At five years old, WebRTC is a kindergartner among communications technologies. But it has hit a growth spurt in recent years thanks to huge adoption among popular messaging and VoIP apps used by consumers and businesses alike. Looking back on the past year, has this been a warming-up period for WebRTC, or was it all just a flash in the pan?

Traditional telephony has had a steady run. Aside from advancements like touch tone dialing, PSTN has gone pretty much unchanged for the past century. As I’ve pointed out in a recent article, PSTN telephony appears to have peaked in developing marktets, and the adoption of VoIP services has been plugging the gaps. Now real time communications is positioned to get even bigger in the coming years.

Some bumps on the road ahead

A major benefit of WebRTC is that it doesn’t require additional software outside of the standard browser. But some browsers do not support it as a standard, including Safari. Even worse, WebRTC capabilities aren’t available on any iOS browsers, even using Chrome’s mobile app. Developers can create their own iOS-native apps that use WebRTC, but this is much more costly to develop and maintain than offering a web app. 

Internet Explorer doesn’t have the capability to make WebRTC calls either. But using the latest Windows 10 browser, Edge, users will be able to make Skype calls without having to install any software. Edge doesn’t have nearly the adoption rate of browsers like Safari and IE, but the fact that it has WebRTC capabilities can be seen as a vote of confidence.

Compared to other VoIP technologies at the five-year mark, WebRTC has some serious muscle with half a billion monthly active users (the only one that came close was Skype at 405 million). We’re seeing an increase in the number of apps and services that are based on this real-time framework, and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. WebRTC might be a young technology, but it is poised to make a huge difference in the way we talk to friends, family and coworkers in the years to come.

Who uses WebRTC, anyway? Find out in Part 2 next week!