Fortunately, there are extensions available and frankly, I don’t think it matters – the technology is too good! Ultimately, they will have to come around.